Hundreds voice concerns over Alberta public sector cuts during town hall

Hundreds of Albertans shared their concerns regarding the potential loss of thousands of public sector jobs, during a town hall meeting in Edmonton Monday evening.

The town hall was organized by the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) in response to planned cuts to the public sector announced last week by the Alberta government.  

I’m not a very happy Albertan,” said retired teacher Debbie Trinier, who joined the crowd of over 300 at MacEwan University. 

“I think Kenney is a bit of a loose cannon, a bit out of control, and I just think that this isn’t what the Alberta people voted for.”

Educator Donna Staszinski said she was glad to see a large turnout and high-energy crowd.

“I think it’s important that people speak out and make themselves heard because there’s no reason for these cuts,” she said. “It’s not a problem with spending, it’s a problem with how we allocate resources.”

Public sector unions were notified last week that up to 6,000 jobs could be eliminated as the provincial government tries to cut costs.

General strike possible

A panel of six union leaders took questions from the crowd and shared their views on whether a general strike was a possibility.  

Protesters outside the UCP AGM on Saturday chanted about a general strike, which Premier Jason Kenney said would not “be well-received by Albertans who pay the bills.”

AFL president Gil McGowan (left) speaks during a panel with five other Alberta union leaders. (Josee St-Onge/CBC)

Members of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta still haven’t felt the full impact of government cuts and aren’t ready to strike, said president Mike Parker.

“We all go together if this is going to happen,” said Parker. “It’ll come from you, the worker.”

A general strike is only effective if the majority of Albertans support it, said United Nurses of Alberta president Heather Smith.

“It has to be everyone,” she said. “That is the only shield we will have as workers.”

While Albertans may not be ready to strike at the moment, the Alberta government should still listen to their concerns, said AFL president Gil McGowan.

“It’s a warning that the government would be irresponsible not to heed,” he told the crowd. 

The Alberta Federation of Labour has launched a campaign to protest the cuts announced by the UCP government. (Josee St-Onge/CBC)