The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) has launched a website that calls for Albertans to boycott businesses that have previously donated to pro-UCP Political Action Committees (PACs) before the last provincial election.
PACs are a political, third-party advertiser, a person, corporation or group which is required to register with Elections Alberta when it spends more than $1,000 on political advertising outside of an election period.
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BoycottUCPdonors.ca lists dozens of Alberta businesses across the province using an interactive map. The AFL said it wanted Albertans to make “informed consumer choices.”
“These are businesses that have been bankrolling the UCP agenda,” said AFL president Gil McGowan. “An agenda that is kicking Albertans while they’re down.”
McGowan said, by providing money to campaigns that helped Kenney’s conservatives, these businesses have made it clear they don’t support ordinary Albertans.
“So why should ordinary Albertans support them?” McGowan asked.
“This should not be seen as an anti-business campaign,” he said. “This is not a question of money not being spent in the Alberta economy, this is just asking people to vote with their wallets.”
The website states the people behind the advertising contributions are attempting to make “Alberta look like Donald Trump’s America.”
McGowan said he has heard from conservative supporters in the province who are “losing their minds” over the website and telling the AFL there is no need to get so political.
“Those kind of arguments are ironic and hypocritical and kind of laughable,” McGowan said.
“In the same way that they’re free to take political positions, consumers who disagree with them are free to take their business someplace elsewhere. It’s a pretty simple equation.”
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Moore Pipe (2015) Inc. in Nisku, Alta, is listed on that website, as contributing $2,500 to the UCP.
General manager Ken Wagner said the company was asked by a client to participate in an advertising campaign.
“All we were trying to do was support a party, in our minds, that was speaking for us,” said Wagner.
Wager noted most of his customers in the oilfield are likely UCP supporters anyways — but he said he takes issue with a campaign that singles out companies already struggling to make ends meet.
“We keep hearing from our leaders that we’re all in this together, but so often we feel like we’re left out there hanging and drying, to be honest,” said Wagner.
Moore Pipe Inc. said the oil field supply company was forced to lay off 75 per cent of its workforce since the spring with the COVID-19 pandemic and oil price wars.
“It was good people we laid off. It wasn’t because we were looking to lose people.
“It kicked us hard all at once, so it’s been pretty tough since then.”
Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, Doug Schweitzer, called the website an AFL campaign designed to kill jobs.
“Whoever thought up this campaign should be ashamed and it needs to stop.”
Schweitzer added Alberta’s small businesses have already been crippled by the global pandemic and the collapse of oil prices due to the Russia-Saudi oil price war.
“Where does this end?” Premier Jason Kenney said when was asked about the website Tuesday afternoon.
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Kenney, who called the AFL campaign “deeply disturbing,” said every business on that website had a right, just like union supporters do, to support political parties.
“To say that supporting that position should put you in the crosshairs of a smear campaign, a bully campaign using intimidation tactics to try to hurt those businesses is, I think, un-Albertan.”
NDP leader Rachel Notley would not say if she supports the website but instead pointed to Shaping Alberta’s Future, a PAC formed to promote the UCP.
“If folks are going to engage their money to use third-party organizations to attack the rights of the working people, the conversation needs to be wide open,” she said.
Many of the businesses listed on the AFL website are car dealerships in the province. McGowan asked why a teacher, fire fighter or public health worker should shop at places that are cheerleading cuts and privatization.
“Why should they spend their hard-earned money in a business that is trying to take away their livelihood?”
Wagner at Moore Pipe Inc. said he hoped people with different political ideologies don’t hold it against it each other.
“These are just hard working Albertans that are trying to make a living, make a difference,” said Wagner.
“They probably, in a lot of cases, are your neighbours.”