Posted on Feb 10, 2021
JASON KENNEY’S DELAYED ACTION ON FEDERAL WAGE TOP UP PROGRAM HAS HURT WORKERS DURING THE WORST OF THE PANDEMIC
EDMONTON - The UCP government's eight month delay in accessing hundreds of millions of federal wage top-up funding has harmed Alberta’s economic recovery, and is now being used to counter expected wage cuts in Jason Kenney’s upcoming Budget 2021.
According to an economic impact assessment released yesterday by the Official Opposition, Alberta’s GDP would have been $361.2 million dollars larger if Jason Kenney had taken advantage of the federal funding when it became available, and more than one thousand additional Albertans would currently be employed. By delaying the announcement until today, the economic benefits of the program will not fully impact the economy until the end of 2022.
“Jason Kenney’s delay in accessing this federal funding comes too late. It was another instance, like the deal with KXL and rescinding Lougheed’s Coal Policy, where Jason Kenney showed terrible instincts and made the wrong choices.” said Christina Gray, NDP Critic for Labour. “In this case, the delay in getting these federal dollars, has hurt Albertans while they grappled with the second wave of the pandemic.”
The program was announced by the federal government in early 2020, and was designed to compensate essential workers for the risks they took by reporting to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jason Kenney and the UCP remained silent on whether they would join the cost-shared program, leaving over $300 million on the table while front line workers dealt with the second wave of the pandemic in Alberta. Other provinces started distributing the money to their front line workers as early as June 2020. In British Columbia, more than 200,000 workers have already received top-up pay.
Today’s announcement by the UCP comes two weeks in advance of Budget 2021, in which Jason Kenney has explicitly stated that he will be seeking public sector wage rollbacks.
“I am deeply concerned that today’s announcement is just a smokescreen by this Premier. “ said Gray. “Jason Kenney has already committed to laying off 11,000 front line health care workers after the pandemic ends. It’s $1,200 for Albertans today, and a pink slip tomorrow.”