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Trapped by ideology, the UCP government’s vision for Alberta remains narrowly focused on the oil sector and construction industries. As important as these sectors are, Alberta’s economic future relies on a coherent and comprehensive strategy that includes all sectors, workers, families, and communities.
The paucity of the UCP’s approach to Alberta’s economy comes into sharp relief if one examines its failure to recognize the economic role of women and the specific hardships visited by the pandemic upon female-dominant sectors of employment. In the midst of the 2015 oil price crash, female frontline workers in health care, education, public service, and hospitality/retail services kept Alberta’s economic engine from stalling, and kept many households afloat as their partners or family members faced job losses in the oil and gas industry.
These same sectors are now struggling, but the Kenney government has offered women little, save the promise of future wage cuts and layoffs. Several economists argue that Alberta’s economy cannot be rebuilt absent affordable, accessible child care. Without this, women are unable to re-enter — or remain — in the workforce; they cannot indefinitely juggle their caring responsibilities with the demands of paid work.
This is only one example. There are other policy approaches the government could implement that would support the people of Alberta through this difficult time. To date, however, the UCP’s focus remains more punitive than helpful, more ideological than practical. Unless Albertans demand a commitment to an economy and policies that support all people, Alberta’s future will be the wreckage of what might have been.
Trevor W. Harrison is a political sociologist at the University of Lethbridge and director of Parkland Institute.