Remembering Ralph Klein's 1993 budget
Twenty-five years ago former Premier Ralph Klein''s government exchanged sense for cents with its first devastating budget and Albertans are still paying the price.
Klein became premier of Alberta in December 1992 and wasted no time pushing the province into harsh austerity with a budget driven by widespread privatization and public sector layoffs.
"It was a dark time," said AUPE Vice-President Susan Slade, who was working as an LPN at the time. "Klein''s budget put thousands of Albertans out of work - many of them AUPE members - and the public services all Albertans use began to suffer. It was a disaster, and we''re still feeling the effects."
Alberta was experiencing a drastic drop in oil prices and the weak economy that came with it. Klein saw it as an opportunity to scapegoat public services.
"Throughout Alberta, people were afraid their livelihoods would be ripped away from them. As people were laid off and their jobs privatized, the entire economy began to suffer the effects," said Slade. "You don''t make a bad economy better by putting even more people out of work."
The quality of public services plummeted. Workers lucky enough to hold onto their jobs were spread thin as a result of short staffing. Some public services services were sold off entirely.
The cuts didn''t stop there. The remaining public sector workers were slapped with five-per-cent wage rollbacks. There was resistance, but the damage was done and workers feared even more job losses could come.
"I can''t stress enough how much this impacted ordinary working Albertans," Slade added. "The membership was slashed by Klein by more than 15,000. This seriously hurt our ability to fight back. It''s hard to look at Klein''s first budget as anything other than a direct attack on unions."
But AUPE members persevered. Today, AUPE is over 93,000 members strong. But some politicians want to take us back to the 90s with more cuts and layoffs. Whatever our future holds, AUPE will fight any attempt to bring back the disastrous days of Ralph Klein.