Down the garden path

Written by Brenda Schimke

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said, “should there be additional costs (for a provincial policy force), the province would pick up the tab”. That’s hardly a comfort when past actions have clearly shown a provincial government routinely dumping costs on municipal ratepayers.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage said, “people will be able to say ‘no’ to coal mining in the Rocky Mountains during upcoming consultation.” I’m pretty sure, the majority of Albertans have already overwhelmingly said NO.

Acting Municipalities Minister Ric McIver when questioned at the Rural Municipality Association’s spring conference, made no commitment to stop issuing new operating licenses to energy companies that aren’t paying their property taxes. Sweet deal if you can get it!

Environment Minister Jason Nixon said, “the province’s water supply isn’t threatened by industrial development such as coal mines on the Eastern Slopes.” Residents living on the Athabasca River downstream from now-shuttered coal mines would likely not share Nixon’s confidence. They would offer a more precautionary tone—all industrial projects have negative impacts on water quality and water supply, just to varying degrees.

Fresh water is a scarce commodity especially in Southern Alberta where irrigation of agricultural land represents life and livelihood. Environment Minister Nixon, in response to a leaked government document proposing to combine the industrial and agricultural classification for water allocation said, “it’s just part of ongoing consultations, mostly to ensure fish habitat remains viable.” Seems more likely that reclassification would give the coal mining industry access to currently designated agricultural water allocations.

Premier Jason Kenney says, “the citizens-initiated petitions law that allows citizens to alter or propose changes to laws and policies will give Albertans a greater say in how the province is run.” Yet that law comes with a requirement to secure signatures from 10 per cent of provincial voters within 60 days. Even if successful, the government can reject it outright or call for a non-binding referendum. A lot of bluster it would seem!

The probability of success under the recall legislation is as nonsensical requiring signatures from 40 per cent of eligible voters in 60 days. Alas, these two pieces of legislation are attempts to trick former Reform members into believing the UCP leadership share their commitment to direct democracy.

Minister of Finance Travis Toews said, “Alberta can no longer afford to be an outlier in terms of cost of delivery services to Alberta, and passed wage cuts in the 2021/22 budget. 

Richard Mueller, a University of Lethbridge professor, who has for years studied public sector wages, refutes the statement that we are outliers. He wrote, “Alberta has higher wages across the board (even at McDonalds) than the rest of the country, but the difference between public and private salaries is in line with other jurisdictions.” Highly skilled public-sector workers make less than the private sector, but need to be within a reasonable range to attract and retain.

In the 1990s, then-Premier Ralph Klein negotiated public service contracts with significant wage cuts in exchange for job security, only to lay off thousands of workers anyway.  Kenney has done the reverse, laid off thousands of workers, employed delay techniques to stall the bargaining process and then will unilaterally impose wage cuts. 

Kenny believes that massive labour unrest and strikes will be a winning strategy for him because Albertans hate unions. Yet, are we simply cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face?

Too often, the Kenney government’s rebuttals to genuine concerns of Albertans are met with responses that appear to deceive more than provide straight answers. 

One gets an unsettled feeling that we are being led down a garden path that may result in much more disruption and social unrest than even UCP voters want.


Brenda Schimke

ECA Review

About the author

Brenda Schimke

Schimke is a Graduate with Distinction from the University of Alberta with a BCom degree. She has lived and worked in Alberta, BC and Ontario.