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thumb-2023-05-05-danielle-smith-public-sector-workers This article is more than 11 months old
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Danielle Smith: Alberta’s Public Sector Workers Need To Accept ‘Austerity’ and ‘Pain’

“We do have to have some austerity,” Smith told podcaster

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Alberta United Conservative Party leader Danielle Smith says reaching out to public sector workers is part of her election strategy, but on a right-wing podcast last year, Smith said public sector workers need to accept “austerity” and “pain.”

At a campaign photo-op Thursday, Smith suggested the UCP plans to grow its votes by appealing to “workers,” including workers in the public sector such as a “front-line nurse or other health professional.”

Yet in a wide-ranging April 2022 interview on an obscure Canadian libertarian podcast called “Rose Bros,” Smith advocated cuts to public services and suggested workers in the public sector need to accept “austerity” and “pain.”

“We do have to have some austerity,” Smith told the podcaster.

“The kind of pain that private sector workers have gone through in the last seven or eight years, having to go down to part-time, having to downshift, having to do work-sharing, having to take time off.”

“We haven’t seen any austerity in the public sector,” Smith said. “It’s just continued to grow, more workers, higher wages.”

Unfortunately, for the “front-line nurses” Smith is counting on voting for her, the UCP leader suggested some of the “austerity” and “pain” could be shouldered by the public healthcare system.

“Healthcare is going to bankrupt our Canadian system,” Smith added. “We’ve got to create a mechanism to allow people to use more of their own dollars so they can promote their own health on things that the health care system isn’t going to cover.”

“We now have all these new therapies that are coming in, we have the ability to map our own genome and get targeted biologics and targeted medicine,” Smith warned. “Who’s going to pay for that?”

“We’ve got to empower people to spend more of their own dollars on the things that they care about.”

While offering few precise details, Smith proposed a “health spending account” to help Albertans “pay for the care that they want to use.”

“Then you can start changing the system.”

The UCP campaign did not respond to requests for comment from PressProgress.

Smith previously pitched her proposed “spending account,” as a way to normalize healthcare user fees: “Once people get used to the concept of paying out of pocket for more things themselves then we can change the conversation on health care.”

Ricardo Acuna, executive director at the Parkland Institute, says Smith’s claims in the podcast about public sector workers bear little relation to reality.

“Danielle Smith is the leader of the party that a few months into the pandemic laid off 20,000 educational assistants via twitter, eliminated funding for speech pathologists and other service providers in the school system, and whose bargaining position resulted in the loss of many health professionals through burn-out and mental health leave,” Acuna told PressProgress.

“For her to then suggest that there were no cuts or job loss in the public sector, therefore, is not accurate.”

Acunda added that the UCP’s cuts to public services have degraded working conditions.

“For those that have remained in fields like health care, education, post-secondary, the stress and overwork have remained, increasingly making burnout and mental health challenges the rule rather than the exception.”

Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour President Gill McGowan says Smith’s comments about what she would like seen done to public sector workers are deeply troubling.

“It is gratuitous, spiteful and exactly the opposite of what is needed.” McGowan told PressProgress. “Our services are failing because of past cuts,”

“It is clear that Smith should not be trusted with our healthcare or education systems.”

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Smith has long advocated for gutting and privatizing public health care.

In a 2003 Calgary Herald column titled “Denied access to private health violates basic human rights,” Smith complained that “politicians simply don’t have the stomach to reform public health care so it will actually work, such as adopting internal markets, allowing private health- care providers to proliferate, charging user fees and implementing co-payment systems.”

“If it’s necessary to use the courts to push for a parallel private system so Canadians can get the medical care they need, so be it. Let the litigation begin.”

During the podcast, Smith discussed her past at the Fraser Institute and the far-right Reform Party,, describing herself as a libertarian and adherent to the “philosophy” of “Atlas Shrugged” author Ayn Rand.

“I try to read Atlas Shrugged every few years and I’m in the process of trying to build out a broader philosophy,” Smith explained.

During the podcast, Smith also suggested the provincial government might reduce its reliance on resource royalties by expanding Bitcoin mining and make Alberta “the crypto currency capital of Canada.”

 

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Mitchell Thompson
Reporter
Mitchell Thompson is PressProgress’ Ontario reporter. His reporting has a special focus on workers and communities, and public services and privatization, and public accountability.

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