Your weekly update on Alberta politics for May 20, 2020
on the web at www.theprogressreport.ca/newsletter_216
Government announces long-term-care bailout–but will workers get any of it?
The UCP government has announced $14.2 million in additional monthly funding for long-term and senior care until the end of the pandemic. But will that money go to paying for workers, or just lining private operators’ pockets?
Long-term and senior care facilities have been absolute nightmare zones since coronavirus arrived, with around four in five of all of Canada’s COVID-19 deaths happening or being linked to one. Private-sector facilities are doing worst of all. An analysis of the facilities in Ontario found that residents of private homes were more than four times likely to die than residents of public homes.
Alberta’s privatized facilities are in a “race to the bottom,” warns Sandra Azocar from Friends of Medicare. Unions representing the workers have long complained that owners are taking the per-staff payment from AHS, then turning around paying staff only a part of it–AHS giving a private operator $20 an hour to hire a nursing assistant, but then the operator pockets $4 of it. The government previously announced a $2/hour wage top up for many of the facility workers, and the owners received public money to pay for it, but labour advocates are warning that even that money didn’t make it on to workers’ paychecks.
The long term care situation in Alberta is to put it lightly an absolute mess. Our friends over at the Alberta Advantage podcast have more on the subject in this week’s AA episode and I heartily recommend you listen in–if you’re not familiar with the mess it’ll be absolutely shocking. Then please share the episode with someone you know! The word needs to get out.
Premier Kenney unfazed by likely cancellation of KXL
Jason Kenney got a shock of his own this week as presumptive Democratic candidate for president Joe Biden committed on Monday to immediately cancelling the Keystone pipeline expansion project if elected. This shouldn’t be a big surprise; Biden was after all VP to the president who cancelled KXL the first time around.
At a scrum yesterday Kenney downplayed the significance of the promise, assuring reporters that he can’t imagine Biden actually going through with it. That’s a pretty cavalier position considering that Joe Biden has essentially already cancelled it once. According to energy economist Andrew Leach’s reading of the Americans’ presidential permit for KXL, a president can simply pull the plug at any point–and the builders will be on the hook to pay for all cleanup and dismantling costs.
The Kenney administration made a massive $1.5 billion buy-in to the KXL project back in March, with promises of nearly six billion dollars more in loan guarantees. That’s some AIMCO-level investing acumen right there. If the Americans pick Joe in November, Kenney’s gamble could cost us all nearly seven billion dollars. Nice!
- The NDP are calling for the now-lifted ban on evictions to be reinstated until the end of the coronavirus pandemic–and in large part due to UCP MLA Drew Barnes. Barnes, who is significantly richer than most folks realize, turns out to also be a pretty callous landlord and is presently trying to throw one of his tenants out on the street. Of course there are more reasons to reinstate the ban than just Drew’s antics but there’s a nice irony to him potentially being the cause of it, really.
- Former PC justice minister and conservative ‘fixer’ Jonathan Denis is looking for plaintiffs interested in class action suits against the Cargill meat plant and Mackenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre. There are certainly grievances there, and good luck to the plaintiffs, but I have to say that the involvement of Denis, whose political allies are deeply tied up in responsibility for both messes, strikes me as just a little perverse.
- The UCP have been trying to bury the results of their mindless “Fair Deal” panel–aka the ‘Albexit panel’ from last year–for weeks. But they finally saw the light of day, just in time for us all to have completely lost all patience and interest in separation. David Climenhaga has the analysis here on his blog.
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