Hush Money

Much has been said in the past month about a “culture of intimidation” in Alberta’s healthcare system.  Allegations of bribery and corruption, hush money and two sets of books have been made with virtually no proof, and Alberta’s opposition parties have added a healthy dose of drama and theatre to the whole event in an attempt to keep the story alive.

It’s been quite a show and it may continue for a while.

But I’m here to argue that Albertans have accepted and condoned a culture of intimidation in this province, and the consequence has been a substantial erosion of our public services, as well as a democratic deficit.  If this culture continues, I’m afraid that the hard working silent majority of Albertans will continue to lose.

I have spoken to several seniors on a board I serve on in the past few weeks who have been asking me why Alberta’s teachers are receiving these relatively large raises in this economic environment.  While these individuals are not against paying teachers well and don’t suggest that the Government should not support public sectors employees, they feel that the raise this year is too high relative to the economic realities in the province.  The fact that most of these seniors received an extra ten dollars a month from government support programs, while teachers received much more doesn’t exactly sit well with them either.

What also doesn’t sit well with them or with me is that despite the fact that teachers are getting these increases, the quality of our education system is eroding.  What makes this pill even more difficult to swallow is the fact that most individual teachers I have talked to say that they would rather see this money go into the system to support their ability to teach effectively.  Teachers, like every other professional, need tools and resources to be effective.

Have you ever tried to fix something in your house or on your car without the proper tools?  You can usually get the job done, but it will typically take much longer and the final product will not be as good as it could have been.  This is the situation our relatively well paid and over worked teachers face on a daily basis in their professions.


Five years ago, the government and Alberta Teachers Association signed a historic 5 year labour deal, which turned out to be a very bad deal for tax payers.  At the time, the government was comfortable signing huge cheques to pay for the unfunded pensions and generous pay increases.  After all, the future was bright for our province and there was no place to go but up!


The global economy tanked and Alberta’s economic situation flip flopped more extremely than Rob Anderson did on Bill 36 after switching political parties.  Down was the new up – red the new black; and many Albertans found themselves in financial difficulty.  So did the Alberta Government.  Teachers, however, received pay increases that did not fit the economic realities of the times and classroom resources suffered.

Actually, Alberta’s students suffered and the many hard working taxpayers with kids in the system are picking up the tab.

The Alberta government and ATA are now in the preliminary stages of discussions about what the next collective agreement should look like and the province has once again indicated that another five year deal is desirable.  At the same time, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) has mounted an offensive against the government, asking Premier Stelmach “to confirm he is not considering U.S.- style attack on the rights of public sector workers.”  These two things are not happening at the same time by accident.

AFL is throwing up a smoke screen to create an environment where the government has its back up against the wall during negotiations with the ATA.  The rhetoric is getting ratcheted up and a completely unfounded environment fear is being created.  The AFL’s open letter to Premier Stelmach is nothing more than public fear mongering and intimidation.  As a tax payer, I find the entire exchange appalling!

The ATA and AFL are working together to give taxpayers another raw deal, while the quality of our education system continues to erode.  We are buying the silence of public sector unions at the expense of future generations and it’s not right.

If the government insists on a five year labour deal with the ATA, that deal should have no pay increases for teachers in the next three years and very modest increases in the last two.  Money needs to be directed back into the system.  Taxpayers got a raw deal last time, so the ATA should be reasonable.  Teachers need the right tools to effectively do their jobs and all available resources should go toward providing the tools.

I have no faith, however, that the ATA will agree.  The rhetoric will continue to get ratcheted up and the culture of public fear will be alive and well.  AFL will play trusty wing-man and help to create this “culture of intimidation” against taxpayers based on claims of a potential attack on the public sector, which are made with virtually no evidence or substantial support.

Tax payers should not be so willing to give into this culture of public intimidation that is created by the ATA, AFL and other public sector unions and we should not be OK with buying their silence.

Either the government or the opposition parties should stand up for tax payers.  Enough hush money – lets fix our problems.


7 thoughts on “Hush Money

  1. Slow clap. Incredible deflection of the real issue, which is the culture of intimidation against health care professionals by the PC Government.

    If the doctors had a strong union to stand behind them, they probably wouldn’t have been subjected to the kind of intimidation and threats that have been revealed in the media over the past few months.

    1. Dave, what is the difference between a union and the Alberta Medical Association? The AMA advocates on behalf of doctors. Its seems to me that some of the issues raised have been between doctors, not doctors and governments. #justsayin

      You may think giving tax payers a bad deal is not an issue, but I do. Tax payers need to stand up and fight for their money and demand better value from their contribution to society.

      Where we do agree, however, is that everybody’s focus seems to be on dramatic stories and unfounded alegations, rather than finding practical solutions to our many challenges. We need to start having a real conversation about the future of our province instead of throwing money at problems and creating crisis where they don’t exist.

      Thanks for your comment!


  2. Alberta teachers are the highest paid in North America. At the most recent CAPSC meeting, chief superintendent, Naomi Johnson stated that the average cost per teacher to the CBE is $102,000 (including all benefits, of course). I think teachers realize this and will be willing to forgo wage increases but only in return for better working conditions. But, as I am not currently a teacher, I cannot say for sure 🙂

  3. Curious to know on what evidence you are basing this statement:

    “What also doesn’t sit well with them or with me is that despite the fact that teachers are getting these increases, the quality of our education system is eroding.”

  4. With respect, what a load of codswallop!

    First, the amount that teachers are paid is determined by an agreement reached between the Government and the ATA. The party in power in this is Province is the PCs. If there is a democratic deficit – then you and your party are to blame. Agreeing to a contract and then claiming the other side is now being paid too much is the sort of cognitive dissonance that is acceptable only when suffering from psychosis or conservatism.

    Secondly, the timing of the release from the Alberta Federation of Labour is in no way related to the ATA negotiations. The AFL news release came when it did for 2 reasons -(1) the fact that the Koch brothers (architects of the Tea Party, bankrollers of climate change denial and Wisconsin anti-employee, anti-democratic government action) have now have set up shop to lobby the Alberta government. (2) The Institute for Public Sector Accountability has begun a drive to bring the anti-democratic initiatives to Alberta, publishing columns in the Calgary Sun and other papers.

    Interestingly, although the Institute for Public Sector Accountability claims to “promote transparency and accountability in the public sector” and to be “dedicated to the enhancement of democracy.” Despite this, until just yesterday, they claimed to have Minister Jonathan Dennis as a Director. In fact Minister Dennis has not been a Director since 2008. This group hardly seems to be dedicated to transparency!

    The“culture of intimidation” has nothing to do with unions, with ATA or with right wing American billionaires. It has to do with health care and the approach of this Government.

    I enjoy your blog, and sometimes even agree with your comments at times. But I have to agree with daveberta on this one.
    Having said that – I agree with your response to him – AMA seems pretty darn similar to a union. And some of the issues seem to be just between doctors.
    But at this point it is too hard to tell – which is why we need a public inquiry

  5. Gee, unions are everythng evil . . . fees going to issues they might disagree with and not be able to speak against! How abhorent and backwards in a free market democracy.

    Oh, oh . . . just thought about PC party discipline . . . MLA’s can’t speak out for their constituents or voice their own ideas without fear of getting kicked out of caucus or ‘whispered’ as mentally unstable!

    Union members have the freedom to say they don’t agree with what their fees are paying for, not so for much better compensated MLAs who set their own salary behind closed doors by government MLA power on Committees.

    Get real please. Your rhetoric is repititive and nonsensical..

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