Posted on Apr 26, 2021


EDMONTON - Alberta’s NDP is calling on the provincial government to make sure workers aren’t forced to choose between isolating with symptoms and providing for their families.


“Our proposal means everyone who should stay home, can stay home,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “And they can stay home with any loss or interruption of their income.”


The Opposition proposal is to provide every worker with up to 10 days of paid sick leave for themselves or a dependent. An isolating worker would continue to be paid through their employer, who would be reimbursed by the provincial government. The plan would replace, and be partially funded by, the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. The federal program only offers $500 a week for four weeks, and the application and processing times means a lengthy delay is getting the money to the worker.


“There are parts of Alberta where you can’t even get a test for five days,” Notley said. “Many families simply can’t wait weeks without an income.”


The full cost of the program would depend on COVID infection rates, but it could be partially funded by taking Alberta’s share of the federal program, worth $35 million. Two weeks of average Alberta wages is just over $2,500, which is a small fraction of the $50,000 cost of a person hospitalized and admitted to the ICU.


“We must weigh the cost of a program like this against the cost of thousands more Albertans falling sick, hundreds more in the hospital and the ICU, and the broader economic damage of a lengthy third wave,” Notley said. “That’s the price of doing nothing.”


“There are more than 20,000 active cases of COVID in our province today and almost 600 Albertans in hospital,” said NDP Labour Critic Christina Gray. “These numbers have been steadily growing for weeks and it’s clear that more must be done to limit the spread of infection. One critical piece of that, an obvious piece, is that we can’t have people going into work when they’re sick.


“I was very pleased the government agreed to work with us to provide three paid hours of leave for all workers to go and get themselves vaccinated. So I urge the government to work with us again, in that same spirit, and provide paid sick leave for all working Albertans.”