An Open Letter to Deputy Minister Thomas Lukaszuk

Dear Deputy Minister Thomas Lukaszuk,

I have a bit of a problem with you. You’ve been in the news a lot lately whenever an organization seems to be standing up for themselves (or I guess stepping out of line according to you) and you always seem to be the first person who’s ready with something to say – even if no one wants to hear it.

Most recently, you were very outspoken when the Edmonton Remand Centre guards went on strike, claiming that this strike was blown out of proportion and simply brought on by someone having a disagreement with his superior. The only problem with that is the rest of the province’s prison and court guards have all joined in on the strike – even the lawyers refuse to cross the line out of respect for their cause. A disagreement with a superior does not sprout out to a full on province-wide strike; people aren’t stupid.

Here’s where my problem with you stands: you think everyone’s stupid, don’t you?

I have no doubt that you are a very intelligent person and have a fascinating story behind you. A Polish immigrant whose family escaped the Soviet Union to give you a better life. You grew up in North Edmonton and got your education from the University of Alberta before becoming a teacher with the Edmonton Catholic School Board. Most impressive is the work you did starting up the Injured Worker’s Advocates Inc., making huge strides in how employers and insurance handle employee injury claims. You’ve done some amazing things with the best interest of people in mind, but since taking office suddenly the people are of no concern to you: now, you keep thinking about money.

After you voiced your opinion about why you think the prison guard strike first started, all you could talk about was how much money was being spent replacing security guards with RCMP and City Police. Perhaps if the Province listened to what the prison guards were saying to begin with, maybe then they wouldn’t have gone on strike and the Province wouldn’t have to fork out all this money making sure the overcrowded prisons don’t step out of line as well.

Since January, prison guards and members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employee (AUPE) have been expressing concerns about the new Edmonton Remand Centre citing that it won’t be a safe prison. The Province brushed aside these concerns and decided to power through so the new “super-prison” would open on time. After all, what would the prison guards know about prison safety, right Mr. Lukaszuk?

Kind of like when you decided to put together the Campus Alberta plan. Getting rid of redundant and unpopular school programs was actually not a bad idea. But then you took the next step and decided to look and employability after graduation. Yeah, it’s hard for academics to find work after graduation when you keep cutting research grants for everything, you know, aside from oilsand research. A lot of universities and even more students were up in arms against what you were proposing but, as part of the bill that was fast tracked through the Legislature, you made sure it would be non-optional. After all, what would these academics and students who spend every day in universities know, right Mr. Lukaszuk?

Fact of the matter is that when the prison guards brought up their concerns, they knew exactly what they were talking about. They’re in those facilities every day, they know what’s safe and what isn’t. Just the same as educators and students know what they’re talking about. They have the right to offer and take whatever university education programs they want to offer despite what sorts of jobs can help the oilfield after.

Mr. Lukaszuk, people aren’t stupid and you need to stop treating them like they’re discounted boxed wine: the most cost effective solutions aren’t the best.

Stop disregarding that people with a university education (yes, even a liberal arts education) generally make more money and live longer than those without – not to mention typically commit fewer crimes including rape, typically transmit fewer STDs, and are more active with politics. There might not be direct oilfield jobs for them, but an educated population is an active and aware population.

And stop treating the prison and court guards like they’re second class citizens who need a greasy haired father figure to wag his finger at them and remind them why they’re stupid and you’re so smart. Unionized workers have a right to strike despite whether you agree with them striking or not. They’re justified in their grievances and should not have to put themselves into an unsafe work environment so that you can look better by opening your backyard shack of a prison on time.

Mr. Lukaszuk, I would have sent you this letter directly, but you would have never read it because you thought I was stupid.

Sincerily,

Chris

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