I was one of the thousands of Albertans marching to and rallying outside of the legislature on Thursday, Feb. 27, in the March for What Matters. I want you to know what I was marching for.
I was marching to show my support for properly funded public services. I was marching for my children. I was marching for our world-class education and health-care systems. I was marching alongside teachers and educational support staff, doctors, nurses, public sector workers, students, arts council members, people with disabilities, Indigenous people, people from the LGBTQ2s+ community and surely others not part of any of these groups. I was marching for all Albertans. We matter.
I was marching to show you that I do not support the decisions that your government has been making. I was marching against the cuts to education, health care, AISH, the arts, firefighting; privatization of seniors care; changes to PUF funding in early education and to GSAs in schools; pension theft from teachers and other public servants; fee changes for family doctors; privatization of public services and provincial parks; downloading of expenses to municipalities and school boards; elimination of child-care subsidies, the Alberta Child Benefit and drug coverage for certain people; increases to income and property taxes, insurance and energy costs — the list could go on and on. There have been an astonishing number of cuts and dubious changes wrought by your government over the past year!
Many of these unilateral decisions serve to reduce or take away entirely supports to the most vulnerable people while at the same time increase their cost of living. Our social services matter. Our seniors, children, people with disabilities, people identifying as gender minorities, patients, students and low-income families matter.
Let’s talk about jobs. Although you campaigned on a platform of getting Alberta back to work, Albertans have continued to experience job losses in the private sector, and now your government is beginning to pile public sector job losses on top of that. Where are Albertans with no jobs supposed to turn? They will be relying on those same social support systems to which your government is dealing massive cuts. Our jobs matter.
At the same time as you claim that your cuts are happening to balance the budget, you have spent millions on your war room, and given away billions to private corporations! By your own projections in the 2020 budget, the Parkland Institute reports that you are planning to increase Alberta’s total debt by $27.4 billion over the four years you will be in power. I’m no economist, but I have heard it said again and again that Alberta does not have a spending problem but that, in fact, we have a revenue problem. Depending too much on revenue from the volatile oil and gas sector creates unstable funding. How about a focus on more stable revenue that you can control?
In your own 2020 budget document, there is a chart, blithely named “Alberta’s Tax Advantage,” which shows that the government would have an increased revenue of at least $14.4 billion if it “had the same tax system as any other province.” I’m not sure what you see as advantageous about running a deficit, giving handouts to corporations, and then placing the burden of your austerity measures on the backs of the most vulnerable Albertans. What we should be taking advantage of is the example set by all of the other provinces. With an extra $14.4 billion in revenue, Alberta would have a surplus of more than $7 billion, instead of a deficit. The answer here seems obvious. We should be taxing corporations a reasonable amount and using a progressive personal income tax to put more of the burden on the people most able to bear it! Fiscal responsibility matters.
Jason Kenney, your plan appears to be to increase Alberta’s debt, take away jobs, gut the public services that Albertans depend upon, and then make us pay more for those services. I say, get a new plan. Jason Kenney, you promised us a “fair deal.” How about using reasonable and transparent methods to lower debt, get Albertans back to work and at least maintain accessible public services. After all, you promised us all of these things. Promises matter.
I want you to know that I, for one, will continue marching and fighting for the good of all Albertans. We matter. Our jobs matter. Our world-class health care, education system and public services matter. Our seniors, children, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, people identifying as gender minorities, patients, students and low-income families matter. I urge you to make good on your promises, Mr. Kenney. Join Albertans in fighting for what matters. ❚
Joelle Zimmerman is a part-time substitute teacher from Edmonton and a part-time stay-at-home mom.