Yesterday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced that his government will release the blue-ribbon panel’s findings on Alberta’s fiscal situation early September.
Kenney divulged that he expects the panel, chaired by Former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice MacKinnon, to show that Alberta’s financial position continues to worsen.
In the announcement, Premier Kenney addressed the reality that wage or job cuts may have to be made based on the results of the panel, but it’s still an uncertainty.
“…it’s always been my preference that we not have to reduce the size of our broader public sector or compensation through layoffs. I’ve always said there may have to be some attrition, but we haven’t made final decision on anything.” said Kenney.
The NDP, as well as union leaders, have been accusing the premier preemptively that the report is going to be used to cut jobs and wages of public sector workers. This argument recently surfaced during the discussion of cutting wages for the premier and MLAs where NDP MLA for Edmonton South, Thomas Dang, accused the UCP government of acting in cynical fashion to cover future potential cuts to other public sector wages.
Premier Kenney did seemingly set himself up yesterday to make future cuts, stating that the “financial mess” left by the NDP has forced his government to reconsider public sector job cuts, something he said that would be unnecessary during his 2019 campaign.
A Fraser Institute study found that the public sector jobs from July 2014 to May 2018 increased by 78,733 (21.5%) and that “the government sector’s share of total employment (excluding self-employed) increased from 19.5 percent to 23.2 percent” over the same period.
This will mean if job or wage cuts are made the UCP government could find itself coming up against a large proportion of Alberta workers, whether cuts are needed or not.
The last NDP government had already signed a deal with public sector unions promising to consider any job layoffs until March of 2020, which puts the new UCP government into a legal bind, so only wages will be made an issue until then.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) has already taken the government to court over Bill 9 which delayed arbitration over new union contracts until the blue-ribbon panel’s financial information is acquired. The judge in that case put an injunction against the bill which has forced contract negotiations forward.
What is going to happen is not exactly clear now but Albertans can likely expect more heated exchanges between the UCP government, the NDP, and public employee unions.