The War on Women in Alberta
by Alison Taylor
These words describe the Alberta budget, released in February of 1994, the first step in a three-year plan to eliminate the provincial deficit of $2.5 billion. While I agree that the full impact of the cuts and restructuring undertaken by the Tory government will take time to assess, it is possible to predict some of the negative consequences of the conservative agenda; specifically, the potential and actual impact on women and other disadvantaged groups of the cuts to and restructuring of public education.
It is important to acknowledge that the changes occurring in Alberta are part of the same corporate and state-driven reform movement that is sweeping the Test of Canada and several other Western industrialized countries. I choose to focus on the impact on traditionally marginalized groups because we know from experience that these groups frequently bear a greater burden as a result of economic and political change.
Perhaps what is unique about Alberta, to cite the coordinator of a community organization in Calgary, "is the extent to which people have swallowed the hysteria about deficit reduction." The three-year "business plan" for education (Alberta Education, 1994) states that the budget for education will be reduced by 12.4 percent, or $255 million. A columnist for the Calgary Herald suggested in the March 9th edition that these cuts will reduce government spending per child to $-595 in the 1994-95 school year, compared with $1260 in the 1993-94 school year. He goes on to suggest that the "hardest hit will be English-as-a-second-language and special needs students."