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Progress Report #202
Your weekly update on Alberta politics for February 4, 2020
A review released by Alberta Health Services could open the door to big cuts and privatization in our health system.
- reducing compensation for nurses and doctors
- handing lab testing off to the private sector
- renegotiating workers’ contracts, and
- closing rural hospitals.
At a total of nearly $2 billion, these cuts would amount to about 10% of the entire AHS budget–though it’s not accurate to say there are $2 billion of potential savings, as the recommendations vary in feasibility, are generally not free to implement, and may not all be followed by UCP Health Minister Tyler Shandro.
The United Nurses of Alberta have expressed serious concern and opposition to the report, urging Shandro not to use it as a cudgel in upcoming negotiations. But it’s unlikely that the UCP will hold back, given that privatizing the system and getting belligerent with union workers are two items already at the front of their agenda.
- A quick correction: in last week’s Progress Report we mentioned Kevin Libin as a founder of the Extendicare private-sector senior care company. Actually, that’s Alvin Libin; Kevin Libin is the very right-wing political tsar at the Postmedia papers.
- The anti-safe-consumption-site rhetoric pushed by the UCP and some of their proxies last week set the stage for an announcement of $4.3 million in new annual funding for addictions recovery. The funding–just under one-seventh of an anti-environmentalist war room, if you’re counting–will go to centres focusing on abstinence-only treatment. The Premier continues to attack the existing and proven safe consumption sites, which he calls ‘illegal NDP drug sites.’
- Changes to regulations mean oil and gas companies could be soon allowed to dump tailings pond water in the Athabasca River. Over 1.3 billion cubic metres of tailings, the toxic sludge left over from bitumen mining, presently sit in ponds across Alberta. David Schindler and Maude Barlow, writing for the Globe last year, summarize the situation well: toxic tailings do not belong in the Athabasca River.
- Over at the Medicine Hat News Scott Schmidt covers an absurd story from last week: when questioned about possibly unethical questions between Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer and Steve Allan, the commissioner of the anti-environmentalist inquiry that Schweitzer hand-picked, the Minister’s office had to do a quick huddle and figure out how to obfuscate the matter. The only problem–they hit ‘reply all’ and left the reporter in the email chain while they plotted.
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