By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on June 17, 2020.
Albertans have united to survive this crisis, but MLA’s comments aimed at dividing
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.