Prairie Post (West Edition)

No one is ap­pre­cia­tive of $1,200 any­more

- BY RYAN DAHLMAN Canada News · Politics · Jason Kenney · New Democratic Party (Canada) · John Steinbeck · Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Want to know the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of be­ing in­ter­preted as cal­lous, cold and non ap­pre­cia­tive of the or­di­nary and ex­tra­or­di­nary non-business peo­ple who make a dif­fer­ence? Just check out the re­ac­tions of peo­ple when Premier Ja­son Kenney an­nounced that 380,000 front line work­ers in Al­berta ed­u­ca­tion, health and con­tin­u­ing care, work in the gro­cery in­dus­try or in trans­porta­tion would re­ceive a one-time $1,200 cheque.

Now, granted they had to work 300 hours be­tween Oct. 12 and Jan. 31 and 75 per cent of the money was ac­tu­ally from the fed­eral govern­ment but why let de­tails spoil a beau­ti­ful mo­ment? Not to men­tion the fact the provin­cial govern­ment had been sit­ting on that fed­eral money since oh…ummm… May.

The point is, re­ceiv­ing $1,200 un­so­licited, un­re­quested and just as a “thank you” for do­ing a good job, seems pretty de­cent right? And hey as one Al­ber­tan who I used to know al­ways men­tioned when asked what he wanted for his birth­day or Christ­mas: “say it with cash.” So stereo­typ­i­cally Al­ber­tan right?

I mean who would not want $1,200 to spend on Cheezies right Lac Ste. Anne-Park­land United Con­ser­va­tive MLA Shane Get­son (see CERB re­cip­i­ents comment at at Sept. 2020 town hall)?

But here we are, in the mid­dle of bru­tal cold snap, in a crip­pling pan­demic, where peo­ple’s men­tal health is be­ing pushed to the brink, where busi­nesses are one hair away from clo­sure and along comes some money to spend.

Yet, no one is happy. No one is cel­e­brat­ing or say­ing… hey what a nice thing to do.

The rea­son is is when you cre­ate a cul­ture of dis­con­tent, a land­scape where peo­ple are pushed to the brink and have no trust in their elected of­fi­cials to do the right thing be­cause of all the past ac­tions (threat of cuts to health, ed­u­ca­tion de­spite the pan­demic; per­ceived ag­gres­sive­ness of cabi­net min­is­ters and the premier, the deaf­en­ing si­lence of some cabi­net min­is­ters, fo­cus on saving en­ergy in­dus­try (and watch­ing money dis­ap­pear) in spite of and sac­ri­fic­ing core needs such as health; the bul­ly­ing of Al­berta govern­ment of­fi­cials on so­cial me­dia and get­ting into open ver­bal war­fare…etc That’s the per­cep­tion. Cold, cal­lous. Maybe they aren’t; but that’s the per­cep­tion.

So, with the $1,200 com­ing. No one is buy­ing it.

In a re­lease the NDP noted this is com­ing two weeks ahead of what is sup­posed to be a not sur­pris­ingly tough bud­get “in which Ja­son Kenney has ex­plic­itly stated that he will be seek­ing pub­lic sec­tor wage roll­backs.”

“I am deeply con­cerned that to­day’s an­nounce­ment is just a smoke­screen by this Premier. “said Gray. “Ja­son Kenney has al­ready com­mit­ted to lay­ing off 11,000 front line health care work­ers af­ter the pan­demic ends. It’s $1,200 for

Al­ber­tans to­day, and a pink slip to­mor­row.”

(At the time of writ­ing, that had not hap­pened…yet?). Those are le­git­i­mate points, but it is not sur­pris­ing. They are the op­po­si­tion right?

The Cana­dian Tax­pay­ers Fed­er­a­tion, who cyn­i­cal crit­ics say are closely tied to Con­ser­va­tives of all stripes even com­plained it would cost tax­pay­ers $118 provin­cially. They say money should be ear­marked for “strug­gling busi­nesses” like per­haps cut­ting the small business tax.

“We’re thank­ful for the hard work and im­por­tant ser­vices th­ese Al­ber­tans are providing, but busi­nesses should be pay­ing the wage top-ups, not strug­gling tax­pay­ers,” said Franco Ter­raz­zano, the CTF’s Al­berta Di­rec­tor. “Many of th­ese busi­nesses have been able to stay open through­out much of the pan­demic and strug­gling Al­ber­tans shouldn’t be forced to pay higher taxes to cover this pay­out.” Okaaay. The work­ers must be happy right? Again, that’s $1,200 bonus…

“It’s also an un­nec­es­sar­ily di­vi­sive and provoca­tive move. Only lower wage work­ers in select jobs will get the sup­port. Many work­ers in both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors in the trenches, de­liv­er­ing the ser­vices our prov­ince needs dur­ing the pan­demic, will not see a dime,” says Gil McGowan, pres­i­dent of the Al­berta Fed­er­a­tion of Labour. “An­other trou­bling as­pect of this is that pri­vate sec­tor work­ers have to rely on their em­ploy­ers to ap­ply on their be­half with a dead­line of the end of next week.”

“And it’s a cyn­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal an­nounce­ment. With the Kenney govern­ment’s po­lit­i­cal for­tunes sag­ging, it wants to change the chan­nel from the Premier’s mis­han­dling of key eco­nomic, en­vi­ron­men­tal and pub­lic-safety SNAFUs dur­ing the pan­demic,” says McGowan. “And let’s not for­get that Premier Kenney wants to cut the wages of front­line pub­lic sec­tor work­ers and fire thou­sands of nurses and other health­care work­ers. For them, to­day’s an­nounce­ment might seem like a cruel joke.”

This is like a real life ver­sion of the John Stein­back novel, “The Win­ter of Our Dis­con­tent.” How­ever, the UCP govern­ment have painted them­selves into this cor­ner, with the most bris­tle of brushes. The UCP have un­til March 1, 2023, and May 31, 2023 to fig­ure it out. Ryan Dahlman is man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of Prairie Post West and Prairie Post East

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