Progress Alberta Report #240 November 7, 2020

on the web at theprogressreport.ca/progress_report_240

It’s been a wild week for political news. Now that the big distraction to our south is (mostly) out of the way, let me catch you up on what’s been happening locally.

The Auditor General released the latest audit of Alberta’s books and wow, is it brutal. The AG found over $1.6 billion of accounting screw-ups under the UCP, a nearly unprecedented level of book-fudging.

A few of the bigger highlights: Kenney tried to sneak a month of AISH payments onto next year’s balance sheet, but the AG saw right through it; in the process the UCP caused incredible misery for AISH recipients, who ended up getting saddled with late fees that they can’t afford. 

The theatrical tug-of-war between the UCP and the NDP on oil-by-rail contracts ended up costing us over $600 million after the UCP tore up contracts that the former government had signed. The Sturgeon Refinery cost almost $800 million more this year than we were told, as the UCP predicted a price of oil that was way, way too high. Grants from the TIER fund, meant to go to projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, are apparently being given to oil companies for things that don’t reduce emissions at all. Keystone XL is going to cost us $100 million more than the UCP told us. 

And the ‘war room’ continues to be an expensive joke–the AG found that they’re handing out sole-source contracts without properly documenting them or checking for conflicts of interest.

Just a gigantic heap of bungles from the folks who are supposedly ‘fiscally responsible.’ And the Auditor General isn’t the only one with a damning report out this week. Looking into government records, my colleague Duncan finds that law firms with conservative connections are doing big business under the UCP. 

Kenney’s quixotic legal battles against environmentalists, labour unions, and doctors are sure to lose, but it’s win-win for the conservatives who get to pump our money into the wallets of their lawyer friends.

Province on edge as strikes loom

Last Monday a huge group of Alberta’s health care support workers went to the picket lines on a wildcat strike. That evening, after the government threatened a vicious crackdown in the form of arrests and fines, the workers’ union voted to step back and regroup–halting the strikes for now.

Thousands of Albertans stepped up to say they stood with these workers and would walk the line with them. Thursday morning there were rallies across the province in support. But Friday Kenney chose to crank up the pressure even higher by announcing that not only is the UCP repealing worker safety laws and putting a cap on worker’s comp benefits, but they also plan to cut public worker salaries across the board by 3% and then freeze them there for years.

Last week’s strike looks like only a preview of what’s to come. Kenney’s latest offensive might completely demolish labour peace in the province.

Sundries

Calgary City Councillor Jeromy Farkas’ turn on the Calgary Police Commission is up, and it appears as though city council would like to let another councillor take a crack at the job. But that’s not the story you’ll hear from Farkas, who took to social media with a bizarre story he’d concocted about being ousted for his pro-policing views.

Public sector workers aren’t the only ones putting up picket lines in Alberta. Folks are still locked out at CESSCO in Edmonton.

Coronavirus levels in the province continue to spike, and are rapidly growing past the level that prompted lockdowns earlier this year. An overwhelmed AHS is abandoning a lot of the work of contact tracing and notification, and is begging the public to do it themselves. Jason Kenney continues to refuse to let Albertans have the federal COVID tracing app. Political analyst Dave Cournoyer has to ask: the fight against COVID-19 was supposed to be Jason Kenney’s ‘Battle of Britain.’ What happened?

That’s all for this week. Please share our newsletter with any friends or family who you think would like political news and commentary from a progressive point of view. If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, you can sign up for it here. If you would like to support our ongoing work, please consider donating to help us keep going.

Jim Storrie
http://www.progressalberta.ca/