The headlines in city papers proclaimed the happy news: a saviour had arisen who would lead the west out from the wilderness. Westerners - and Albertans in particular - would finally enjoy real power at the centre of the Canadian universe! Hallelujah!
The agent of this wonderful change was none other than Anne McLellan - former federal health minister and Liberal MP for Edmonton West. And the occasion for celebration, of course, was the decision by newly-minted Prime Minister Paul Martin to name McLellan as his second-in-command.
Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan! And minister of post Sept. 11 overkill ( er& I mean national security) to boot! Cue the trumpets!
You'll forgive me if I don't join the chorus in praise of St. Anne.
You see, I'm one of thousands of left-of-centre Albertans who have watched McLennan's career over the past decade. And to put it bluntly, it has been a huge disappointment.
It wasn't always thus.
I remember back in 1994 when McLellan was making her first bid for election in Edmonton West. Many people who I respect were excited about her campaign.
She's a top professor at the U of A's law faculty, they told me. She's progressive. She's a feminist. She's savvy. Caring. Tough.
I have to admit, it all sounded good at the time. In a province where the forty or so percent of the population that doesn't support the Reform/Alliance/Conservatives is routinely denied representation by the vagaries of our first-past-the-post system, the prospect of electing a "social Liberal" in the Trudeau-Pearson mold was pretty appealing.
Ten years later, there are still some people - many of whom should know better - spouting the "Anne as Progressive" line. The problem is, we're still waiting for evidence.
Anne in Action
Political junkies in Alberta are familiar with McLellan's story. After winning a razor-thin victory in the 1994 general election, McLellan - as one of only a handful of western Liberals - was quickly brought into the Chretein cabinet: first as Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, then as Justice Minister, and most recently as Health Minister.
By virtue of these lofty postings, McLellan became a member of the federal government's inner circle. Despite all the current hoopla about her newest job in the Martin cabinet, the truth is that McLellan has been one of the most powerful and influential Liberals in the country for the past decade. The question is: what did she do with that power? The answer, unfortunately is: not much.
In fact, for all those who believed she would be a beacon of liberal light in a sea of mean-spirited Reform-Alliance darkness, McLellan has proven to be worse than a "do-nothing": she has often ended up supporting the very conservative politicians and policies many people thought she had been elected to oppose.
If you doubt this assessment, let's take a look at her record in three key areas: civil liberties, the environment and health care.
The War on Civil Liberties
Anne McLellan had the dubious honour of being Canada's Justice Minister during the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
At the time, there was tremendous domestic and international pressure on the government to enhance the security of Canadians and make it more difficult for would-be terrorists to operate in the country.
Given this atmosphere, politics dictated that McLellan had to do something in support of the so-called "war on terrorism": the question was, what?
Unfortunately, McLellan opted for legislative changes that lean more towards the American-style heavy-hand than towards traditional Canadian-style moderation.
The two anti-terrorism bills that McLellan produced - Bill C-36 and Bill C-35 - can best be described as draconian. In the eyes of many, the new laws' broad definitions of "terrorism" essentially act to criminalize legitimate dissent. And they profoundly undermine the rights and civil liberties of Canadian citizens - especial those who have the misfortune of sporting Arabic sounding names or who happen to have been born in Middle Eastern countries.
Significantly, it wasn't only progressives and activists who thought McLellan had gone too far. The list of those vehemently opposed to the new anti-terrorism laws also included such established groups as the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the citizen oversight committee for CSIS.
Today, Canada's anti-terrorism is in place - and some observers say it is at least as much of a challenge to civil liberties as the much reviled Patriot Act in the U.S. The question for supporters of Anne McLellan is this: what happened to her vaunted "progressive" values? And when, exactly, did appeasing the current hard-right administration in Washington become more important that preserving the democratic freedoms of ordinary Canadians?
The next item on the list of "Most disappointing moments" for Anne McLellan came during the debate on the Kyoto Accord.
It was the fall of 2002 and Prime Minister Jean Chretein was finally showing some interest in implementing a "social-Liberal" agenda before stepping down. One of the main components of that agenda was, of course, action on global warming through support of the Kyoto Accord.
Poll after poll at the time showed that Canadians overwhelmingly supported the Accord. People understood the issue of global warming and they saw Kyoto as the first step in dealing with the problem.
Even here in Alberta, the majority of people backed Kyoto. In fact, the only two groups of any note that opposed the deal were the Calgary-based energy industry and members of the Klein government.
And who did McLellan side with in this debate? Did she honour the wishes of own constituents? Did she support the position staked out by her own government?
Unfortunately, the answer to these last two questions is 'no.'
Instead of standing behind the Prime Minister who appointed her and fighting for a policy that the majority of Canadians clearly supported, McLellan chose to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Klein government and their patrons in the energy industry.
To make matters worse, McLellan broke ranks just as the Kyoto debate was reaching a crescendo. And she didn't just choose to abstain from the vote on Kyoto implementation. She threatened to resign unless the government essentially exempted the energy industry (one of our countries biggest producers of greenhouse gases) from Kyoto targets.
Eventually, the federal government decided to go ahead with its plans for Kyoto - and McLellan voted in favour of a watered-down version of the bill to implement the deal. However, there can be no doubt that McLellan's intervention took a great deal of wind out of Kyoto's sails.
Most alarmingly, McLellan's views on Kyoto seems to be very similar to the views held by new Prime Minister Paul Martin. With these two in charge, the likelihood of any meaningful action towards reducing the emission of greenhouse gases seems to have been greatly reduced.
Score one for the oil barons.
Medicare's missed opportunity
Anne McLellan's track record on the Kyoto Accord and terrorism is highly questionable - and it certainly earns her a place on the list of "Most Conservative" Liberal cabinet ministers ever. But those are not the things that people are most likely to remember her for. Instead, if she is remembered at all, it will be as the Health Minister who missed the chance to save Medicare.
It was on her watch, after all, that Roy Romanow delivered his sweeping and widely praised report on the future of health care.
After touring the country, examining health systems from around the world and talking to literally thousands of experts and ordinary Canadians, Romanow concluded that Medicare was worth saving. And he said that the best way to save it was by keeping it public.
In many ways, Romanow made it easy for McLellan and our country's ten provincial premiers. He gave them a detailed and workable road map for reform. And, thanks to his tireless touring, he helped build the political momentum to do big things: Canadians overwhelmingly supported his vision and were willing to get behind major reforms.
But did McLellan take advantage of the ideas and the opportunity handed to her by Romanow? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
More than a year has passed since the Romanow report was released and only one of its major recommendations (the creation of a national health council) has been implemented. All the other recommendations - on things like Pharmacare, primary care reform and rural health care - are all but forgotten.
Obviously, the Premiers (especially conservative Premiers like Ralph Klein and B.C.'s Gordon Campbell) have to shoulder much of the blame for the failure of governments to embrace the Romanow roadmap.
But, as the federal Health Minister, Anne McLellan could have played a leadership role. She could have used the wide public support for the Romanow report as a tool to pressure the Premiers into action.
But she did none of that. In fact, it can be argued that McLellan's interventions actually encouraged the Premiers to reject Romanow. For example, she was quoted saying that private delivery of health services might actually make sense - contrary to all the evidence presented in Romanow's report. And she also made a point of praising Alberta's blueprint for health reform - the controversial Mazankowski report - even though it pointed in an entirely opposite direction from Romanow.
Based on her performance, it's not unreasonable to conclude that McLellan never really wanted Romanow's recommendations implemented - even though most other Canadians did. And it's also not a stretch to argue that her policy of benign neglect played a big role in smothering the Romanow baby in its crib.
Better than a Reformer?
Despite McLellan's track record, there are still left-leaning voters in Alberta who will say: better Anne than an Alliance-Conservative candidate. That's the argument that was used to such great effect by McLellan's camp during the federal election when Stockwell Day was used as the boogie-man of choice.
But you know what? Based on her performance over the past few years - and especially her shocking and profoundly disappointing record on health care, the environment and civil liberties - I've become convinced that a back bench Alliance-Conservative MP would actually have been preferable. Why? Because, they likely wouldn't be any more conservative than Anne has been - and, as opposition outsiders, they almost certainly would have done less damage.
In the end, what's the lesson in all this? It's that we should judge politicians on their actions, not on some misty-eyed nostalgia about the past of their party or on the rhetoric of their followers.
By any measure of her actual record, Anne McLellan fails the "progressive" test. She is a (reactionary) wolf in (liberal) sheep's clothing.
Worse than that, her record suggests that the new government under Paul Martin will be one of the most conservative we've seen in Ottawa for years. So brace yourselves everyone - with Paul and Anne in charge we're about to start a rocky ride back to a more conservative future.
Gil McGowan, AFL Executive Staff
Running to stand still: How Alberta government policy has led to wage stagnation during a time of prosperity
Albertans are entitled to ask: "What's going on? How can the most productive workers in the country experience stagnant or falling wages in the middle of an economic boom? If we can't improve our real wages during a boom, when can we?"
Les Steel, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour, November 2003
I probably don't have to tell you that it has not been a banner year for labour or for working people in Alberta.
That's because there has never been a banner year for labour in this province since the Socreds took power in 1934. That's a whole lot of bad years for anyone who's counting.
Alberta still has the worst labour laws in Canada. We still have the lowest minimum wage and the lowest unionization rate in the country.
Workers still cannot get their most basic rights to overtime or holiday pay actually enforced. And if they actually overcome all of the barriers and get a union, all too often they end up in vicious employer-driven first contract disputes like the one currently going on at A Channel in Edmonton.
Health care workers have had their right to belong to the union of their choice stripped away by Bill 27. And it is looking like the government is going to take a run at the nurses next year.
It's pretty obvious that working people in this province desperately need a New Democratic government. But, I can honestly say that we are no closer to one today than we were in 1971.
That's why I think it really is time for us to take stock of how labour and the party work together.
The relationship between the New Democratic Party and the labour movement is going through profound changes across Canada.
Originally, the NDP was the consequence of an alliance between the Cooperative Commonwealth and the Canadian Labour Congress. Labour was not simply a supporter of the NDP - we were a founding partner.
There were many benefits to both the labour movement and the party from this partnership.
The Party received substantial and sustained funding from a dependable source and a cadre of volunteer workers during elections. The Party also received the inside track with union activists and leaders - a sort of pipeline into the organized working class.
The labour movement received substantial legislative support protecting the rights of workers and unions in those jurisdictions fortunate enough to elect New Democrat governments.
Even at the federal level, labour got some sympathetic legislation and programs as a direct result of the popular support for the NDP and its platforms during elections.
But, as with all political alliances, there were also some problems with labour's traditional alliance with the NDP.
Many New Democrats felt that 'big labour' had too much influence on party policies and party affairs - both because of dependency on labour funding and because of the allocation of convention credentials to labour affiliates.
Further, there was a criticism that labour could not 'deliver' its members' votes in the ballot box. Finally, some New Democrats worried that the connection with unions hurt the party electorally.
From labour's perspective, there were significant problems arising from feelings of betrayal when New Democrat governments passed back-to-work legislation or failed to live up to our expectations of a 'labour' government.
There was also some suspicion that the Party saw us more as a cash cow than a partner.
I believe that the tensions between organized labour and the Party have, if anything, been increasing over time.
The breakdown of our traditional relationship is nowhere more evident than in Manitoba - where a New Democrat government basically prohibited labour funding. And I know that Alberta and other provinces are looking at similar policies.
New federal legislation has also put an end to the old style labour support for the federal party.
So, the question before us is: where do we go from here?
In the labour movement, we are seriously looking for new ways to express our political programs and principles. We are trying to find ways to mobilize labour support for the NDP in this new climate.
Right now, the Alberta Federation of Labour has politically committed itself to a program of action based upon the very successful Saskatchewan Federation of Labour's Issues Campaign.
The idea is straightforward. The trade union movement will poll our own rank-and-file members to find out exactly which issues they consider to be of paramount importance.
We will then run focus groups to find out the most effective messaging for putting forward those workers' issues as policy and program demands. Following that we will run a public campaign to place these issues at the forefront of public debate.
In Saskatchewan, the issues campaign focused, among other things, on the critical importance of provincial crown corporations to peoples' quality of life.
Interestingly, the key issue upon which the election in Saskatchewan turned, was the debate over crown corporations.
In essence, we, in labour, are no longer trying to deliver our vote. It just didn't work for union leaders to 'tell' members how to vote. Our members resented it and just refused to listen.
Now, we are identifying workers' real issues and in effect creating political space for these issues.
It will be up to the New Democrats to take advantage of that space before and during elections - just as they did in Saskatchewan.
We are very excited about this new political action program. We are already stating our issues campaign in Alberta - and I believe that this will result in a real and impressive increase in support for the Party in the next election.
Moreover, I believe that the CLC will also be following suit at the national level.
I believe that labour - by running a more independent political action program - will renew worker support for the NDP.
We will see more trade unionists joining the NDP and working for the party during elections.
So to answer to my question: where do labour and the New Democrats go from here?
We go forward to a more effective, healthier relationship - one that will inevitably lead to the first New Democrat government in Alberta.
If you're finding it more and more difficult to keep up with the bills each month, you're not alone. Recently released figures show that the amount Albertans earn each week is falling far behind the increase in inflation - meaning real weekly income for most Albertans is shrinking.
Reports from Statistics Canada show that inflation increased the cost of living in Alberta by 7.6 percent between March 2002 and March 2003. At the same time, average weekly income (unadjusted for inflation) increased by only 1.3 percent.
The result is that, even though paycheques are slightly larger than they were last year, the average Albertan has experienced a 5.9 percent cut in their actual purchasing power.
"In a province that is supposed in the midst of an economic boom, this is a truly disturbing revelation," says Les Steel, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "If working people can't maintain their standard of living in the good times, what's going to happen when we hit the next down-turn?"
Alberta's inflation rate is by far the highest in the country and Steel says the biggest cause of that jump is the provincial government's ill-advised decision to de-regulate power (gas and electricity).
"For a year or so after the last election, the government managed to hide the true extent for their bungling by using our own tax dollars to subsidize power bills," says Steel. "But now those subsidies have been phased out and the real costs associated with de-regulation are clear. Basically, the Tories are taking a huge bite out of our wallets and eroding our standard of living."
In addition to being largely responsibly for Alberta's unprecedented spike in inflation, Steel says the Klein Tories must shoulder a large share of the blame for stagnant wages - the other half of the "cost-of-living squeeze" now being experienced by Albertans.
"This government has driven up costs for Albertans by deregulating power and failing to protect us from things like increasing auto insurance premiums," says Steel.
"But they've also hit working people hard by deliberately putting downward pressure on wages. They've done this through their anti-union and low minimum wage policies - both of which have weakened the ability of workers to get a fair share of the economic pie even during boom times."
Steel says the time has come for Albertans to "connect the dots" between declining real income and the policies of the Klein government.
For more information call:
Les Steel, AFL President @ (780) 483-3021 or (780) 499-4135 (cell)
Gil McGowan, AFL Communications @ (780) 483-3021 or (780) 910-1137 (cell)
EDMONTON - There is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to guaranteeing real equality for women in the workplace and in their communities, says Kerry Barrett, Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"On the eve of International Women's Day, we have much to celebrate - but here in Alberta and across the country we still haven't reached the point where we can say that all barriers to equality have been dismantled."
As proof that the battle for more equitable treatment has yet to be won, Barrett points to information from Statistics Canada showing that the "gender wage gap" in Alberta is wider than anywhere else in Canada.
"On average, working women in Canada earn about 81 cents for every dollar earned by men. But here in Alberta, women earn only about 76 cents for each dollar earned by their male counterparts. That's the widest gap in the country - and it's a clear sign that more needs to be done to advance the interests of women in the workplace."
The statistics also show that outside of a few sectors like health care and education - where unions have won better deals for their members - working women are still much less likely to have access to pensions or other benefits than men.
At the same time, Barrett says our governments at both the federal and provincial level have failed to give more than lip service to many of the issues that matter most to women - like affordable child care, low-income housing, assistance for single mothers and funding for women's shelters.
"You don't want to be young, poor and a mother in Alberta," says Barrett. "Raising a young family has never been easy. But our governments have made it much more difficult than it has to be - especially in a wealthy province like ours."
Barrett also points to a report released yesterday by the United Nations showing that Canada has failed to live up to its obligations in areas such as the reduction of child poverty and promoting the number of women in elected positions.
"Here in Alberta, one in five of our children live in poverty - and only 16 of 73 of our MLAs are women. We think there is a direct link between these two figures. Without more women in positions of authority, we will continue to have governments that ignore the concerns of women and families."
Barrett says that the labour movement has and will continue to play a central role in improving conditions for women.
"In most of the sectors of the economy where women have pulled even to men in terms of wages, benefits and responsibility there is one common denominator - and that's the presence of unions," she says. "Our challenge now is to organize more women and use our collective strength to level the playing field more broadly."
For more information call:
Kerry Barrett, AFL Secretary Treasurer at 780-483-3021 or 1-800-661-3995
or 780-720-8945 (cell)
The Alberta Federation of Labour expects 2003 to be a year of intense activity on the labour relations front. AFL President Les Steel points to high inflation and slow wage growth in the province fuelling higher wage demands as workers struggle to maintain their standard of living.
"November's inflation figure of 9.7% was a shock to most Albertans. We know that this figure was, to some extent, a statistical anomaly, but we also know that the province has the highest inflation rate in Canada, and that the deregulation of utilities has helped to push up the cost of living. Wages in the province aren't keeping up to increases in the cost of living, and if war in the Middle East causes oil prices to skyrocket, the increased energy revenues may be good for government finances, but the resulting inflation will be a disaster for ordinary working Albertans."
Figures released by the government show that average weekly earnings for Albertans are growing by about 2% per year. "We believe that when the final figures are in, the inflation rate in Alberta in 2002 will be more than twice that figure," said Steel. "There is no reason why, in an economy as strong as Alberta's, workers should continue to see their real earnings fall."
Steel says the AFL also expects more Albertans to seek union membership in the coming year. "A recent Statistics Canada study shows that union representation brings higher wages - over seven percent on average. It also tends to provide better benefit and pension coverage. Most importantly, perhaps, it gives workers the right to be treated with respect and dignity in the workplace."
"That's why union membership has been growing in Alberta, supposedly the most anti-union province in Canada; and that's why it will continue to grow.
Shaw Strike Exposes Flaws in Labour Law
Workers at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton won a victory in November by negotiating their first collective agreement after a bitter seven month struggle against bad-faith bargaining and anti-union tactics.
The actions of Economic Development Edmonton, and the senseless prolonging of the strike is clear evidence of the need for improvements to the unfriendly labour laws in Alberta.
"Labour laws in this province fail to recognize that workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively. When workers freely choose to be represented by a union, as was the case with the Shaw workers, labour laws should facilitate the process, not act as a barrier to be overcome" said Steel.
The December 10, 2002 ratification of the Kyoto Protocol is an historic first step in addressing the issue of climate change. Throughout the debate on ratification, the AFL has supported Kyoto, and looks forward to continuing to work with all levels of government to ensure that workers and communities affected by necessary job shifts are protected by an effective just transition plan.
Kyoto will mean new jobs in new industries and is an ideal opportunity to diversify the Alberta economy away from its dependence on rapidly-depleting fossil fuels to ensure sustainable jobs for future generations of Albertan workers.
"Kyoto should be seen as a chance for Albertans to become leaders in the emerging industries which will drive the economy of the future" said Steel. "Countries around the world are making the shift already, and Alberta will be left behind unless this government starts seeing Kyoto as an opportunity rather than a threat."
Time for Romanow
With the release of the long-anticipated Romanow Report, Canadians have been given a clear choice about the future of Medicare. The AFL is calling for the quick and full implementation of the recommendations of Romanow by the Federal government.
Medicare is not only the right system, it is the smart system. Study after study proves that public healthcare has better results and is cheaper than for-profit delivery. Public healthcare protects families and is also a competitive advantage which makes Canada an attractive place to do business.
"Companies in Canada must recognize that if we go down the road of for-profit healthcare, they will be joining their American counterparts in paying more for coverage" warns Steel. "What working people lose from the public system, they will be demanding at the bargaining table."
The year 2002 was characterized by an increasing erosion of democratic rights. Effective protest and meaningful participation in government became more difficult than ever.
The G8 Summit held in Kananaskis was the largest, most expensive peace time security operation in Canadian history. All three levels of government actively interfered with the rights of citizens to assemble and protest, and Calgarians were subjected to months of fear-mongering.
Despite broad support for ratification, Albertans were subjected to a multi-million dollar anti-Kyoto propaganda campaign while the Klein government chastised the Federal government for "consulting but not listening." At the same time, the Alberta government has hypocritically pushed ahead with privatization and for-profit healthcare despite strong opposition by Albertans.
"What we are seeing is an increasing disconnect between the wants of ordinary Albertans and the policy coming from government. At the same time government is clamping down on the right to protest" said Steel. "That's why labour, students, activists and community groups will continue to work together in the coming year."
For more information, contact:
Les Steel, AFL President at (780) 499-4135 (cell) or (780) 475-4668 (hm)
The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) has produced a new research study examining the economics of public education, public health care and other social programs. The book demonstrates that these public programs are a net advantage to Canada's economy, and they give Canada a competitive advantage over the U.S. and other nations with less well developed social programs.
"We abandon public health care and public education at our peril," says AFL President Les Steel. "They give us a clear competitive advantage over our neighbour to the south."
For example, in health care, the book reveals that employer health costs are two to three times higher in the U.S. than Canada, even when including taxation levels. "Public health care lowers the cost of doing business, and that works to Canada's advantage," says Steel.
The results of the study will be presented at a seminar being hosted by the AFL for interested members of the public. The author of the study will provide a presentation of the study findings and the book will be officially released at that time. Social agencies, education groups and health care organizations have been invited.
Thursday May 23
10:00 am to 11:00 am
Salon "B", Howard Johnson Hotel, 10010 - 104 Street, Edmonton
The book, entitled "The Other Competitive Advantage: The Economic Case for Strong Social Programs", examines five areas: health care, education, retirement pensions, income security (EI, minimum wage and social assistance) and WCB. In each area it compares the economic costs and benefits of delivering these services publicly or privately.
Following the seminar, there will be a media availability. Copies of the book will be available at the event.
For more information contact:
Les Steel, President @ 780-483-3021(wk) 780-499-4135(cell)
Jason Foster, Director of Policy Analysis @ 780-483-3021(wk)
EDMONTON - The provincial government's budget does not set aside nearly enough money to cover long-overdue wage increases for the majority of public sector workers, says the Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"It's great that money is being put in place to boost the salaries of nurses and teachers," says Les Steel. "But they're not the only public sector workers who have made sacrifices over the past seven or eight years. Given the size of the budget surplus, this government could have afforded to pay back all public sector workers, not just a chosen few."
Steel was particularly critical of the government's decision to earmark funds specifically for wage increases for nurses and teachers instead of boosting overall funding for regional health authorities, school boards and other public sector employers.
He warned this approach is similar to the one taken by the Harris government in Ontario, where school boards were given money to finance raises for teachers but not enough to pay for increases for support staff. The result has been bitter a three-week strike by support workers.
"The only way to avoid a similar scenario from playing our here is to make sure public employers have enough funds to negotiate fairly with all of their employees," says Steel, adding that, when inflation is taken into account, most public sector workers in the province are currently earning between 10 and 15 percent less than the did in 1993.
Steel also expressed regret that the government is not using its huge budget surplus "to build something lasting for the future."
"This government is taking oil and gas out of the ground at a record pace. But what will we have to show for it when it's all gone?" he asks.
"The revenues generated by this bonanza could be used to leave a real legacy for future generations. We could be investing in a better system of workplace training and apprenticeship to meet the shortage of skilled workers. We could be investing in a universal, $5-dollar-a-day childcare program that would ease the financial crunch on young families.
"We could be investing in a pharmacare program that brings down they cost of prescription drugs. We could be doing any or all of these things - but instead the government has decided to do muddle along. So in the end, this budget represents nothing more than a tremendous, squandered opportunity."
For more information call:
Les Steel, Secretary Treasurer @ (780) 483-3021
Gil McGowan, AFL Communications @ (780) 483-3021
EDMONTON - "On March 12th the Conservatives are going to realize how their policies have impacted women in the province. Women are working, and they are voting. This election is about democracy and equality. It's about the effects of funding cuts and the privatization of services women and their families use. This election is about bread and roses," says Audrey Cormack, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"Women have been the hardest hit by Klein's neoconservative social and fiscal policies. Reduced childcare subsidies, the privatization of healthcare and flat taxes are making it harder to make ends meet. The reality is that women are not experiencing the 'Alberta Advantage.' IWD shows us that we need, now more than ever, a government that values women," says Cormack.
Cormack's comments come on International Women's Day, recognized internationally as a day of protest, solidarity and celebration of women's struggles for equality. IWD emanates from labour strikes of textile workers on March 8, in both 1857 and 1908, to protest against poor working conditions in New York City. Their slogan, "bread and roses" has come to represent women's quest for economic security and social justice.
"International Women's Day belongs to working women, and every woman is a working woman. The struggles faced by women a century ago are the same struggles faced by women in Alberta today. Fair wages, decent working conditions, accessible childcare, are all things women are still fighting for," says Cormack.
"This election women have a real chance to make their voices heard," said Lyn Gorman, New Democrat candidate and vice president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
Audrey Cormack concurred. "We need MLA's who will make decisions and implement legislation that takes into account the best interests of women. I urge people to vote for a party that will make sure women in Alberta get their bread and roses."
For further information call:
Audrey Cormack, President @ 483-3021(wk)/ 499-6530(cell)/ 428-9367(hm)
Lyn Gorman, New Democrat Candidate, Fort McMurray @ 780-799-7870
"Moving Toward the Rebirth of Culture, Peace & Harmony"
Saturday, March 10 at 11:30 am - 2:00 pm @ City Hall
All welcome - admission is free.
For further information contact: Pascal Lagace @ 495-7091
Symposium on "Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Gender"
A Conference in Celebration of International Women's Day
March 7, 8 & 9, 2001 at the University of Calgary, room MSC 277 (ground floor of Mac Hall)
All welcome - admission is fee.
Parkland Institute's First Annual Speakers' Series
"From Ideas to Action: Creating the Communities We Want"
March 8 @ 7:30 pm
Lethbridge Public Library
This event is co-sponsored by Womanspace Resource Centre and the Lethbridge and District YWCA, and the Lethbridge Public Library.
Admission by donation.
EDMONTON - The federal government has finally acted in an appropriate manner in its pay equity dispute with its own employees, says Audrey Cormack, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
Cormack says the agreement announced today between the Public Service Alliance and the Treasury Board will finally provide some justice for the 200,000 current and former employees who have been consistently underpaid in the past.
"I applaud the Federal government for deciding to finally abide by the original Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision," says Cormack. "Any further judicial appeals against the decision would have been grossly unfair to these women - and a total waste of taxpayers money."
However, it is the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) that deserves all of the credit for this victory for working people, according to Cormack. "The PSAC has been fighting this battle for the past fifteen years - and they deserve heartfelt thanks from working women, trade unionists and social justice advocates across Canada," says Cormack.
Women workers under federal jurisdiction in the private sector should now expect some action to address their pay inequities, according to Cormack. "Now that the federal government has finally set a standard, I believe that private sector employers under federal jurisdiction must act promptly to meet those same standards with their own employees," says Cormack.
The labour leader also believes that this settlement should convince the Alberta government to reconsider its opposition to pay equity.
"The Alberta government has consistently refused to address the inequity of its own pay structures," says Cormack. "But, they are now clearly lagging behind the mainstream of Canadian society in the area of women's pay. I urge them to take this settlement as a sign that it is time to correct their own unjust treatment of women workers - and to pass pay equity legislation that will create fairness for women working for other private and public employees in Alberta."
For more information call:
Audrey Cormack, President: 780-483-3021 (wk) / 780-499-6530 (cell) / 780-428-9367 (hm)