“Never let a good crisis go to waste” is a quote sometimes attributed to former British prime minister Winston Churchill though widely believed to be an example of Churchillian Drift.
The quote could certainly be inspiring Alberta Jason Kenney as his United Conservative Party government continues to implement a five-month old fiscal agenda that is in no way reflective of a rapidly changing world of COVID-19 and $5 a barrel oil.
In a heartless move, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced in a surprise 1:00 p.m. press release on Saturday that funding would be cut for school boards across the province, resulting in 25,000 education workers and education assistants losing their jobs.
This announcement came only 13 days after LaGrange publicly reaffirmed that school boards would receive their full allotment of funding for the 2019/2020 school year.
This may turn out to be one of the largest mass layoffs in Alberta’s history.
According to University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe, these layoffs could amount to 1 percent of Alberta’s workforce.
LaGrange’s press release stated that the now jobless Albertans could look to a new employment insurance program offered by the federal government to support them, which is certainly one way for a provincial government to shift costs to Ottawa. Alberta also appears to be the only province making mass layoffs in the middle of this crisis.
The press release stated that the cost savings will be directed towards the fight against COVID-19, which is a spurious claim at best. The UCP government even listed the layoffs as one of the key ways they are providing economic support during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is ridiculous.
These are not the only public sector workers being laid off. It was announced this month that more than 1,000 staff at the University of Alberta would lose their jobs because of UCP budget cuts. And it would appear that the government is pushing forward with its plans to begin restructuring the public service on April 1.
At least the UCP delayed plans to layoff hundreds of nurses until after the pandemic.
Under normal circumstances, in a pre-COVID-19 world, these kind of mass layoffs would result in large and loud protests outside the Legislature Building and MLA offices. But gatherings of more than 15 people are now banned in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Again, never let a good crisis go to waste.