Alberta NDP calls on UCP government to apologize for MLA’s Cheezies comments about CERB recipients

Opposition Leader Rachel Notley says the Alberta government should make a public apology after a United Conservative Party MLA made comments last week that imply some people in the province are refusing work because of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

UCP MLA Shane Getson, who represents Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland, made the comments while speaking at a two-hour online town hall he held on Facebook on Sept. 24, where he said he had spoken to Alberta business owners who were struggling to find workers and believed CERB was the cause.

“They can’t hire people,” Getson said. “And I’m going, ‘Well why not?’

“Because (workers) make more on CERB. Eating Cheezies and watching cartoons, I guess.”

Notley tweeted a portion of town hall video with Getson’s comments on Tuesday.

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“Premier Jason Kenney should offer a public apology,” she said in her tweet.

Getson also said during the town hall that he has spoken to a friend in Vernon, B.C., who said there were drug addiction issues in that community and believed it was connected to CERB.

“People that were getting $700 a month are now getting $2,000 a month,” he said. “We’re concerned about the same thing here because now all of a sudden, you’ve got that population that has all this extra cash and now their addiction levels are going through the roof.

“And then what? The funny money runs out.”

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In a statement to Global News on Tuesday night, Getson said he believes the NDP took his comments “out of context for political gain.”

“The context was that a local business owner had raised concerns about not being able to hire workers despite being able to operate,” the statement read.

“Clearly, the vast majority of recipients of government support truly need it. At the same time, some legitimate concerns have been raised about these programs that cannot be ignored.”

READ MORE: Edmonton businesses step up call to redesign CERB program 

Getson cited the Canadian Federation of Independent Business saying CERB was the No. 1 reason cited by small businesses for their inability to recall workers as being partly why he made his comments.

The MLA also pointed to comments made by an official with Ottawa Inner City Health that there was concern that the quick-and-easy cash provided through CERB may be having deadly consequences for drug users.

READ MORE: Harvest House says CERB payments fueling illicit drug market in Moncton 

“These are important issues that deserve our attention as they are happening everywhere,” his statement read. “I recently spoke about these issues at a town hall in my community. Unsurprisingly, the NDP is now attacking me instead of focusing on how we keep our people safe.

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“It is important that we look at the evidence objectively. This will help protect our families and businesses in these difficult times.”

Watch below: Some Global News videos about CERB.

READ MORE: Albertans shifting support, UCP and NDP now tied amid COVID-19 pandemic: Angus Reid poll 

NDP MLA Irfan Sabir, who represents Calgary-McCall, said Tuesday he believes the comments were in bad taste and don’t reflect the reality of many Albertans.

“Tens of thousands of people are losing jobs because of the pandemic, because they have to isolate, and because somebody in their family has to isolate. Businesses are closing down because the government has asked them to do so,” he said.

“Saying that [Albertans] are spending [CERB] on Cheezies and cartoons and those kind of things — these are really insensitive comments, and I think the UCP is completely removed from the reality of what Albertans are going through during this pandemic.

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“I think the premier and the MLA should apologize for these kind of appalling comments.”

READ MORE: NDP mocks Alberta premier’s UCP for taking COVID cash from ‘sugar daddy’ Trudeau 

Sabir also said he found it hypocritical that the UCP applied for the federal government’s wage subsidy and then accused Canadians on CERB of spending the money on Cheezies.

–With files from Global News’ Phil Heidenreich

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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