By Lethbridge Herald Opinion on May 28, 2021.
Usually as the end of May approaches, we are beginning to see the weather warm and the Alberta legislature wind through its last days of sitting – wrapping up the business of the province before the summer. Unfortunately, it seems that neither Mother Nature nor Jason Kenney have any interest in their normally-appointed duties. Those of us who have spent our lives in Southern Alberta can forgive the former for her fickle manner, but the Premier has few excuses for his relegation of duties this month.Â
Yes, rather than dealing with the serious and important concurrent crises enveloping our province, Jason Kenney spent most of the spring trying to please extremists in his own caucus.
Instead of focusing on the things keeping Alberta’s working families up at night – jobs, affordable childcare, what they would do if they got sick – the premier delayed action on the third and largest wave of the pandemic, and left Albertans without the help they deserve from their government.
Over the last few weeks we have seen the results of that failure: kids at home instead of at school, small businesses continuing to struggle when they should be beginning to emerge, and Kenney’s own workplace – the Alberta Legislature closed so that he can hide from Albertans instead of doing the things that need to be done.Â
While the UCP has continued to fight with itself, our NDP Official Opposition caucus has been focused on what really matters to Albertans – getting our economy up and running, defending the public services that will get us out of this rut, and proposing measures to help speed up our province’s emergence from the pandemic. After months of failed experiments by the UCP government that pitted the economy against public health, we know that it’s not one or the other, but that both need to be considered in tandem.
Just like there can be no economic recovery without defeating the pandemic, there can be no defeating the pandemic if we don’t take serious actions that help working people do what they need to do to take care of themselves and their communities.Â
One proposal our caucus has made to do the latter is to provide paid sick leave to workers throughout the province.
We know that for many Albertans it can be a gut-wrenching decision whether to miss work and try to make do with a smaller (or no) paycheque, or to simply keep working if they begin to feel sick.
For so many of us with families who depend on us, a few missed shifts can be financially calamitous, making controlling the spread of the virus so much harder than it needs to be.
Short-term paid sick leave for workers isn’t just the right thing to do for those workers who need both a paycheque and to stay home from work, but it’s also one of the most important tools to put this pandemic behind us once and for all.Â
That, and vaccines of course.
We all know that the pandemic has forced difficult choices on all Premiers and leaders, but the UCP government’s decisions have left us behind on almost every metric – especially economically.
Though our burgeoning vaccination rates and emergence from the pandemic gloom are inarguably good things, our ascent should be much faster and easier than it is – and that is due in no small part to the health and economic choices that Premier Kenney and his government have made.
These issues are, of course, just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problems our province is facing, and which the Kenney government has made worse.
Though it is absolutely true that we need to get ourselves out of this pandemic and on the road to recovery as soon as possible, we also need to make sure that we have an eye toward protecting our province from the long-term effects of the UCP’s policies. I was reminded of this poignantly recently with two recent events.
First, there was World Family Doctor Day last week. I hear every day from constituents the struggles of finding a new family doctor, and I fear for the future of our primary health care system when I hear stories about how Jason Kenney’s war with doctors is harming our community’s ability to recruit and retain skilled physicians.
Second, the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) reported an excellent year of earnings, and confirmed that it is fully funded far into the future.
We cannot let the Kenney government pull Albertans out of this fund for spiteful political purposes, as he has threatened, both recently and in the past.
As we have done on so many issues before – we need to work together to push back and tell the government to invest in these vital services.Â
While we do that – let’s continue doing the things that need to be done to support one another. Let’s continue to reach out to neighbours in need, continue to make efforts to support each other, and perhaps above all – continue to get vaccinated.Â
If you haven’t done so already – please visit https://www.alberta.ca/covid19-vaccine or call Healthlink at 811 for more information.
As always, should you require the services of my office please don’t hesitate to reach out.
You can access my office by call 403-329-4644 or by emailing Lethbridge.email@example.com.