EDMONTON – Instead of joining forces with Ottawa to battle Alberta’s second pandemic and save the forestry sector, Premier Jason Kenney is letting his schoolyard squabble with the federal Liberals overshadow the mountain-pine beetle problem, says the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).
The statement is in response to the Government of Alberta’s quiet decision to post six openings for Forest Health Technicians to replace the union members who received pink slips for the same jobs back in November 2020. At the time, AUPE raised concerns about the UCP’s hasty decision to eliminate Alberta’s key defense against the aggressive mountain pine beetle and slammed the Premier for the abrupt way that he let staff go.
"You can imagine the shock these folks felt when they logged into their computers last month and saw their own jobs posted to the government’s website,” says AUPE Vice-President Mike Dempsey. “It was as if they never existed – all those years of dedication to Alberta’s forests, erased with the click of a mouse.”
But Dempsey, himself a former Forest Officer, says that this confusing flip-flop isn’t just a slap in the face to the AUPE members whose lives were upended in the middle of a pandemic; it’s a sneaky political play by the premier. The six openings, which have now been filled, are identical to the previous Forest Health Tech jobs in all but one way: The new positions are federally funded.
“Not long after the Minister of Environment and Parks scolded the feds for causing the mountain pine beetle disaster in Jasper, Ottawa sent money to the UCP to help with pest control,” says Dempsey. “As far as we knew, the money was intended for new hires – for more Forest Health techs -- because we need more human power to defend against the bug. Instead, the premier seems to be using the cash to fire people on his payroll and rehire on the feds’ dime.”
“Clearly the UCP was never concerned about Jasper or pine beetle creep,” concludes Dempsey. “They weren’t even worried about Trudeau paying his fair share – Kenney just didn’t want to pay his, and he was willing to throw several Albertans’ careers into the woodchipper to shirk his responsibilities. This summer we’re all going to pay for the UCP’s political ego trip.”
AUPE represents over 90,000 members who are fighting across sectors for increased funding to all government programs, so no department, including the Forest Health Program, is left underfunded and short-staffed.
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