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Alberta attacks public service

John Bell

April 7, 2020

Jason Kenney’s UCP government is using the Covid-19 emergency to destroy public services in Alberta.

While people are distracted by the health crisis and divided by the need to self-isolate, Kenney has attacked doctors, front line health workers, teachers, and public servants across the board.

Kenney has been in neo-liberal attack mode since election: one of his first acts was to set up a “War Room”, funded at $30 million, to attack environmentalists, Indigenous activists, or anyone else who spoke a nasty word about the tar sands.

He and his ministers did all they could to encourage vigilante right-wingers like the Yellow Vests to attack actions in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en land claims. Then, even as the selling price of Alberta oil plummeted, Kenney introduced a budget based on the laughable assumption that the price of oil would stabilize at $58/barrel.

At the time of writing tar sands oil is selling for $3.82/barrel.

The “crisis” created by Kenney’s irresponsible budget give him the excuse to do what he always wanted to do – slash public services.


Even before the budget, Kenney attacked doctors. In February this “rule of law” premier simply ripped up the existing contract with doctors. Instead of negotiating he brought in legislation designed to reduce the number of family doctors. The number of patients a doctor could see was capped. Crucially, the “complex modifier”, which allowed doctors to spend more time (and bill the government more) for patients with complex issues, was struck down.

“Albertans aren’t that complex,” said Health Minister Tyler Sandro.

In the February 27 budget, as the Covid-19 threat was rising exponentially, Kenney cut health spending by $220 million. That would result in 500 fewer nurses. Granted, late in March as the bodies and criticism started to stack up, the looming nurse layoffs were postponed and $500 million found for health. But almost half of that just replaces previous cuts, leaving just $280 million as new money.


In the midst of this, Health Minister Shandro became the poster-boy for the UCP privatization agenda. He and his wife own a private health services and insurance company called Vital Partners. VP covers services that Minister Shandro just delisted – what a coincidence.

Angry doctors pointed to the gross conflict of interest. One posted a mildly critical meme. Mr. and Mrs. Shandro responded by going to the man’s home and throwing a fit in his driveway.

Shandro has yet to apologize, citing on-line threats directed toward his wife that have oddly never been made public. And Jason Kenney has resisted calls for his resignation.

Job slaughter

In recent weeks, as Albertans have faced uncertainty about health, wages and rent, Kenney and crew have laid off 26000 teachers, education support workers and health workers. They’ve used the pandemic as an excuse to slash jobs.

Meanwhile the province has invested an additional $1.5 billion in the Keystone XL pipeline, with an additional $6 billion loan guarantee for next year. Kenney claims it is about creating 5000 jobs – about a quarter of the jobs he has killed in the education sector.

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