The budget cuts to post-secondary education will not only trickle down and affect the entire Lethbridge economy, they will also have a negative impact on the quality of education and threaten the autonomy and free speech that universities are founded on.
Those were some of the thoughts of several speakers scheduled to talk at a special session of the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs Tuesday evening.
The session addressed the question of whether the cuts to post-secondary education are justifiable. The University of Lethbridge's operating budget will be cut by about $12 million and Lethbridge College's operating budget by nearly $3.5 million.
Chris Nicol, economics professor and dean of Arts and Sciences, said the provincial budget and the letters of expectation that flowed to institutions in the aftermath have created both financial and philosophical challenges. He said he'd like to see the major universities collaborate more closely to craft a response to government.
"It's clearly bad news. From the financial side of things we had a written commitment from this government that certain things would happen this year and they've completely abrogated that agreement," Nicol said. "From a philosophical perspective, the Minister (Thomas Lucaszuk) almost seems to want to use the system for political purposes, tied with their own philosophy within the governing party and that's never what universities have been about."
In her role as the director of policy analysis for the Alberta Federation of Labour, Shannon Phillips sees how the cuts will trickle down.
"It's not just the support staff, the academic staff and the students and their families that this will have an effect on, but in an economy the size of Lethbridge's where post-secondary institutions are such a large employer and a large source of demand for goods and services, there are going to be spin-off effects through our city that have a great impact on the private sector, on small business, on new home starts, on home sales," she said.
Julia Adolf, vice-president academic with the U of L Students' Union, said the province's budget is not student-friendly, despite the government's assertion to the contrary. While tuition fees won't increase this year that could easily change next year.
"We could see the cap removed. We're very worried about that," she said, adding students are also worried that mandatory non-instructional fees will be hiked to compensate for the cuts.
The cuts will lead to larger class sizes, fewer course offerings and negatively affect student services, such as library hours or registrar services, Adolf said.
"They're very much talking about the homogenization of our university system and we're very scared that's going to lead to devaluing of our degrees," she said.
Bill Ramp, a sociology professor, said he has grave concerns about the cuts as they threaten the role post-secondary institutions play in a democracy. The seeming irrationality of the move may lead to an overall weakening of the system before their autonomy is eventually threatened.
"When you undermine the autonomy of universities in such a way that they threaten to become little more than a voice for the policy of the governing party of the day what you're doing is destroying another part of public space," he said. "If we're not prepared to defend free speech and autonomous research then where are we?"
Lethbridge Herald, Wednesday, Apr 10 2013
Byline: Caroline Zentner
April 2013: Join us at the AFL's 9th Biennial Convention, Unions Stand up for Majority of Albertans, STRIKE! The Musical, Solidarity with Post-Secondary Education
Unions Stand Up for Majority of Albertans
In the lead up to Alberta’s 2013 budget, Alberta’s public sector unions worked together to advance the interests of the majority of Albertans.
The Alberta Federation of Labour, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Alberta Teachers’ Association, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, United Nurses of Alberta and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta presented a united front against austerity policies and draconian cuts.
Polling, conducted by Environics in advance of the provincial budget showed that more than 70 per cent of Albertans reject public service cuts. More than three quarters of those polled agreed that there should be an increase on taxes for wealthy Albertans and for corporations. The majority of Albertans believe that the province should be investing more in health care, education and other services.
“Albertans aren’t as conservative as Alison Redford seems to believe,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “She needs to listen better. Not to the radical tea party Tories, but to the majority of Albertans who are quietly progressive, and who want this province to be healthy and prosperous.”
STRIKE! The Musical
The Alberta Federation of Labour is proud to be bringing STRIKE! The Musical to Edmonton for its Alberta premiere.
This award-winning theatrical production, which tells the story of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, will be at the Timms Centre for the Performing Arts April 24 – April 28.
“When I saw Strike! three years ago in Winnipeg, I knew we needed to bring it to Alberta,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “The 100th anniversary of the AFL was the perfect opportunity to organize this production. It’s an important story about the history of Canadian labour, and it’s one that inspires pride in the activism and work that our member unions do.”
For more information or to order tickets, please visit www.strikemusical.com
Solidarity with Post-Secondary Education
More than 500 students, workers, educators and activists marched on the legislature on March 15.
The rally, which was organized by the Coalition for Action on Post-Secondary Education, was protesting the massive cuts the Alberta Government imposed on universities and colleges throughout the province. The University of Alberta faces a 7.2 per cent cut.
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan spoke at the rally, noting that the province’s economy depends on having a quality education system.
Join us at the AFL’s 9th Biennial Convention
More than 500 labour activists, leaders and delegates will gather at the Shaw Conference Centre in downtown Edmonton from April 25 – 28 for the Alberta Federation of Labour’s 9th Biennial Convention.
The convention, which has the theme “Unions Stand on Guard for Thee,” will examine how the labour movement has helped create, and protect the prosperous, inclusive society of which Canadians are rightfully proud.
Coming from all corners of Alberta, delegates will celebrate the achievements of unions, hear from dozens of speakers, and help chart the direction of our further growth.
Registration starts Wednesday, April 24 and continues on Thursday, April 25.
2013 AFL Convention runs Thursday, April 25, 2013 - Sunday, April 28, 2013.
Convention Committees meet Wednesday, April 24.
AFL Council meets Tuesday, April 23.
Convention venue is the Shaw Conference Centre
Convention hotel is the Crowne Plaza Chateau Lacombe
Location: Shaw Conference Centre, Edmonton
Contact: Maureen Werlin at email@example.com or 780-483-3021
April 28 – International Day of Mourning for Dead and Injured Workers
May 1 – May Day March
May 3 – Deadline to register for Summer Labour School
June 14 - Deadline to register AFL Kids Camp
Did you know ...
After production and development costs are factored in, Alberta only collects 54 per cent of the the excess profit from heavy oil production. By comparison, Norway collects 80 per cent, Russia collects 73 per cent and Angola collects 71 per cent.
- Once ravaged by debt and war, higher oil royalties have helped Angola turn a budget deficit of 8.6 per cent of GDP in 2009 into a surplus of 12 per cent of GDP in 2012.
- Alberta has the highest pay gap in Canada. Alberta women working full year and full time earn a median 68 per cent of what men earn. The pay gap is reduced for women in unions – to about 85 per cent of what men earn.
- According to Environics polling conducted in February, 77 per cent of Albertans support increased taxes on corporations and those making more than $200,000.
EDMONTON — Premier Alison Redford is cutting short her trip to Asia and returning home as a result of the death Thursday of her friend and mentor, former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed.
The Canadian flag over the legislature has been lowered to half staff and a dozen white roses have been placed by Lougheed's portrait outside the premier's office on the building's third floor.
The premier's spokesman Jay O'Neill said Redford plans to end her travel in Asia three days early.
"Arrangements are being made for her return," he said.
It isn't known whether Lougheed will lay in state at the legislature. The last to be honoured in that fashion was former Lt-Gov. Grant MacEwan.
Tributes have been pouring in for the 84-year-old former premier from all across the nation.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada had lost a truly great man.
"Peter Lougheed was quite simply one of the most remarkable Canadians of his generation," he said in a statement. "He was a driving force behind the province's economic diversification, of it having more control of its natural resources and their development, of Alberta playing a greater role in federation and of improving the province's health, research and recreational facilities. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Canadian Encyclopedia."
Harper noted Lougheed's legacy will live on in the institutions that he pioneered which continue to generate benefits for the people of Alberta and Canada.
Gov.-Gen. David Johnston said Lougheed never stopped believing in a better, stronger Canada.
"His was a full life, with a record of achievements that will be long remembered," said Johnston. "He was a loving husband, father and grandfather — and a dear friend — and he will be missed."
Premier Alison Redford said Lougheed was a visionary and an inspirational leader who forged for success and prosperity in the province. She expressed condolences to Lougheed's family on behalf of all Albertans.
"Peter Lougheed was a man who made us all so proud to be Albertans and he will be deeply missed," she said.
Colleen Klein expressed sympathy for the Lougheed family on behalf of her ailing husband, former premier Ralph Klein.
"Ralph, like all Albertans, understood how Peter Lougheed put Alberta on the global map, so that others, like Ralph, could follow," she said in a statement. "We are deeply saddened that he has passed away, but grateful for the doors that he opened."
Finance Minister Doug Horner, who grew up around the premier as the son of former Lougheed cabinet minister and right-hand man Hugh Horner, said Lougheed's legacy had a profound effect on Redford's Progressive Conservative government.
"He was a Progressive Conservative," he said. "We do have a social conscience and Peter Lougheed defined that and really did define what Progressive Conservative was all about."
He said everyone recognized that Lougheed always had Alberta's best interests at heart.
"From the right spectrum or the left spectrum, all of his ... political foes respected the fact he was in it for the right reasons, that he was there to do what in his heart was the right thing for his province. I think that's something all politicians should try and emulate."
Accolades have indeed come in from leaders of all political stripes.
"There's an element of grace to everything that he's done," said Roy Romanow, former NDP premier of Saskatchewan. "The hallmark of the man as an individual always will be that he was a gentleman."
Marc Lalonde, the former federal Liberal cabinet minister, there was nothing personal about the political battle between the Trudeau government and Alberta on the National Energy Program in the early 1980s.
He said Lougheed "was an extremely able politician and a very "hardball" player. He had very much at heart the interests of his province ... but nobody could question his strong views about Canada, and his strong support for Canadian unity."
NDP Leader Brian Mason said Lougheed fought for Alberta and was a tremendous builder of the province.
"His work to ensure that Albertans get a fair deal for their resources, to create a more progressive province, to improve our education system and to encourage a fairer society is of unquestionable importance to the province that we have today," he said in a statement. "He stood up for Albertans, but remained a passionate Canadian."
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said Lougheed helped modernize Alberta.
"His zeal and determination to make our province and nation a better place will not soon be forgotten. He was a visionary Albertan who moved our province forward in the hopes of ensuring a prosperous future for our children and grandchildren."
Gil McGowan, president of the 150,000-member Alberta Federation of Labour, said Lougheed understood the concept of the public interest, and did not confuse what was good for private industry with what is good for the public as a whole.
"He was not a cheerleader for narrow business interests, and he did not engage in gimmicks or short-term thinking. He used our wealth to build a better Alberta."
The board and staff at the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts expressed sadness at the loss of "a truly exceptional man and consummate statesman."
"Mr. Lougheed was a proud trailblazer for arts and culture in Alberta," the centre said in a statement.
The Calgary Herald, Friday September 14 2012
Byline: Darcy Henton
With files from James Wood and Kelly Cryderman
Expect cutbacks to the education system to be front-and-centre when a group calling for more money for education, health care, and other government services holds a public meeting in Edmonton Thursday night.
The 7pm meeting at Santa Maria Community Centre, at 11050 90th Street, marks the last one on a seven-city tour by Join Together Alberta. Public Interest Alberta, Alberta Federation of Labour, Friends of Medicare, and the Alberta Teachers' Association are among those taking part.
Both, Edmonton Public and Catholic School Boards are preparing to move forward with fewer teachers and other staff this fall, in an effort to balance their books. The public school board has already passed its budget, with cuts to 229 teaching positions. The Catholic board is forecasting 97 lost teaching positions, as it prepares to pass its budget next week.
iNews880am, Thurs Jun 23 2011
Fluctuating revenues lead to cuts when oil prices decline
In industries such as oil and gas, revenues can fluctuate, sometimes wildly, with the ebbs and flows of the market.
For a province such as Alberta, whose revenue is heavily based on the oil and gas industry, such fluctuations are a major problem because the need for that money doesn't fluctuate. The need to fund areas such as health care and education is constant.
It's for that reason that Public Interest Alberta is campaigning to push the province to fix a revenue system it says is broken.
The organization is touring the province, holding town hall meetings - including one in Lethbridge tonight at 7 p.m. at Southminster United Church - to let Albertans know the province does have options for generating revenue that could eliminate the need for cuts.
Public Interest Alberta points out the province still has about $10 billion in rainy-day savings in the Heritage Trust Fund. The organization also says Alberta - the only province still using a flat tax - would be better served by switching to a progressive tax system which could generate up to extra $2 billion in revenue.
Alberta also overspent by $900 million on its energy stimulus drilling program which provides subsidies for the oil and gas industry.
The extra money in government coffers would come in handy now with school districts facing the prospect of budget shortfalls for next term.
"It's obviously well know that there's $100 million that's been cut out of the education budget even though they're looking at an additional 6,000 children from K to 12 going into our system next year," says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of Public Interest Alberta, which is helping to spearhead the "Join Together Alberta" campaign which demands Alberta change to a more consistent revenue model.
Moore-Kilgannon notes post-secondary institutions are also facing tough times because the zero per cent increase in their operating budgets the past two years effectively amounts to a cut because operating costs have risen.
He's right when he says the need for health care, education and care for seniors doesn't rise and fall with the price of oil, and that cuts made today ultimately wind up producing greater costs down the road. That doesn't include the social costs in terms of hardship for Albertans who rely on these services.
There's no need for Albertans to have to endure such hardship. We are fortunate to live in one of the "have" provinces; maintaining services essential to Albertans shouldn't be as difficult as it has become.
"Alberta is one of the wealthiest places in the world, blessed with an abundance of extremely valuable natural resources - and yet our government has manufactured a financial crisis that is likely to see 1,200 teachers laid off in the next few months and a still to be determined number of vital educational support staff," Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour and co-chair of the JTA campaign, said in a news release at the campaign's launch. "Our education system is experiencing the same kind of chaos that has been inflicted on our health-care system, and that pain is also being felt in post-secondary education and in social services struggling to help vulnerable Albertans."
A more sustainable revenue system could ease that pain.
Lethbridge Herald, Thurs Jun 16 2011
EDMONTON - After a day in which 326 Edmonton teaching positions were likely lost, school boards say they desperately need consistent funding.
Both Edmonton school boards passed versions of their budgets Tuesday that include severe cuts. Now, boards across Alberta say they need five years of sustained funding to escape the roller-coaster of finances that stunts long-term planning.
"It's critically important that the government provide predictable and sustained funding," said public board chair Dave Colburn. "We absolutely have to find a new funding model."
Debbie Engel, chair of the Catholic board, agreed with Colburn that five years of predictable funding would be ideal. "With three years, we could do a good job of planning for the future, but could do a better job with five."
Jacquie Hansen, president of the Alberta School Boards Association, said schools are at the mercy of oil prices and a boom-and-bust economy. The last few years of recession have been particularly bad. New programs fail because funding is pulled after the first year.
Hansen said a five-year plan, similar to funding for Alberta Health Services, would make education "more than a line item in the budget."
Tuesday night, the public board passed a budget that Colburn called "heartbreaking."
Within the $851 million budget, 345 full-time jobs will be cut, including 229 teaching positions.
The budget will use $21.5 million in reserve funding, which leaves no surplus for the public board by the time the next school year ends.
In 2009, the board's surplus fund, used for any unpredictable expenses in a school year, was $52 million. Now it's gone.
"The trend over the past three years has been disturbing," Colburn said. "It raises serious questions about the adequacy of funding from the province."
The budget signals a loss of nearly any flexibility as principals become teachers and lose time for professional development.
All 62 school boards in Alberta are reporting a net loss this year, Hansen said.
Earlier Tuesday, the Edmonton Catholic board passed a draft budget that will cost it 97 teaching positions in the next school year, as well as 63 support staff and 24 custodial positions.
Currently, the Catholic district has 1,848 full-time teaching positions. The public district has roughly 4,000.
Earlier this year, the province increased the overall education budget, but only enough to cover the promised 4.5-per-cent wage increase for teachers. It cut back many of its other programs, particularly the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement and English Language Learning program.
That led to a $9.6-million shortfall for the Catholic board. Its draft budget reflects a $1.8-million operating deficit, which leaves the district with a surplus of $2.4 million, half of what the surplus was three years ago.
Both boards have said class sizes will be affected because they have a growing number of students and fewer teachers.
Education Minister Dave Hancock said the potential number of teachers cut was higher than he expected, but he was "not overly" concerned.
Hancock said changes in class sizes will likely not affect education.
While Colburn agrees there are differing views on how class sizes affect education, he said the number of students per teacher is always a priority concern for parents.
The Catholic board's draft budget, which is scheduled for an approval vote on June 28, is $353 million.
Decisions about which schools will lose teachers won't be made until enrolment numbers are known in the fall.
The Alberta Federation of Labour and other groups held a town-hall meeting in Calgary Wednesday night to address public sector cuts, especially cuts to education. A similar meeting will be held in Edmonton on June 23.
Edmonton Journal, Wed Jun 15 2011
Byline: Ryan Cormier
People such as Premier Ed Stelmach and Education Minister Dave Hancock want Albertans to believe that these are tough times.
They want us to believe that the recession has left them with no choice but to trim budgets and cut funding, even for vital services like education.
But ordinary Albertans know in their hearts and their guts that there is something seriously wrong with this picture.
They see mega projects ramping up, they see glitzy office towers rising, they see the economy springing back to life -and they wonder: Why?
Why, amid such plenty, should we be laying off teachers and other education workers?
Why should we be under-funding our universities, colleges and technical schools?
Why should we be cutting services for the needy and the disabled?
The truth is: There is no good reason.
Facts are sometimes inconvenient for politicians. They get in the way of the stories they tell voters and tell themselves.
But when we're talking about our schools and our hospitals, about services for our kids, our grandparents and the most vulnerable members of our society, then we can't afford to ignore the facts.
What do the facts tell us? They tell us that Alberta is one of the most prosperous jurisdictions, not only in Canada, but in the entire world.
They tell us that we have no public debt and that we have billions tucked away for rainy days in the Sustainability Fund.
They tell us that, on a per-person basis, our provincial economy is 75 per cent larger than the Canadian average; that corporate profits in the province have increased by more than 400 per cent over the past decade; and that tens of billions of dollars in investment continue to pour into the oilsands each year.
These are not tough times. We are a province that can think big and dream big. We are certainly a province that can afford to provide adequate, stable long-term funding for core services, including education.
There is another part of the government story that doesn't stand up to scrutiny. That's the part where they say we have a spending problem -that costs are out of control for public services. But, once again, the facts tell a different story.
The truth is that Alberta's per-person spending on public services is bang on the national average.
The truth is that overall spending on public services has barely kept up with our province's robust population growth.
The truth is that, as a share of our province's overall economic pie, spending on public services has actually gone down over the last 20 years -and not just by a little bit.
All of this raises the question: If we can afford our services (which, clearly, we can) and if spending is under control (which, clearly, it is) why, then, is the Stelmach government still recording deficits?
This is the real question Albertans need to be asking themselves and their politicians, especially during the Tory leadership race and in the run-up to the next election.
The answer is clear. The reason our cupboard is bare is because our provincial government has decided to make it bare.
Successive governments in Alberta have deliberately stopped collecting a reasonable and responsible share of our province's economic pie to fund the public services that Albertans need. Years and years of ill-conceived tax and royalty cuts have left us with an inadequate and unreliable revenue base.
Alberta is like a rich guy with a big hole in his pocket. He keeps shoving the money in, but his pockets are always empty at the end of the month. The answer is not for the rich guy to sell his house, or tell his kids they're going to live on Kraft dinner. The answer is to fix the hole.
The good news is that thoughtful members of our provincial community are starting to wake up and speak out.
Former premier Peter Lougheed understands the problem and is calling for revenue reform. So are members of the premier's own advisory panel on economic strategy and academics from think-tanks including the Parkland Institute and the Canada West Foundation.
Politicians don't like to talk about taxes. And our current crop of leaders have been successfully bullied by the oil industry away from any talk about fair royalties.
But for the sake of our kids, our communities and our future, this is a discussion we have to have.
We need to demand that our politicians stop preaching austerity when it is clearly unwarranted.
And we need to call on leaders to deal with the real problem, which is Alberta's broken system for revenue generation.
Gil McGowan is president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, which represents 145,000 unionized workers in the province. This article is adapted from the speech he gave at the launch of the Join Together Alberta campaign.
Edmonton Journal, Thurs Jun 9 2011
Byline: Gil McGowan
Close to 800 clients with learning disabilities will need to find new support after the local chapter of the Learning Disabilities Association closes on June 17.
This is the second time in three years the chapter has had to shut down because of lack of funding and a steady increase in its client base. In 2010-11 the chapter has provided support for 788 clients compared to 470 clients in 2009-10.
Sheryl Krill, executive director, said the continuous cuts in education has had a cascading effect that trickles down the line putting tremendous strain on non-profits and other organizations to pick up the load and it is just too much for some.
Krill was one of about 30 who attended the Join Together Alberta town hall meeting at the Golden Circle Seniors Center last night.
Red Deer was the first stop on the seven city tour of town hall meetings scheduled across the province. In leading up to the next provincial election and during the progressive conservative leadership race, Join Together Alberta relaunched to educate residents and to advocate for better funding for vital public services including education, health care and social services.
Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director, Public Interest Alberta said this story illustrates these cuts in services are impacting Red Deer and in the long run are going to cost the community more and the taxpayers even more.
Gil McGowan, co-chairman of Join Together Alberta and president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said given the current strength of the economy, the provincial government should not be considering cuts or freezes to vital services like education and health care. He said the irresponsible cuts to corporate taxes and taxes for high income earners coupled with ongoing cuts to royalties has essentially blown a hole in the revenue base the province needs to fund things like education and other health care services.
“The answer isn’t to cut the services Albertans need to build a stronger foundation for the future,” he said.
The solution is to fix the holes in our revenue base by rethinking the cuts to profitable corporations, tax give aways to high earners and higher royalties.
“Fixing the holes that have been blown in our revenue base is the real pressing for our legislature going forward,” said McGowan. “It is at the root of everything. Politicians always talk about health care about education but all of these things are based on the foundation of our revenue base.”
The next town hall meeting is scheduled for tonight in Medicine Hat.
Red Deer Advocate, Tues Jun 7 2011
Byline: Crystal Rhyno
Alberta labour, social agencies unite to fight provincial budget cuts: Higher taxes, energy royalties would stablize funding for education, social services, health care, group says
EDMONTON — Raising taxes will reduce provincial budget cuts and save more than 1,000 teachers from losing their jobs in Alberta, say unions, community groups and social-services agencies, which have banded together to push for more funding.
Collecting more revenue will help the government provide more stable and long-term funding to programs and services that Albertans need and rely on, said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
To that end, McGowan's group and dozens of other organizations have launched a campaign called Join Together Alberta to press the government for more funding for education, social services and health care.
"Why should we be skimping on the services and programs that we need to build a stronger foundation for the future of our province and its citizens? The truth is: there is no good reason," McGowan said. "We need to talk about higher royalty rates for the development and sell of our collectively owned natural resources."
Alberta also needs to talk about reducing corporate tax breaks and increasing taxes for higher-income earners, he said.
Join Together Alberta's initiative comes on the heals of an announcement from Edmonton's public school board that provincial budget cuts will cost nearly 350 jobs, including more than 200 teaching positions. The Calgary board is expected to trim 358 teachers and support staff. The government committed this week to spend $550 million on new schools.
How the government fixes the problem is its decision, said Sharon Armstrong, vice-president of the Alberta Teachers' Association.
"The children that are in our schools right now are entitled to a proper education in a province that is this wealthy," she said. "They need to put $100 million back into the education system now for this fall."
Armstrong said if the cuts are made, it will lead to larger class sizes, less teacher attention per student and more difficulty improving graduation rates.
Diana Gibson, research director for the Parkland Institute, said the provincial government should stop tying social services to oil and gas prices. That system isn't working and hasn't been for a long time, she said.
"Our social spending goes up and down. It's very volatile because oil and gas is volatile. To have some form of stability in our education, health care and social programs, we need to rely on stable, predictable revenues."
Politicians have long boasted that Alberta has the lowest taxes in Canada, Gibson said, but Alberta should be beating other provinces by a yard, not a mile. The province can raise taxes to provide adequate funding for services and still have the lowest tax rates, she said.
The rest of the provinces are collecting between $11 billion to $20 billion more in taxes than Alberta.
"That gap is so big," she said. "Why the difference? We could capture $10.9 billion and still be the lowest tax jurisdiction in Canada and one of the lowest in the G7."
McGowan agreed, adding the change won't affect industry.
"People in businesses don't come to Alberta because of the low tax rates. They come to Alberta because of the oil and gas."
So why is Alberta laying off education workers; under-funding universities, colleges and technical schools; and skimping on other services,s he asked.
"The answer is clear: the reason our cupboard is bare is because provincial government has decided to make it bare."
Edmonton Journal, Thurs May 26 2011
Byline: Miranda Scotland
A plan to lay off more than 1,000 teachers across Alberta is being met with fierce opposition from unions and special interest groups, who say the decision can't be justified.
"Our provincial government wants Albertans to believe these are tough times," said Gil McGowan of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "We should not be as a province talking austerity, we should not be talking freezes. We are a province that can afford high quality public services."
Roughly 1,200 teaching jobs are expected to be eliminated this fall, the result of funding cuts to education programs that have left school boards unable to balance their books. On Tuesday Edmonton's Public School Board announced that 229 teachers would be lost.
But members of "Join Together Alberta" - comprised of a variety of unions and special interest groups - say that schools boards shouldn't be forced to consider job cuts when the province has money to spend.
"We think in the short term the provincial government should be drawing from the substantiality fund to make sure our public services are maintained," McGowan said.
Sharon Armstrong, vice-president of the Alberta Teacher's Association, believes a united voice could help convince the province to loosen it's purse-strings.
"The individual in Alberta has a lot of power if they choose to use it," Armstrong said. "I believe if they speak out strongly, the government will listen."
Vanessa Sauve, president of the Holyrood Parents Council, is lending her voice to the chorus, concerned about what cuts could mean for children.
"Parents are worried," Sauve said. "Larger class sizes for their child means less class time with the teacher and things can get missed."
Education Minister Dave Hancock could not be reached for comment Thursday, but earlier in the week suggested that the province has increased education spending by nearly 70 percent in the last decade.
Global Toronto, Thurs May 26 2011