Hundreds of days late, Kenney’s wage top-up program for frontline workers lands with resounding thud

Plan for Critical Worker Benefit “is yet another UCP dumpster fire”

EDMONTON – After hundreds of days of indecision and foot-dragging on the wage-support program for frontline workers, the Kenney government will leave tens of thousands of Alberta workers with a bitter taste in their mouths.

“To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement,” says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. “The Kenney government had months to work on this file. And they could have drawn lessons from other provinces that rolled out their programs months ago. But they still couldn’t get this right. It’s shameful and outrageous.”

The Kenney government announced the final stages of the Critical Worker Benefit on Wednesday. The government seems to have been spurred into action after the Alberta Federation of Labour and Alberta’s sole Alberta NDP Member of Parliament, Heather McPherson, revealed that more than $300 million in federal funds were left unused.

When Kenney announced the program at a news conference last week, he suggested that it took so long because they were taking the necessary time to get things right. But today, it still looks like a program that was slapped together at the last minute.

“This whole thing is a train wreck,” says McGowan. “The 300 hour threshold excludes many frontline workers – including those who worked in the first wave in the spring and even those who lost hours because they were sick or isolating. The arbitrary exclusion of huge categories of workers who are clearly on the frontlines is just downright insulting. At the same time, leaving it up to employers to apply on behalf of workers is a recipe for abuse. And now we’re learning that those employers will be allowed to skim off more than $35 million for themselves. Based on what we see before us today, it’s clear that this is yet another UCP dumpster fire.”

McGowan said the AFL offered on several occasions to help the government design a fair program – offers that went unanswered. But now he says Jason Kenney and the UCP should wear the mess they’ve created.

“Frontline workers should get the money they were promised months ago. So, the cheques need to start being sent. But Albertans need to remember how badly this file was bungled – and by whom. This can’t be blamed on Trudeau or Notley. The fault for this mess rests squarely on the shoulders of Premier Kenney and his government.”


Ramona Franson
Director of Communications, AFL
[email protected]