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  • Writer's pictureS Burt

Holistic advocacy

Medicine is quick to point to social determinants of health to explain disparity in outcomes. During this period of government privatization masquerading as austerity, I would like to remind Albertans that medicine is not the only sphere suffering mismanagement. Your health is affected by many factors, and you should be aware of changes to:

- Provincial Parks

- Education

- Labour Laws

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The UCP stated in Mar 2020 that it intended to fully or partially close 20 Provincial parks and hand 164 others over to third party managers. They have not specified who that might be, but Australian coal magnates have expressed some interest. Aside from the obvious ecological harms this would cause, remember that the coal industry has documented negative health impacts.

Gina Rinehart, Australian coal profiteer, attempting to seduce AB.

As an aside, I would like to note that at a recent conference our guest speaker was Neil Pasricha, notable for The Blog of Awesome. One of the points he endorsed was that walking in a place with trees was noted to increase happiness. This of course, relies on your access to a place with trees. Not to mention many physical activities about which I hound my patients to pursue are possible only in these spaces. A survey from 2017 already noted 42% of people find admission/registration fees a barrier to utilizing these spaces, and private interests are unlikely to lower those costs.

Check out some facts at the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

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The UCP were very quick back in 2019 to establish cuts to education, and paint themselves as saints for restoring it at a lesser amount. Turns out, cutting $99 million dollars despite 11,427 additional students and not accounting for inflation is not adequate. These changes sit astride the shunting of pandemic planning to the school board level and refusing to contribute finances toward child safety.

Not only that, but they ended the Regional Collaborative Service Delivery grant which funds educational supports for disabled children. Seriously, how hateful do you have to be to tell blind children "large corporations need the tax breaks more than you need to learn braille"?

This is not to mention the inappropriate overhaul of the curriculum, spearheaded by a man (Angus McBeath) who views the pinnacle of education as raising a generation of “used car salesmen”. Notably, he is a career bureaucrat who has not actually educated a child since the Reagan era.

Labour Laws

"American style labour relations" is an approach to fear unless you are Jeff Bezos. Bill 32 is the most obvious example of how the UCP has betrayed Alberta to corporate interests. The amount of workplace-related depression/anxiety that enters my office would surprise many people, and the horizon looks grim with the UCP's unrepentant corporatism. It affects Alberta in three ways:

1) Anti-Union Legislation

2) Crippling Labour Relations

3) Abuse of Vulnerable Workers

Bill 32 changes how unions collect dues to diminish their funding and alter the negotiating process, and hence impeding union efficacy at advocating for working Albertans. It also hamstrings picketing by adding red tape, and adds penalties to loosely defined acts of protest ("obstructing or impeding"). Further to this, Bill 1 applies penalties to even being around "essential infrastructure" without a reason as defined by the government. So, protesting is now trespassing, and you gain a criminal record when the UCP decides you inconvenience them. As for the protesting union: they get their certificate revoked to suppress opposition.

Union politics are somewhat beyond my scope, but I will comment that non-unionized workers attending my office have few options regarding problematic employers but to medicate themselves into a state amenable to sustaining their abusive work environment or find a new job. Unionized employees however, seem to have a larger support network to answer some basic questions about their workplace health.

Bill 32 also changes the Employment Standards Code (ESC), which allows employers to essentially ignore labour standards Albertans have assumed are protected. It allows changes to overtime payments that eliminate overtime rates even if you have a contract (we all know this government cares little for contracts). Bill 32 also encourages "variances" which allow your employer to violate the ESC (one example of this would be to pay you below minimum wage) and reduces notification requirements and severance owed when your employer terminates you. If you're a seasonal employee, good luck, as you now get NO notification when terminated.

Remember to send your concerns to;

Premier Jason Kenney

Health Minister Tyler Shandro

Varsity MLA and Minister of Finance Jason Copping

Patient letter template
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