Provincial budget must emphasize jobs, not cuts, labour leaders say

    New report offers blueprint to "keep Albertans afloat" during recession

    EDMONTON, April 3 /CNW/ - Next week's provincial budget needs to
emphasize getting unemployed workers back to work and keeping those who have
jobs at work, say the leaders of some of Alberta's largest unions.
    To achieve these important goals, the unions today presented a proposed
stimulus plan for Alberta that they developed with help from economists
working with the University of Alberta's Parkland Institute.
    "Albertans are depending on their political leaders to respond to the
worldwide economic downturn with policies that protect working people and
their families from the worst impacts of the recession," said Gil McGowan,
President of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
    "Klein-style cuts are clearly not the answer. We went down that road
during the last recession and we know that it just made a bad situation
    Doug Knight, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees
agreed: "This government needs to resist their ingrained temptation to cut
budgets when a crisis like this takes place. Clearly, the economy and all
Albertans will benefit from increased stimulative spending in areas like
health care, social assistance and post-secondary education."
    Heather Smith, president of the United Nurses of Alberta, says that
sectors like health care are just now starting to recover from the damage
caused by years of cuts under former premier Ralph Klein - and she says if
Albertans value their public services, we can't afford to return to policies
that caused such pain and chaos.
    "The downturn in the economy may actually be creating an opportunity to
address the chronic shortage of nurses and other health care workers that has
been plaguing our system," says Smith. "But that can't happen with a shrinking
budget - or even a hold-the-line budget."
    The union report, entitled Sink or Swim: A Labour Stimulus Plan to Keep
Albertans Afloat, was released today in Edmonton at an apprentice-training
facility operated by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
    The setting was chosen to highlight how provincial spending can help
Albertans working in both the public and private sectors weather the growing
economic storm.
    The report shows that job losses and bankruptcies are up dramatically in
Alberta and predicted that "Alberta is likely to suffer the greatest downturn
in GDP growth of all the provinces in Canada." It also showed that the Alberta
government has among the greatest "fiscal capacity" in North America to
finance a stimulus package.
    The report concluded that three key goals should drive any Alberta
stimulus plan:

    -   Instead of balancing the provincial budget every year, government
        should instead focus on balancing budgets over a 7 to 12 year
        business cycle.

    -   Program cuts should not be implemented, since they would increase job
        losses and, during the recession, government programs will be needed
        more than ever by Alberta families.

    -   Stimulus should be in the form of targeted spending in parts of the
        economy known to create jobs, not in unproductive tax cuts that
        favour a wealthy minority.

    Other parts of the report call for building a bitumen upgrader to protect
Alberta's value-added sector; greening the economy to create job
opportunities; using less-expensive public financing to build projects that
benefit the public; and maintaining or increasing funding for socially
beneficial programs such as education, health care, transition training and
social assistance.

For further information:

For further information: Elisabeth Ballermann, HSAA, (780) 991-1274
(cell); Don Boucher, CEP, (780) 920-1892 (cell); Tim Brower, IBEW, (780)
989-7259 (office); Doug Knight, AUPE, (780) 265-6655 (cell); Gil McGowan, AFL,
(780) 483-3021 (office), (780) 218-9888 (cell); Dennis Mol, CUPE Alberta,
(780) 918-3061 (cell); Heather Smith, UNA, (780) 425-1025 (office), (780)
940-9974 (cell)

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Alberta Federation of Labour

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