Opinion

Independent MLA: A promise delayed is a promise broken

It’s just 75 days until Alberta’s equalization referendum.

If you are a union member in Alberta, do you know how your union dues are being spent on this campaign?

What about the municipal elections, the senate elections, or the daylight savings time referendum? The answer to all, sadly, is no.

Regardless of your personal views, you may be picking up the tab for advertisements in support of a city council candidate you personally oppose. Or you may be buying ads to oppose your preferred Senate candidate. You might even be supporting the pro-equalization campaign.

But wait, you ask, wasn’t this issue resolved already? Not so much.

In the 2019 election, the UCP campaigned on a promise to, “protect workers from being forced to fund political parties and causes without explicit opt-in approval.”

Changes to this effect were included in Bill 32, the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act. The Assembly approved third reading of Bill 32 more than a year ago, on July 28, 2020.

However, the premier has yet to fully enact this legislation and as a direct result many union members may find themselves unwilling donors to various campaigns in the lead up to this fall’s equalization referendum.

As broken campaign promises go, this is no small matter. In Alberta, there are more than 300,000 workers who dutifully pay their union dues, with most dues deducted directly from pay deposits.

My son, a teacher, is one of them. His union, the Alberta Teachers Association, is one of 19 organizations currently registered as a third party advertiser with Elections Alberta. Others include the Alberta Federation of Labour (representing 69 affiliate labour organizations), Canadian Union of Public Employees, Health Sciences Association of Alberta, and many more.

I have personally spoken with union members, including my son, who are wondering why they haven’t been offered an opportunity to opt-out of their unions’ political activities.

At the same time, MLAs are frustrated that the government hasn’t fully implemented Bill 32, despite the Legislature taking a clear position. On this issue, the premier has offered no explanations for failing to do his duty and implement the will of the Assembly. Unfortunately, this premier has a long record of ignoring the will of his party, and his caucus. Albertans deserve better.

Premier Jason Kenney may well implement Bill 32 at some point in the future, but it’s too late for this year.

On Oct. 18, there will be no fairness for the thousands of Albertans who find themselves unwilling political donors.

For them, a promise delayed is a promise broken.

Independent MLA Todd Loewen for Central Peace-Notley was ousted from UCP caucus in May.