Alberta gov't must reverse UCP cuts to wildfire fighting operations
EDMONTON—The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) calls on Danielle Smith and Rachel Notley to restore the province’s wildfire fighting operations when either becomes Alberta’s next premier.
Former premier Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Party (UCP) government made several cuts and disruptions to Alberta’s wildfire fighting services. AUPE is calling on whomever forms the next government to reverse his disastrous decisions.
“Albertans are suffering and need help,” says AUPE Vice-President Sandra Azocar. “The election is not what’s important right now. We need action and vision to save lives and our communities”
AUPE repeatedly urged the UCP government to keep wildfire fighting services properly staffed and in-house. Instead, the government cut the number of wildfire lookouts, firefighters, and forest service's personnel. The government also contracted some services to private companies that are primarily motivated by profits.
The UCP government even eliminated Alberta’s world-class Wildland Firefighter Rappel Program. Under this program, highly specialized firefighters would rappel from helicopters to combat wildfires in areas too dangerous to reach by normal means.
“AUPE members working in these services are doing their best with few supports,” says Azocar. “They are constantly working short, like many public service workers in Alberta. They are under immense pressure to keep Albertans safe without appropriate staffing levels.”
According to Azocar, Smith must do more than react to the current wildfire situation. She and Notley must promise to restore services to pre-UCP levels and make serious commitments to prepare Alberta for future emergencies.
“Smith must do more than just respond to the current wildfire emergency,” says Azocar. “Smith has the opportunity to right her party’s wrongs and actually do something to prevent future disasters.
“When will politicians learn that cutting services to save a quick buck only makes things more costly, and dangerous, down the road?”
AUPE is western Canada’s largest union, standing over 95,000 members strong. Many AUPE members work for the provincial government, including wildfire fighting services.
For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact:
Alexander Delorme, AUPE Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 780-264-9274