Alberta families say: Show us the money, Ralph

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Alberta still has the lowest minimum wage in Canada and even an increase to $7 will leave it behind B.C., Ontario and Quebec.

Alberta celebrated Family Day yesterday. Despite his public musings, Premier Ralph Klein has yet to formally announce any sharing of Alberta's wealth with those average Albertans — Martha and Henry and their families — that he's been courting successfully for so many years.

Albertans and their families need a Living Wage, not just an increase in the minimum wage of a mere $1.10 after ten years. Alberta still has the lowest minimum wage in Canada and even an increase to $7 will still leave it behind B.C., Ontario and Quebec.

National and regional social agencies have calculated that the average person needs a Living Wage of $10 per hour just to be able to reach the national poverty level; $7 an hour doesn't even get close. In Alberta, there are over 140,000 workers making minimum or just above minimum wages, and many are trying to support families on this. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) believes that both part-time and full-time workers in Alberta should have full access to benefits paid for by their employer. These include extended health, dental, eye and hearing, benefits plus a transferable pension plan.

Alberta families deserve their share of the federal day care fund; they paid for it, they want it and need it. The Klein government's insistence on using taxpayer money to benefit private for-profit day-care centres denies Alberta families access to affordable public day care. It also denies day-care workers a Living Wage. Currently many child-care workers in Alberta make barely above the minimum wage of $5.90 an hour. Parents are forced to work shift work in order to take care of their children at home, due to the lack of public day-care spaces. Parents working two jobs each, just to make ends meet are being left out of the “Alberta Advantage.”

Alberta has the lowest use of public day care in Canada, because the Alberta government has allowed private for-profit day-care centres and baby sitting services to access funds earmarked for public day care. Alberta families are paying for someone to profit off their plight and without access to federal funds, they will be paying twice for the privilege of having no access to public day care.

Ralph dropped health care premiums for Alberta's seniors; now it is time to share the wealth with Alberta families. Health care premiums are an unfair tax on all Albertans and should be eliminated. The premiums do not pay for health care; they are paid into the provinces general accounts. That account just gave Ralph's election campaign manager, Steve West, a golden handshake of $180,000. In a province that has eliminated taxes for businesses it is time that Alberta families got a tax break with the elimination of the health premium.

Alberta families continue to pay for tuition increases for their children. Alberta families deserve more than a one year tuition moratorium. They need an immediate rollback of tuition increases and the elimination of all tuition fees within five years. As post-secondary education benefits society and business, it is both business and the government that should fully fund post-secondary education. That would be a real Alberta Advantage.

Albertans take care of their severely disabled family members with little help from the Alberta government which has not increased Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) payments in ten years. Again federal funds are taken by the Alberta government and not shared with Albertans. AISH payments need to meet the Living Wage standard as well. At the current rate of $850 per month, AISH is ten dollars less than an Albertan working full time for minimum wage makes in a month.

Alberta Families are not just Martha and Henry, but also Martha and her kids, and those who live on social assistance have not seen an increase in their financial support from the province while politicians have given themselves hefty wage increases in the past few years. Single mothers and others on social assistance should have their share of the Alberta Advantage by having their payments set to a Living Wage.

Alberta families are also Henry and Henry, Martha and Martha. Ralph's cheap politicking against same-sex marriage does a disservice to the diversity of Alberta families. It's the height of hypocrisy that this provincial government continues to deny human rights to its citizens. Any legal challenge is another waste of Alberta taxpayers' money, and will end up being a lot of bluster and thunder signifying nothing, as the Vriend case proved.

This Family Day it's time that all Albertans shared in the Alberta Advantage. While business has reaped the most from Alberta's flat tax, Alberta families pay the majority of taxes in the province to make up for it. It's time Alberta families benefited from the Alberta Advantage which so far has only benefited Ralph and his friends.

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