July 5th, 2020

Insulting Alberta’s pandemic heroes


By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on June 17, 2020.

Albertans have united to survive this crisis, but MLA’s comments aimed at dividing

Karen Weiers

ALBERTA UNION OF PROVINCIAL EMPLOYEES

One minute you’re a hero, the next you’re a zero – at least in the eyes of UCP MLA for Lethbridge-East Nathan Neudorf (re: June 12 Lethbridge Herald).

Every day, Albertans have been singing the praises of public-sector workers risking their lives to care for and provide services to our most vulnerable citizens in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Albertans gather in the streets to clap hands or bang pans to honour our work and sacrifices. Many of these workers are members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE). Many work at low wages doing multiple jobs.

Nearly 700 health-care workers have contracted the virus, but that doesn’t matter to Neudorf. To him, these are not the heroes that other Albertans see. To him, they are simply a burden – one that Alberta cannot afford.

Let’s picture the burden Albertans would be suffering now without public-sector workers.

How many thousands of dead would there be without our dedicated health-care workers? How many thousands of Albertans would be struggling to survive the economic catastrophe without government services?

Unlike any period in recent history, Albertans have been coming together to get through this crisis, but Neudorf seeks only to divide. The private sector, in his wilfully blind view, is the only solution to all our problems.

He ridiculously claims that it’s only the private sector that pays for all government services. That is nonsense. Everyone pays taxes, everyone plays a role.

Except, of course, thanks to the UCP’s massive corporate tax cuts, many large companies are paying billions of dollars less than they used to on their profits.

How about addressing that as a burden we can no longer afford and reversing tax cuts that have so clearly failed to create the jobs the government promised?

Neudorf says that people working in the private sector are an “essential resource” but that those working in the public sector are not only a burden, but somehow a threat “to economic freedom, political freedom and indeed every personal freedom.”

It is rare to see this kind of extremist and dangerous language used by an elected politician in mainstream media.

How is a health-care are aide caring for your sick grandmother a threat to democracy? How is an educational assistant (one of the 25,000 school workers the government laid off) a threat to personal freedom?

This MLA talks of the need for a “strong plan going forward” but has no plan to offer for when the next virus hits, which it inevitably will. He is determined not to learn the lessons that this pandemic has taught us.

Those lessons include that a strong public health-care system, including continuing care, is the most important survival tool we have. Neudorf would have us dismantle that tool and expose us all to greater, almost unimaginable, risk.

He talks of “harsh realities” requiring “hard choices.” What he means is that the government will soon return to its pre-pandemic plans to cut budgets, cut jobs and cut wages. Indeed, those cuts haven’t slowed down in our schools and post-secondary institutions, which continue to report cuts to jobs and services.

This is not what Albertans want right now. The people who work in health care, in provincial government services, in education and for boards, agencies and local government are not the enemy, we are Albertans.

We fight on the front lines when you need us. We always will.

But we will not forget this insult. We will fight back. And Albertans will be on our side.

Karen Weiers is vice-president of AUPE, which represents more than 95,000 proud Albertans dedicated to the service of this province.

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10 Responses to “Insulting Alberta’s pandemic heroes”

  1. GHG says:

    No one questions the value of your work, however, the tax dollars you pay are really only returning money to the government it has raised from other sources (private corporations for instance). And the fact is Alberta pays more for public services per capita than other provinces, so yes there needs to be cost cuts.

  2. Fescue says:

    It’s funny how the same people who justify massive salaries for upper management ‘so as to attract the best people’ somehow think differently for our public servants.

    Surely a province that chooses not to (progressively) tax consumption or the corporations exploiting nature’s gifts can afford to pay for good public services.

  3. phlushie says:

    And yet, why don’t the politicians lead by example. Let us cut the number of MLA’s and also cut their salaries. Also cut the Premiers Staff as the money involved there is a boondoogle. And why do we need a $30,000,000 a year War Room. Think of it, the most effective cuts should be at the top. I too, worked for the Government and saw many reorganizations, the only ones that did not affect services, were the ones when middle managers were removed along with their “dedicated staff”. Front line workers continued to carry on the work load. The glut is not the front line workers, but the plethora of middle managers.

  4. Southern Albertan says:

    For more on Kenney UCP priorities and $billion dollar unwise spending, again, this blogger describes all of it aptly:
    “Alert the media! Fair deal panel recommendations to be trotted out today.”
    http://www.albertapolitics.ca
    The penny wiseness and pound foollishness adage comes to mind when, for example, $billions are spent on corporate handouts, unwise ‘pipeline bets’, the $30 million/year war room, lowering corporate tax rates for those who could well afford to pay more tax without negatively hampering their businesses…….
    And all the while the Kenney UCP is not addressing other forms of revenue. This is while “global investors are dumping shares in oilsands projects.”
    So let’s pick on public sector wages while us taxpaying plebes get to pay for all of these $billion dollar unwise spending and cutbacks in all of the wrong places? The Kenney UCP is doing it all wrong financially, let alone destroying our civil rights as described in the blog mentioned above.
    Question is: What will it take for some/many Albertans to realize what is really happening here?

  5. IMO says:

    Thank you, Ms. Weiers. It is apparent that in the grand scheme of an Ayn Rand fundamentalist free market fascist ideology there is no place for or recognition of ordinary folk who do all of the hard lifting and take all of the risks, particularly during a pandemic such as this one. We are being conditioned and manipulated into believing that only the ‘elite’ are deserving of being recognized as an “essential resource”. History tells us that we do not bode well under such ideology.

  6. zulu1 says:

    There is no doubt that all Albertans are grateful and appreciate the role that healthcare workers play in their efforts to keep us safe and treat us when we are sick. However I do object to the boosterism and self congratulatory tone of the unions in this case. Until recently it was only the arrogant United States who fostered the hero culture, while Canadians tended to be more modest while never historically clinging to such a culture . Apparently that has now changed. I noted on a recent visit to a retirement facility, a large sign with a full color superman celebrating the heroic staff.
    There are many in the private sector, ie. food and transportation who also provide vital services to citizens, but, who do not spend their day boasting about it.
    Yes, public servants all pay taxes ,just like the rest of us , however public services are a liability to taxpayers while private industry pays corporate taxes and are generally not a liability to taxpayers, except in the case of certain subsidies.
    I think that is what the MLA might have meant in his commentary.

  7. biff says:

    excellent letter and great responses from fes, phlush, so.ab and imo. saves you all having to read me on this one!


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