Thank-you so much for contacting me regarding Bills 45 and 46.
I know how frustrating this must be for you and so many other Albertans who work hard every day to make our province better, only to have the Redford PCs drop legislation out of the blue that is designed to undercut your legal rights and negatively affect your standard of living without even a few days to react, to organize or even to provide feedback to your elected representatives.
As an MLA tasked with holding the Government accountable on these bills, I feel that same frustration. You and all Albertans deserve so much better, especially given what you do for our province and its people.
The Wildrose believes strongly in respecting the rule of law and upholding contracts including collective bargaining agreements. This is why Bill 46, in particular, is so disturbing to both me and my Wildrose colleagues.
Instead of negotiating a fair contract with our province’s front line public sector employees, Premier Redford, Minister Horner and their PC Government MLAs, have decided to instead terminate your legal rights of arbitration so they can force their preferred deal upon you without good faith negotiation. If your representatives do not comply with their demands, the Government will implement an imposed wage freeze for the first time in our province’s history.
Their actions are not only disrespectful and untrustworthy, they undermine the rule of law and the time honored practice of good-faith bargaining.
The Wildrose actively opposed Bill 46 in the Legislature (this is the bill that terminates your rights of arbitration and imposes a forced contract), and will repeal Bill 46 and reinstate those lost arbitration rights if Wildrose forms government in 2016. We also proposed amendments to Bill 45 (the bill dealing with illegal strikes) to protect your Charter rights of freedom of association, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech. Despite the PCs rejection of these amendments, we plan to implement them upon forming government in 2016.
Although we support stronger deterrents for illegal strikes that disrupt essential front lines services (as most union members do as well), in our view, penalties should not extend into the realm of an individual’s right to free speech and thought on the matter. This would set a dangerous precedent for all Albertans and reflects a PC Government that continues to use the law and its policies to crush all opposition to it, both in word and action, regardless of the rights of others. It would seem 42 years of one-party rule has only worsened this disturbing trend. It is also noteworthy that there are already laws prohibiting illegal strikes including an expedited court process to end them. That is why the timing of Bill 45 is very disappointing as it unnecessarily creates suspicion and bad faith in the negotiation process.
Unfortunately, the PC’s arrogance and contempt for the democratic process extends to the Legislature as well. Before the two bills in question were even introduced, the PCs imposed several motions to limit debate on the bills to just a few hours so they could ram through the legislation without the opposition having any meaningful say on the matter. Generally, a government will give opposition parties several weeks to debate bills, consult with stakeholders and introduce amendments before cutting off debate; however, this is Alberta, and the normal rules of democracy do not seem to apply.
As we have stated many times, the Wildrose is committed to fiscal prudence and balanced budgets. However, we will not balance the budget on the backs of front line public sector workers and services. We believe that there is more than enough fat to cut in the billions spent in the executive and managerial offices of the Government of Alberta and Alberta Health Services, in taxpayer handouts to corporations, and in unnecessary pet projects such as the $350 million new MLA offices being built as this letter is being written. All this on top of an 8% increase to MLA salaries right after the last election despite Premier Redford promising to do just the opposite (Wildrose MLAs are donating that increase to charity in protest). Her hypocrisy seemingly knows no bounds.
Please feel free to pass this on to any friends, family or co-workers you feel should see it, and please keep up hope – I fully expect the PCs are on their last legs and in 2016, the Wildrose looks forward to forming government and working with all of our public sector workers to re-institute their rights of arbitration and to get back to the bargaining table in good faith to arrive at a fair agreement for our workers as well as taxpayers.
I am sure Premier Redford and the PCs will make several similar promises and much more prior to the next election just as they did before the 2012 election. The difference now of course is that Albertans, such as yourself, know exactly how much her promises are worth.
Please feel free to contact me at any time in the future on this or any other issue.
MLA – Highwood
Leader of the Official Opposition