Once again, the United Conservative Party have laid bare their priorities at their annual general meeting. And this time, for a change, people seem to be believing them.
Think back to the founding AGM for the UCP, only two years ago in 2018--with the exception of Alberta’s labor movement, and a few other lone voices on the left, I remember a great deal of skepticism that the UCP would actually try to enact the policies that hit the floor at the general meeting.
And I can understand the doubt, especially comparing them to Alberta’s NDP, who in their most-recent incarnation have steadily ignored most of the bolder requests from the activists who make up the ranks of the party. You almost can’t blame moderate commentators in the media for expecting the UCP 2018 AGM resolutions to be aspirational or nothing but stretch goals.
Yet here we are in the vice grip of pandemic and depression and Premier Kenney’s party is following through on these hard-conservative commitments, even at the expense of more pressing matters. From Education Minister Adriana LaGrange tearing up school curriculums over fabricated ideological nonsense (while largely ignoring the danger of COVID in schools) to Health Minister Tyler Shandro continuing to wage war against Alberta doctors (despite the glaring crises of coronavirus and opioid overdoses) it’s clear that the UCP are serious about enacting what gets into their party policy book.
So we all should give some attention to what made it into the books at this year’s UCP AGM. Here are a few highlights:
Privatizing more and more of our health system: health care in Alberta already leaves far too much to the private sector--and you only have to look to our COVID-ridden private long term care facilities to see the results. But resolution #11 commits the party to supporting a “privately funded and privately managed health-care system.”
Turning Alberta into a “right-to work” province: the pleasant-sounding tagline makes it sound like it’ll give everyone a right to a job, but it’s actually about disrupting workers’ ability to form and maintain unions. This policy, imported from the American Republican playbook, was resolution #3 at the UCP AGM.
Taking control of your pension: despite the sheer volume of screw-up stories coming from Alberta government’s investment people AIMCO this year, the UCP voted in policy #6 to support taking Albertans’ CPP pension funds and giving them to AIMCO to manage in a new ‘Alberta Pension Plan.’
Tearing up environmental regulations: in policy #13 the UCP take a swing at a host of environmental protections including the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, the Water Act, the Public Lands Act and the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, which they say “thwart economic growth.”
Cutting the ATA in half: the UCP commit in policy #23 to essentially destroy the Alberta Teachers’ Association. Teachers would be left to build a new union from scratch, a power vacuum that I’m sure the Education Minister would enjoy.
And just cutting all directions, really: policy #6 commits the UCP to “dramatically reduce the size of government”--that is, to cancel your programs and services and fire the people who used to provide them.
Two years ago quite a few Albertans made the error of assuming the UCP weren’t serious about their agenda. That’s a mistake that no-one should repeat.
UCP cuts have forced the closure of the Family Maternity Medicine Clinic in Medicine Hat. Medicine Hat News reports that the clinic, as well as a similar clinic at the Brooks hospital, have been deemed “not mandated services” by AHS and will cease operations in March 2021 for lack of funding.
Calgary Police Services have prohibited the distribution of a grim ‘challenge coin’ that depicts a bullet hole through a skull, surrounded by three guns and the phrase “saving lives.” In a rare moment of standing up to the force the Calgary Police Commission admitted the coin, which was sold as fundraising merchandise, was “obviously offensive.” For perspective on this from Calgary activists working against police violence, have a listen to the latest Progress Report podcast.
There’s always money in the propaganda stand: at the UCP AGM last week, Premier Kenney announced that the Canadian Energy Centre--also known as the ‘war room,’ a publicly-funded PR office for fossil fuel corporations with a track record of absolute buffoonery--will be getting a big cash injection in the form of a $900,000 grant. Priorities.
Jeremy Appel, former Medicine Hat News columnist and now host of the fine Big Shiny Takes podcast, has a powerful piece in Jacobin this week about Jason Kenney’s assault on Alberta’s working class.
Eleven patients relying on injectable opioid agonist therapy (IOAT) to help them survive chronic opioid use disorders launched a lawsuit against the Alberta government earlier this month, arguing that the ideological scrapping of IOAT services by the UCP government discriminates against them on the basis of physical and mental disability and infringes their Charter rights. Now the federal health minister is urging the Alberta government to rethink their stance on IOAT before it’s too late.
- Rural municipalities already struggling to stay afloat just got the rug yanked out from underneath them, as the Kenney administration has granted a gigantic three-year tax break for oil and gas companies. How magnanimous of Premier Kenney to offer fossil fuel companies a handout paid for out of municipalities' budgets.
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