04/21/2017 11:18 EDT | Updated 04/21/2017 11:18 EDT

It's About Time Alberta's Labour Laws Reflected The Interest Of Workers

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The majestic Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton.

For approximately the last 70 years, large business interests have had what can be easily characterized as unfettered access to the reins of Albertan lawmakers.

Over that time our Albertan labour laws have been crafted by and for the interests of large-scale business interests whose primary purpose has been to exploit Alberta's resources and workers. And the arrangement hasn't solely been economic in nature. The resulting system has been somewhat callous, allowing employers to get away with unscrupulous and even cruel behaviour.

Proponents of this arrangement have all told us ad nauseam about how trickle-down economics will benefit us all. That by pouring champagne into the chalice of the business elite, good fortune will sprinkle over onto the rest of us (the non-elite).

But even fiscally conservative organizations such as the International Monetary Fund say:

"If the income share of the top 20 percent (the rich) increases, then GDP growth actually declines over the medium term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down. In contrast, an increase in the income share of the bottom 20 percent (the poor) is associated with higher GDP growth."

Enter a brand new opportunity in Albertan political history. Alberta's first ever NDP government, have refreshingly opened the door to hear from the public; including working people, labour law professionals from all sides, and business stakeholders as they begin the process of updating the 30-year-old Employment Standards and Labour Relations Codes. Processes that until now have unfairly favoured large business and industry at the expense of the majority of Albertans.

Not surprisingly, Alberta's right-wing parties all jumped up at the closing of the public consultation process to exclaim that big business has not had its say. That their lobbyists have not been fairly heard. They need more time.

Even Liberal Dr. David Swann whose party claims "government has a role to play in preventing exploitation" stood up beside the elected industrial lobby known as the Alberta opposition and suggested, "We must reach out to all industry stakeholders in a more fulsome and transparent process to ensure their concerns are heard and considered."

I'm shocked that Dr. Swann, whom I've considered a champion of workers rights and representing disadvantaged Albertans, would stoop to this low level for political gain. The Liberal party needs to stand up for their principles and values, do the right thing, and support reasonable and prudent employment standards and labour law change.

Dr. Swann, I have faith that you'll do the right thing.

Haven't the thoughts and preferences of the various "industry stakeholders" been sufficiently expressed, documented, and even codified by the Employment Standards and Labour Relations Codes over the last 30 years?

Maybe the expressions of worry and concern from our financial elite are something exciting for the rest of us.

New laws that for the first time in far too long could be fair and balanced for workers and their families.

A true foundation for a strong and healthy economy that in all good conscience should not be delayed.

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