Posted on Nov 27, 2020
UCP SITS ON HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS FOR ESSENTIAL WORKERS
EDMONTON – Almost seven months after the federal government announced billions of dollars intended to top up wages for essential workers during the pandemic, the UCP have only accessed a fraction of what they could have for Albertans.
On May 7, the federal government announced that a deal had been struck with provinces and territories to compensate essential workers for the risks they took by reporting to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. The $3 billion federal commitment was contingent on provinces and territories contributing $1 billion collectively. Other provinces started distributing the money to their front line workers as early as June 19, while the UCP remained silent on the topic.
“We have learned that of the $347 million federal dollars available for Alberta, only a fraction of that has gone out the door.” said Alberta NDP Official Opposition Critic for Labour & Immigration, Christina Gray. “$300 million has been left on the table in Ottawa, unspent, as Jason Kenney and the UCP demonize our frontline heroes instead of supporting them with this money during the greatest health crisis this province has ever faced.”
Documents were recently released by Finance Canada, after questions in Parliament from the federal NDP. These documents detail the funds allocated to each province, show how much has been transferred and include a description of the funds purpose. Provinces were given flexibility in the program design and now the public documents show most provinces have already distributed all the money made available.
“Jason Kenney and the UCP would rather pick a fight with our health care workers, describing them in government documents as little more than a drain on our economy, than step up with support and give them the pay they deserve during this time.” said Gray. “That money should be used to compensate workers for the risks they took in the spring and summer to keep our economy going. Instead, it’s just sitting in Ottawa. It could be helping our local businesses, but the UCP can’t see past the blinders of their trickle down ideology.”
“What we see here is that Alberta is consistently not moving fast enough to support its workers.” said Heather McPherson, federal MP for Edmonton Strathcona. “The longer this money is left unclaimed and unmatched in the federal program, the harder it's going to be to advocate for support in the future.”
“The federal NDP have been pushing the Liberal government to give Alberta these supports. What a slap in the face it is that our Premier is laying off workers, not topping up pay but rather cutting pay, that there is federal money ready to be handed to the province, and it's being left on the table.” said McPherson.
On November 25, during supplemental supply, the Minister of Finance confirmed that Alberta has accessed only $47 million of the total potential $347 million available to the province. To access the remaining money the UCP government would need to commit to matching the federal government on a 3:1 basis meaning for every $1 spent Alberta would receive an additional $3.