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Alberta unions react with fury at UCP over AHS jobs plan

Alberta Health Services will lose 800 positions and shift another 9,700 to the private sector as part of a reorganization that is expected to save $600 million a year.

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Alberta unions are reacting with shock and anger at a UCP plan to shift 9,700 jobs off the government payroll and into the private sector.

Some supporters are even calling for a general strike.

On Tuesday, the Alberta government announced Alberta Health Services will lose 800 positions and shift another 9,700 to the private sector as part of a reorganization that is expected to save $600 million a year.

All the 800 job loses will be done through attrition and front-line services won’t be affected during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government promised.

Most of the 9,700 other jobs will now be outsourced in labs, housekeeping, food services, and laundry.

There will be 2,000 laboratory jobs, 4,000 housekeeping jobs, 3,000 food service jobs, and 400 laundry jobs outsourced.

The province said about 70 per cent of lab results are already contracted out, as is 68 per cent of laundry.

A minimum of one hundred management jobs will also be cut.

AHS has 3,300 employees in management, with 68 senior leaders and 14 on the executive teams.

At a Tuesday press conference, AHS head Dr. Verna Yiu described the management as “very, very lean.”

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees reacted with fury to the plan.

“Jason Kenney’s UCP government wants to kill 9,700 AUPE General Support Services jobs. Anyone who threatens this during a pandemic is a villain, and AUPE members are prepared to give Premier Kenney a thrashing for it,” the union tweeted.

“Shandro said layoffs of laundry workers and future layoffs of cooks and housekeeping staff, will save money. This is highly unlikely. Laundry will still have to be cleaned; food will still have to be cooked.”

The union said the majority of affected workers will be women. They said of AUPE members employed by the AHS, 29,378 are female with 6,060 male and 3,333 unknowns.

Alberta Federation of Labour head Gil McGowan was also furious with the moves.

“While other leaders around the world are focused on the safety of their citizens and the health of their economies during the COVID crisis, Kenney is focused instead on deep budget cuts (which will imperil citizens and crater the economy),” McGowan tweeted.

Former Calgary Currie MLA Dave Taylor took it a step further and called for a general strike.

“Alberta, it’s time for a general strike. Just. Shut. It. Down,” the former Liberal and Alberta Party member tweeted.

But not everyone was against the government move.

“Out of touch government union bosses want to keep increasing costs on struggling taxpayers but they won’t get much sympathy from the many Albertans who took a pay cut or lost their job over the last five years,” said Franco Terrazzano, Alberta Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

 A document obtained by the CTF shows that AUPE union bosses were pushing for 7.85 per cent wage increases in 2019, while many Albertans outside of government were struggling through the economic downturn. 

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard and the Vice-President: News Division of Western Standard New Media Corp. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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EXCLUSIVE: Country star running for UCP president to force Kenney leadership vote

Sources tell the Western Standard that George Canyon will run for the presidency of the party in order to trigger an earlier leadership review.

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Alberta country star George Canyon is set to announce he’s running for the presidency of the United Conservative Party, multiple sources tell the Western Standard.

But Canyon is not seeking a typical mandate for a party president, however, but will be running on a platform of holding an early leadership review of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.

Several sources in the party told the Western Standard Canyon will make the announcement this week.

The UCP will hold its annual general meeting November 19-21 at the Grey Eagle Resort, where members present will elect a new board of directors for the party.

Candidates running on an explicit mandate of triggering a leadership review is rare in Canadian politics.

Canyon placed second in the 2019 federal election under the Conservative banner in his native Nova Scotia, but lives in Alberta.

The country music star regularly sings the national anthem at Calgary Flames games at the Saddledome.

Canyon’s entry into the political fray comes as Kenney’s leadership has been under siege since he imposed a fourth round of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns last week, including a vaccine passport, something he vowed never to do.

A UCP Caucus meeting is set for Wednesday and Kenney’s leadership is expected to be the main point of discussion.

Dozens of grassroots UCP constituency associations have joined forces to call for an early leadership review of Kenney. The party currently has one scheduled in late 2022, only six months before the next provincial election.

UCP VP of policy Joel Mullan wrote an open letter in the Western Standard Tuesday that called for Kenney to go immediately.

“My responsibility is to look at the reality —not wish it away — and take the necessary steps to protect the health care system,” Kenney said.

“Let’s deal with those things at the right time, after this crisis.”

He said any move to hold a leadership race now would be “grossly irresponsible.”

Kenney was asked if the internal turmoil in the UCP was what led to the resignation of Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

“I am focused on getting through the fourth wave of COVID, not politics,” Kenney said.

“We have to protect the health care system to prevent needless deaths — we will not allow politics to distract us.”

Kenney may not go so easily however.

One UCP MLA says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney would rather “blow up” the government than admit he was wrong about COVID-19 and resign.

The MLA, who spoke to the Western Standard on the condition of anonymity, made the comment prior to thee Tuesday afternoon Kenney cabinet shuffle.

“This is a desperate bid by Kenney to save his leadership,” the MLA said of Shandro’s removal.

“Most of us agree Shandro is incompetent and must go, but he was acting under orders directly from Kenney.

“It looks pathetic and is only designed to stave off a vote of no-confidence from the caucus tomorrow,” the MLA said.

“Rather than go gracefully, [Kenney] would rather blow the whole thing up than step down gracefully.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Kenney says leadership review now would be ‘grossly irresponsible’

When asked at a Tuesday press conference by the Toronto Star about the Mullan letter, Kenney responded there has been opposition to his health care policy “since Day 1.”

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney last night rejected any calls for an immediate leadership review of him as “grossly irresponsible.”

Kenney has been under withering attacks for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis in Alberta, which led to the “resignation” Tuesday of Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

A UCP caucus meeting is set for Wednesday and Kenney’s leadership is expected to be the main point of discussion.

Dozens of grassroots UCP constituency associations have joined forces to call for an early leadership review of Kenney. The party currently has one scheduled in late 2022, only six months before the next provincial election.

UCP VP of policy Joel Mullan wrote an open letter in the Western Standard Tuesday called for Kenney to go immediately.

When asked at a Tuesday press conference by the Toronto Star about the Mullan letter, Kenney responded there has been opposition to his health care policy “since Day 1.”

“My responsibility is to look at the reality — not wish it away — and take the necessary steps to protect the health care system,” Kenney said.

“Let’s deal with those things at the right time, after this crisis.”

Kenney was asked if the internal turmoil within the UCP was what led to the resignation of Shandro.

“I am focused on getting through the fourth wave of COVID, not politics,” Kenney said.

“We have to protect the health care system to prevent needless deaths — we will not allow politics to distract us.”

Kenney said he knew when he brought in the fourth wave of COVID-19 lockdowns last week and flip-flopped on his promise not to bring in vaccine passports there would be internal grumblings.

He said the COVID-19 cabinet committee has had 12 hours of “respectful” meeting time with the full UCP caucus.

Kenney pointed out the People’s Party of Canada, which ran on an anti-vaccination platform, took 8% of the vote in Alberta in the federal election.

“Let me be blunt, those people likely voted for me in the last provincial election,” Kenney said.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Kenney said shuffle was ‘time for a fresh start’

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said 29 Albertans died in the last 24 hours from COVID-19, including people who had been doubled-vaxxed, but included many people who hadn’t received any vaccinations at all.

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Tyler Shandro wasn’t fired as health minister, he resigned, says Premier Jason Kenney.

Answering questions after Tuesday’s cabinet shuffle, Kenney said he accepted the resignation from Shandro from the health portfolio.

“Tyler’s dedication to the job has never been questioned. He brought his heart to the job,” Kenney said.

“It’s time for a fresh start.”

Kenney denied the shuffle was done to appease critics in the UCP caucus clamouring for action.

“We are focused on getting through the fourth wave of COVID-19, not politics,” said Kenney.

Kenney promoted Labour Minister Jason Copping to health and put Shandro in his old portfolio in labour.

Kenney said bringing in vaccine passports has had a dramatic effect on the number of people getting vaccinated.

A total of 23,000 people were vaccinated on Monday with 78,000 jabs being given out in the last few days.

A total of 81.4% of people have received at least one vaccine with 72.8% having two jabs.

Since they were made available on Sunday, more than two million Albertans printed out their vaccination passports, Kenney said.

He said Alberta Health Services has expanded the number of ICU beds in the province to 337.

Copping said he was honoured to be named health minister in this “pivotal time.”

He said he has three goals: to increase hospital capacities permanently, educate the unvaccinated on why they should get jabs and to prepare the hospital system for any future waves of COVID.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said 29 Albertans had died in the last 24 hours from COVID-19, including people who had been doubled-vaxxed, but included many people who hadn’t received any vaccinations at all.

She said the province had identified 1,500 new cases in the last day from 13,600 tests for an 11.1% positivity rate.

There are 996 people in hospital as of September 21 with COVID, and 222 in ICU.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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