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Alberta expected to recognize essential COVID workers; NDP says get them top-up funds


By Dean Bennett

EDMONTON — Premier Jason Kenney is expected to discuss a plan today to recognize Alberta’s hundreds of thousands of critical workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Opposition NDP says Kenney needs to recognize it’s time to use hundreds of millions of dollars in available federal funding to top up wages.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley says the United Conservative government has used $30 million out of the $347-million maximum in eligible federal funding for essential workers under a deal brokered last year between Ottawa and the provinces.

The federal government promised to provide up to $3 billion if the provinces contributed $1 billion.

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Notley says not only is the pay being denied to workers in high-risk jobs, but Alberta is also missing out on the effect the extra spending would have in stimulating the economy.

Kenney has said the government doesn’t plan to leave $317 million on the table.

Last week, the premier said he has been consulting with the federal government and with workers in essential services to determine the best way to go ahead.

“We’re not leaving that money on the table,” said Kenney.

“We’ve made an application to the federal government to proceed with the additional $317 million.

“We’ve consulted broadly with the concerned sectors to determine the best way of framing this. We’ve looked closely at what other provinces are doing.”

It’s up to the provinces to decide which occupations are eligible for funding.

Notley said Kenny’s laggard approach has proven costly.

“This was a three-to-one sure bet on money in Albertans’ pockets and the premier chose to play politics rather than support them,” she said Tuesday.

“Even if Jason Kenney were to finally get to work and allow Alberta workers access to this funding tomorrow, Albertans have lost out on hundreds of millions in economic growth and over a thousand jobs at a time when they needed it most.”