Alberta unions say they will not stand for UCP attempts to “take civil society out of our democracy” – AFL

AFL raises the alarm about the UCP’s authoritarian Bill 81

EDMONTON – The leaders of more than 20 Alberta unions are raising the alarm about the Kenney government’s Bill 81, saying it’s not just an attack on unions, but an attack on democracy itself.

In a statement written by Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) president Gil McGowan and unanimously endorsed by all of the AFL’s affiliate unions – representing more than 175,000 working Albertans – the Kenney government is accused of introducing the same kind undemocratic restrictions on the freedoms of speech and association that have resulted in countries like Hungary, India and Brazil no longer being considered full democracies.

“The UCP’s main target with this outrageous piece of legislation is, of course, Alberta’s labour movement, which includes all of our unions and the Alberta Federation of Labour – our province’s oldest, largest and most vocal worker advocacy group,” says the statement.

“However, Bill 81 isn’t only about muzzling unions. And it’s not really about stopping the Alberta Federation of Labour from running partisan ads during election campaigns (which, for the record, we have rarely done). Instead, the impact of the Bill is much broader. It will constrain ALL civil society groups (potentially from all points on the political spectrum). And it will impact ALL advocacy and issue campaigns, not just those aimed at supporting particular candidates or parties during elections.”

The statement goes on to say that Bill 81 “is a clear and disturbing attack on civil society which (as the recent victory on national child care demonstrates) is a vibrant and vital pillar of our democracy.”

The unions affiliated to the AFL – which include unions such as the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA), the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) – believe Bill 81 is a clear contravention of Section 2(b) of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech, and Section 2(d) which guarantees freedom of association.

“The bottom line is that true democracies don’t implement laws like Bill 81,” says the statement. “With that in mind, we the leaders of Alberta’s labour movement pledge to fight Bill 81 on the political stage, in the courts and on the streets if necessary. This is not just about us. It’s about the kind of province and country we want to live in. We will not let Jason Kenney and the UCP take civil society out of our democracy.”

Click here for the full statement.


Ramona Franson
Director of Communications, AFL