“We can’t let anti-vax extremists dictate public health policy during a pandemic” – AFL

Worker safety should not be used as a bargaining chip, says AFL president in statement

Statement from Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan

EDMONTON – “We cannot let a gang of anti-vax extremists dictate public health policy in our province. That would be true at any time, but it’s especially true now.

We are currently recording the highest levels of infection so far in the pandemic. We have more people in hospital with COVID than ever before. The WCB just acknowledged that COVID has become the third largest cause of work-related illness and death in the province. To top things off, researchers have recently concluded that Alberta has, by far, the highest rate of excess death in the country — and they have linked that fact directly to the UCP’s lax COVID policies.

Given the circumstances, it was bad enough to hear Premier Kenney musing on Tuesday about the possibility of lifting some of our province’s relatively light pandemic safety measures by the end of the month. But it’s even worse – in fact it’s outrageous – to learn that the UCP may now eliminate the REP program within days in order to appease the anti-vax protesters who are illegally blocking the border at Coutts.

It should go without saying that the health of Alberta citizens and the safety of Alberta workers should not be used as bargaining chips to deal with extremists. But that appears to be exactly what’s happening. And it needs to stop.

As president of Alberta’s largest worker advocacy group, I will be reaching out to union presidents across the province today to see what we can do to protest against the premature lifting of public and workplace pandemic safety measures. It is our view that COVID continues to be a serious and significant health and safety hazard in all indoor environments in Alberta, including workplaces. We will not quietly accept the UCP decision to make these environments even less safe in order to pander their political base. We will announce our plans as soon as decisions are made.

In the meantime, I encourage Albertans to use the hashtag #REPnotRIP on social media to make it clear that the gang at the border does not speak for all Albertans.”

Gil McGowan
Alberta Federation Labour
February 3, 2022


Ramona Franson
Director of Communications, AFL