Contributed photo

Council of Canadians protesting proposed health job cuts in Red Deer Friday

Rally set for City Hall Park at noon on Friday

The Council of Canadians’ Red Deer chapter is rallying on Friday to protest a government plan to cut thousands of health-care positions.

The rally is scheduled to take place in front of City Hall Park at noon and will feature speakers, including Red Deer chapter chair Christopher D’Lima and Alberta Union of Provincial Employees vice-president Bonnie Gustola.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced last week that as many as 11,000 health workers will be laid off in hopes of saving up to $600 million annually.

The minister said no front-line doctor or nurse positions will be lost and that 9,700 jobs will be eliminated by outsourcing support positions such as laundry and community lab services.

About 100 management positions will be axed and more than 2,000 staff, support and clinical positions will be eliminated through attrition.

D’Lima said the Council of Canadians is among a number of groups that is condemning the government’s plans, and its timing.

“We’re really concerned about what’s happening in terms of these cuts,” he said.

“We’re concerned about the cuts to health-care services, especially at this time, when there’s a pandemic going on.

“We call our health-care workers, the front-line people, heroes on the one hand. On the other hand, there seems to be an effort to cut their jobs.

“This is definitely the wrong time.”

Unions representing health workers have also criticized the government’s intention, arguing it will de-stabilize the health system and cannnot but have an impact on front-line staff.

Besides the looming health cuts, D’Lima will also address shortcomings in the province’s Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) program.

About 70,000 Albertans receive up to $1,685 per month in AISH funding, which amounts to less than $20,000 a year.

The province’s minister of community and social services said last month funding would not be cut, but many were alarmed when only days later, Premier Jason Kenney said the province planned to look at how many people were eligible under the $1.3-billion program.

Those who plan to attend Friday’s rally are asked to wear masks and to physically distance from each other by at least two metres.

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