Kevin Lacey
Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Like boxers standing in the middle of the ring before a big fight, Premier Jason Kenney and government union bosses are in a stare-down before the big battle of 2021: government employee contract negotiations.

For years, these negotiations were forgone conclusions. Premiers would talk tough and then cave.

Politicians weren’t betting with their own money and the headache caused by the fight was never worth it. That’s why there hasn’t been a government wage roll-back on a large scale since 1994.

That was a generation ago. One Edmonton-area MLA Thomas Dang wasn’t even born then.

Contract talks and political rhetoric have heated-up since the government proposed a modest three per cent wage roll-back on the United Nurses of Alberta union.

It’s not a surprise to see nurses being put out in front of this battle. Given the pandemic, the public will be more sympathetic to nurses arguing for a contract pay hike than they would be for garden-variety bureaucrats.

The issue is: this first round will determine the rules for the entire bout.

Unions bosses know that any raise given to nurses now will set the pace for the government contract negotiations that follow. If nurses get a big raise, then the bureaucrats will all get one too.

This isn’t magical government money. It will be families and businesses that have struggled through the last five-plus years who will be left picking up the tab for these government pay hikes.

It’s hard to begrudge anyone for wanting a raise – who doesn’t want that?

But nurses already receive high wages and benefits.

They get two pensions, one a defined benefit, which is described as “quite generous” by the pension plan, and the second matches RRSP or TFSA contributions up to two per cent of the nurse’s earnings.

They also earn high salaries. At the highest basic rate of $48.37 per hour, they’re paid the highest hourly rate in Canada (2018), according to data released to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation through a freedom of information request.

Contrast these benefits to what average working taxpayers are experiencing right now.

More Albertans are out of work. Average monthly unemployment in 2021 hit 9.4 per cent. That’s the second highest provincial rate in Canada.

This item is reprinted with permission from the Slave Lake, AB, Lakeside Leader. For the complete article, click HERE

If you wish to comment on this story, click HERE for the Discussion Board at