What AUPE members should look for in the upcoming provincial budget
Budgets are about choices.
Danielle Smith will table her first provincial budget on Feb. 28. The wellbeing of AUPE members and all Albertans depends on the choices Smith has made with this budget.
But it will also be the last budget you see from her UCP government before the next provincial election this spring, which means you’ll have a choice to make soon, too.
Albertans deserve a government that values frontline workers, makes evidence-based decisions, eases the pressure on our household budgets and puts workers ahead of rich CEOs and special interest groups.
What choices should Danielle Smith make in Budget 2023?
AUPE members know that our labour is our greatest resource. Alberta had its largest population growth ever in 2022. Strong public services, stable jobs, safe workplaces, and good wages to support growing families are key to the province’s prosperity and must be reflected in the UCP’s budget.
Our health-care system is in crisis, members working in government services are understaffed and overworked, universities and colleges are being cut while student tuition is going up, and families are struggling to make ends meet.
AUPE members in these sectors keep Alberta running, take care of our loved ones, and help shape the minds of future generations. That’s why Premier Smith must invest in strengthening our province.
But Albertans cannot take anything for granted. Our public services need help that Premier Smith does not seem keen on lending.
Since the UCP was elected in 2019, the government has pushed an agenda of privatization, corporate tax cuts and private sector giveaways. Each budget so far has brought huge cuts, including cuts to AUPE members’ jobs.
Will Danielle Smith continue this failed path or prioritize Albertans by strengthening our public services?
Investing in health care workers
Health-care workers continue to face unprecedented pressure, a struggle made worse by three years of combat with the pandemic.
Premier Smith’s approach to fixing health care will fail if it does not focus on improving publicly delivered services and supporting the workers who deliver that care.
Following the release of new national standards in public and private long-term care, as well as proposed increases to Canada Health Transfer payments, AUPE will also look for the UCP to apply the recommendations of the report. Applying the report’s recommendations, which include topping up wages and improving staff-to-patient ratios, would greatly support residents and the workers who care for them.
Children in care need urgent support
Understaffing and poor working conditions in Children’s Services continue to put vulnerable children at risk. The system is in crisis, and the government has done little to change it or improve it. Last fiscal year, 2021-22, was the deadliest for children in care or receiving government support in Alberta, with 49 deaths from April 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022.
Children in care need protection, and for that they need significant changes to the system and proper funding from this budget.
Strengthen post-secondary education
Post-secondary education has been one of the hardest-hit sectors in the UCP’s budgets over the past three years. The UCP’s plan is to defund post-secondary and turn our institutions into “job skills factories.”
For AUPE members, this means stagnant wages, erratic schedules, and fewer jobs. It has also meant layoffs at post-secondary institutions across the province. Worsening working conditions makes for worse learning conditions, meaning everyone has suffered because of budget cuts.
The government should invest in education to support workers and students, instead of treating both as disposable.
Stay tuned for more
These are just a few issues AUPE will keep a close eye on when Premier Smith tables her first budget on Feb. 28. We will publish a full member update with more budget details when they are available, so stay tuned.
Let’s hope Danielle Smith chooses public over private interests in her first budget address.