Alberta Premier Jason Kenney — he’s lookin’ at you, staff! (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Throwing Alberta’s health care system into chaos isn’t easy.

It takes hard work and sacrifice.

But thanks to the United Conservative Party’s front-line fighters in the war against fair and efficient public health care, what even Ralph Klein couldn’t achieve is finally happening: Clinical chaos! Hospital havoc! Medical mayhem!

Just yesterday, we learned that the UCP’s political staffers will have to take a pay cut to pave the way for more turmoil in health care.

The cuts will hit political staff working for the Government of Alberta, including press secretaries, chiefs of staff, junior policy advisors and other staffers in the premier’s office.

These folks’ jobs aren’t easy. These dedicated men and women strive mightily to hound the defenders of public health care from Facebook to Twitter and beyond.

If a young physician criticizes the efforts of UCP leaders like Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro to complete the work of Ralph Klein and throw Alberta’s public health care system into utter pandemonium in the middle of a global pandemic, someone has to stay up all night trolling her, tweeting photos of her children, until she finally decides to leave the province.

Devoting hours to calling doctors and union members liars and communists is a hard, dirty job, but the managers of the Government Alberta’s Facebook Force are prepared to do it.

And now they’re going to have to do it for less, an acknowledgement that UCP apparatchiks can tighten their belts as well as any hospital porter making $19 an hour! Better, actually, because some of these issues managers wear very big belts!

But they’re going to take a 7-per-cent pay cut, no matter who their dad is, to make sure there can be just a little more chaos in Alberta’s health care facilities, or at least so that voters will stop thinking about what might happen after the UCP fires 11,000 health care workers, mostly women, and gets ready to lay off seven or eight thousand nurses once the pandemic goes away.

And they’ll be doing it with determined smiles on their faces, even if it means they have to go without a new Rolex or stick with a nearly obsolete iPhone 11 Pro Max for another couple of months.

But despite their sacrifice, maybe, just maybe, they’ll be able to finally tip the whole public system over the edge into the abyss, and the sacrifice will be worth it. Remember, even Premier Klein couldn’t do that, and he’s practically a saint now!

Fortunately for them, even with the “indefinite” pay cut — which means it’s temporary, they just don’t know when it will end — they’ll still be making more than the NDP used to pay its staffers.

It’ll be tough, though. Alberta’s public health care system is full of nurses, physicians and support workers who will put up with almost any outrage, suffer almost any indignity, ignore almost any insult to continue to heal the sick, no matter who they are or how little money they have.

So wrecking something staffed by people like that is going to be a struggle.

But the UCP’s political staff, the ones paid by your provincial tax dollars anyway, are willing to sacrifice to make it happen.

So on Monday, when their wallets are just a little bit thinner, we all need to remember to send them our thoughts and prayers.

Join the Conversation


  1. Five stars for this one, Mr. C.!! A classic, must-read!!!

    I think we’ve found the perfect replacements for the soon-to-be fired hospital laundry workers: those down and dirty, never too tired to burn the midnight oil on weekends, self-sacrificers on the premier’s team.

    They won’t be awarded statues for their efforts, but with any luck they’ll achieve the highest highest honor of all, only bestowed once before on the great Ralph himself (RIP), a swamp named after them, into which a city’s storm sewers flow, like the tears of the workers whose lives they are destroying. There’s nothing like the whiff of swamp gas to remind Albertans of Kenney’s legacy to Alberta. I can smell it now.

  2. When I read regular MSM articles on Shandro/UCP concerning doctors vowing to leave Alberta, and the downsizing of nurse ranks and so on, it’s noteworthy that the majority of reader comments seem to be on the UCP side. It seems unlikely that these are all from the “pros” now taking a pay cut of 7% for being paid government employee social media trolls, surely? That said, I am unaware that such trolling people on the government payroll exist in my province at all, seeding online discussions with the glories of the wonderfulness of the governing party and premier and putting down dissenting opinion. But in MSM comment sections, Alberta doctors and nurses are vastly overpaid according to the sometimes very nasty responses to stories about upset doctors. There has to be more to it than sheer Con bravado and kowtowing to the corporate sector. I know that my relatives in Calgary were going on about “overpaid” Alberta public servants four years ago, despite having voted for Notley.

    The problem with public sector unions from a PR perspective goes back decades. Such unions can effectively hold their employer, us, to ransom. And there is no alternative service for people to turn to. The main standout exception was the Post Office. Whole industries like Fedex and UPS sprang up to provide an alternative to the posties witholding service back in the 1970s both in the US and certainly here in Canada. If the service instead were a manufactured product from a private company, then obviously if a company was being struck by its union(s), alternatives to their product are also available to the public. Exceptions like private regulated public utilities as monopolies can be dug up to tell me I’m incorrect, but that would be a reach. However, if public sector unions strike, your average citizen trying to access government service is SOL. There is no alternative, and really it’s no wonder legislation gets passed to send the strikers back to work if they become recalcitrant.

    It was the understood norm back in my youth that if you took a government job, you were fully aware that the recompense was a fair bit less in any given category compared to the private sector, but that the risk for interrupted employment due to market changes and forces was higher for the private sector employees. You played off one possibility against the other when you applied for a job. However, years of salary “negotiations” between government and public sector unions had by the 1990s meant that you could have a government job and make the same money as someone employed in the more precarious private sector workplace. I know of what I speak, at least in my province.

    Nowadays, of course, the race to the bottom brought on by neoliberal capitalism means that many private sector employees get paid less than their public sector perceived equivalents, and fudging with hours by such wonderful corporate societal standouts like Loblaws to avoid having to grant employees benefits merely exacerbates the difference. Let’s put it this way, I haven’t heard of $19 an hour janitors swabbing out offices downtown of a night. Minimum wage is more like it for them and the myriads of maids cleaning hotel rooms in normal non-pandemic times.

    Now, it’s pretty obvious that kenney is an ideological nitwit with social mores from a bygone age, and with a sly cunning he uses to help out the oil and gas sector on the public dime, etc. etc. Forgetting his abject uselessness for a moment, it does seem to me that the NDP and the general educated white-collar worker population with a government sinecure are not surprisingly, resented by the population at large forced to eat the crumbs of capitalism. So in a sharp economic downturn such as Alberta is presently experiencing even without the pandemic, it may well behove the thinkers of the left to examine their positions more carefully to ensure their logic is consistent and reflects what the general public feels about things. Their thinking revolves around why should public sector employees sail along unperturbed by market forces when they face such headwinds, and pay the taxes for people to lead a life of perceived blissful employment.

    That is the down-to-earth situation facing the social democrats. In Alberta and Canada in general, lack of investment over the decades, plus “free trade” has meant we have gradually become much, much more of a manufacturing minnow than we were 50 years ago when we at least had a branch plant economy in Ontario and Quebec. Digging up and shipping bulk raw materials for next to nothing to other countries is a mug’s game, but was about all harper was good for in trying to keep up our standard of living. But not just him. Every useless politician of any stripe that’s been PM or provincial premier these past four decades should hang their heads in shame. Canada and Alberta have been on a permanent going out of business sale for a long time. We’ve raped our forests (New Brunswick is a giant toilet roll farm), dug up our ores, drilled like maniacs for oil and gas, and sold it all off cheap for a buck in the hand today, and signed stupid free-trade deals for over thirty years The value added by turning our resources into manufactured products has all been handed off at a big discount to other countries. Now the environmental game is up worldwide and we stand around wondering what the hell we should do next. Kiss your ass and wave goodbye is about all we have left.

    1. One of the effects of 30 years of neoliberal ideology has been that public sector unions, especially civil service unions, increasingly have memberships skewed toward the educated and technical. This is because so much basic work, road repair, for example, is now contracted out to private sector companies. For this reason, examining public sector jobs on a job-by-job occupational basis will reveal that in most jurisdictions, certainly Alberta, public service compensation remains on average a little lower than compensation for the same work in the private sector, sometimes a lot lower. Moreover, public sector jobs, for the same reason, are as insecure as private sector jobs nowadays. The destruction of the public sector, from which no one but plutocrats benefits, continues apace.

    2. It is worth noting that when one makes reasonable comments on one MSM news website, the comments go into moderation, i.e. never make the cut. Wild claims and name-calling, however, are allowed to pass, and welcomed. Seems the troll farms report any comments they do not like, and no one moderates these things. We’ll never know the cost to the public purse of hiring troll farms, some of which seem to be in foreign countries. Why? The so-called War Room is not accountable to the public, and war means war…on us.

    3. There are challenges to globalism, and you do a good job of bring out many of them. For workers in the west the cost of labour in the rest of the world has affected their ability to demand higher pay. Except of course for government workers.

      That said, there are benefits also. You can get more stuff at lower prices. A lower cost of living is a good thing.

      Also, you can have warm fuzzies about helping billions of people work their way out of poverty, because they now have your job.

      The consolation of the above is the main reason guys like Trump can get elected.

      What is to be done about it?

      Different jurisdictions have different core competences and advantages. Aligning your goals with your advantages is the path to expanding your economy and being able to afford nice things, like health and elder care.

      And being able to afford such things should be a goal we can all get behind.

  3. Maybe those UCP staffers should be praying for another oil boom, as that is the root of the problem. It’s not Trudeau, pipelines, equalization, the RCMP, the CPP, public servants, Greta, HSBC or whoever else is on their very long list of enemies, real or imagined. It is the price of oil, which is determined internationally, not in Canada – all the rest of this to some degree is mostly a distraction.

    Saint Jason may have resurrected Conservative political fortunes provincially in Alberta, which wasn’t actually so miraculous when you think about it – the province had mostly voted Conservative for 40 plus years, but he seems to have trouble resurrecting the price of oil.

    At this point, all the time, money and effort put into tweeting against those various real and imagined enemies of the provincial Conservative state would probably be better spent on figuring out how to diversify our economy. If they really don’t want to do that, I suggest they at least stop tweeting so much and perhaps pray harder.

  4. Bill: the other aspect of this has been well illustrated in my sailing club. Most of us are in our late 50s/60s and have been entrepreneurs all our lives. Now that most have realized their much-cherished illusions about their investments and businesses were all based on nothing but inflation, their resentment towards people with defined benefit pensions is almost acidic. Their pride is now coming before their fall as they try to liquidate assets. What these resentful idiots fail to understand is that we had the greatest wealth of all: our time was our own. So, we traded security for a limited bit of freedom, while others opted for security.
    Both groups acquiesced in the lowering of taxes and limiting regulation for the oligarchs who really owned everything all along. The acidic sailors were under the illusion they were part of the oligarchy and the wage slaves were under the illusion they would be treated fairly by that band of pirates. Since Unions and Cooperatives are unfortunately democracies, they too fell into the illusion that taking power and money from government and giving it to the oligarchs would benefit them. Until that changes, as you say “KYAG”.

  5. When the partisans barely working on the public dime take a pay cut, what does this all mean?

    Now that the Wolfman all those UCP issues managers are working for 7% less, does that mean they have to change the name of the “$250K Club”? The $232K and Change Club?

    While nothing gives me more joy to see partisan hacks on the public payroll suffer, one wonders if throwing them into the sacrifices that people who actually work for the public interest are going to lock arms and chant, “We’re all in this together” with all those issues managers and War Room pea-brains?

    They better not.

    That’s an old trick that the Angry Midget has been using for a long time, along with fake citizenship ceremonies/photo-ops.

  6. On CBC Calgary’s Home Stretch Graham Thompson noted that the 7% pay cut political staffers will be taking amounts to a savings of $1 million. A little quick math: if 7% equals $1 million, 100% equals $14.28 million. I would hope that even the most ardent UCP supporter would have a bit of problem with this, since they seem to have a big problem will public sector compensation.

  7. The UCP staffers will be so hard off, after taking a measly 7 percent pay cut. Meanwhile, anyone on A.I.S.H, has to make do with less. Seniors are also struggling. There are the massive layoffs to the health care support staff, and the impending layoffs of nurses in Alberta. This is just a political stunt by the UCP, and nothing more.

  8. How about another conspiracy theory?

    Since it pretty evident that Trump intends to fight for his reelection based on the well-worn tactic of pitting one group against another, Kenney et al intend to apply the same measure in Alberta. Since Shandro is the Angry Midget’s willing stooge, he will do anything and everything that is demanded of him, without so much as a single complaint. Any person of a modest amount of moral fiber would have handed in his resignation and walked away from Kenney’s shenanigans; but since Shandro is weak of character and not made of such stuff, he will follow his orders and enjoy doing them. Of course, he can claim he was only following orders, but I recall that excuse was used plenty of times during the Nuremberg Trials and it was ineffective there as it would be anywhere else. In any case, Shandro is confident he’s on the right path to stay in his Pooh-bah’s favor.

    Doctors will leave Alberta, but Shandro will slap on them restrictions to their movement that will be decidedly unconstitutional. Kenney will be impressed, so whatever. As for nurses and other healthcare technicians, they may see similar restrictions slapped on them as well. Shandro knows he’s on a roll and he’s going to keep please the Dear Leader. The pay cuts will come — sacrifice is necessary for the common good, and they better like it. Dissent will not be tolerated; or else, that “enemies list” is waiting for more names. With scores of issues managers running around, it’ll be like having the Statsi ready to go and enforce the UCP’s edicts.

    Social conflict will cause active opposition, leading to public demonstrations, work-to-rule campaigns, and strikes. Kenney will go full psycho-dwarf, denounce these insurrections, and introduce sweeping laws to crush the opposition. Union abolition, automatic right-to-work legislation, the abolition of the minimum wage, the removal of all legal obligations for employers, the end of workplace health and safety regulations, the end of employee benefits, the abolition of vacation pay, etc. Kenney will begin to have the ideological wet dream that only existed in his wildest fantasies.

    Wait for the voter suppression laws, because they’re coming as well.

  9. The only thing Kenney needs to get re-elected is the memory of the ndp.

    No conspiracy required, unless of course you surmise the Notley government tried for future in electability, and of course that would explain a lot.

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