UCP leadership candidate pressed for details on proposed government cuts

United Conservative Party leadership candidate Brian Jean was confronted by a small group of Alberta government employees Wednesday after his news conference in front of the Federal building on the Legislature grounds.

Brian Jean was confronted Wednesday by a small group of government employees anxious about their jobs

Following a news conference on the legislature grounds, government employee Sharon Murphy (centre) confronted UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean about his plans to cut spending should he become premier. (CBC)

Brian Jean was confronted by a small group of Alberta government employees at a news conference Wednesday, one day after the United Conservative Party leadership candidate announced a plan to cut billions in provincial spending.

During his first policy announcement in Edmonton since he declared his leadership bid, Jean took aim at government employees.

"Too often, halls of unelected bureaucrats are making the decisions that impact the lives of millions of Albertans, without any accountability whatsoever," Jean said.

His news conference on the legislature grounds caught the attention of government bureaucrats who happened to be walking by.

After Jean wrapped up, a half-dozen workers approached, and Sharon Murphy and a colleague asked the candidate what would happen to their jobs under his plan.
Former Wildrose leader Brian Jean says as leader of the UCP he would seek to hold a referendum on photo radar and introduce MLA recall legislation. (CBC)

"I just asked him if I was going to have a job in 2019," said Murphy, who has worked as an energy analyst for the Alberta government for 37 years.

Murphy's question came the day after Jean announced he intends to balance the Alberta budget in three years and save $2.6 billion by reducing the size of the government.

Jean said the savings would be realized through attrition, and a reduction in the number of managers. But he failed to give precise details on which departments and services would be trimmed.

"Controlling all costs across the public sector so we can freeze and reduce spending," he said at news conference Tuesday in Calgary. "This includes thinning out the ranks of managers managing managers managing more managers."

Murphy said Jean assured her he "wouldn't fire anyone," and said she was "somewhat satisfied" with the answer.

But she said she has seen and heard assurances like that before.

"In the [Ralph[ Klein times, when they did slash, and they didn't rehire people when people left, it was a burden to the employees who were left," said Murphy.

"There was a lot of hard work, and overtime. And then having your wages rolled back or frozen, the morale dropped considerably with employees."

In 1993, then-premier Ralph Klein reduced government program spending by  nearly 20 per cent, cutting more than 2,500 jobs in the process.

Won't be voting for them

"I won't be voting for them," Murphy said of the newly unified conservative party, and she predicted others who work for the government won't either. 

"There's thousands of government employees, and I have brothers and sisters who are government employees," Murphy said. "Who wants their wages frozen or [to] be worried about losing their jobs?"

Jean's lack of clarity on the issue attracted attention from one his own colleagues. UCP MLA, and former Wildrose finance critic Derek Fildebrandt, who's considering a leadership run himself, posted a tweet encouraging all leadership candidates to go beyond a policy declaration by spelling out details of what they intend to do.

During Wednesday's news conference, Jean announced other policies he intends to implement should he win become premier.

Jean said he wants to see a referendum on the use of photo radar during the next municipal election, wants to re enter negotiations with Ottawa on equalization payments, and wants to give citizens the right to recall their MLAs, as is done in British Columbia.