For South Peace News
Former Lesser Slave Lake MLA Danielle Larivee is back in politics, having won election as first vice president of the United Nurses of Alberta.
A nurse herself, Larivee was active in the local branch of the UNA in Slave Lake, before getting into provincial politics with the NDP. Elected in 2015 when the NDP swept to power, she also served in several ministerial portfolios in the government of Rachel Notley.
Larivee briefly returned to nursing after her bid for re-election came up short in May. But apparently she hadn’t gotten the political bug out of her system, because when the UNA position became available, she decided to go for it.
“Times are looking to be pretty tough for public services unions,” Larivee said in an interview in August.
“I think we need a strong executive for all public sector unions.”
Larivee says she’s looking forward to representing the 35,000 members of the union in Alberta.
“I’m happy to be able to advocate on behalf of my fellow nurses,” and for public health care in general, she says.
It looks as if she won’t be short of work. The Jason Kenney government did not waste any time in offending the union by changing the terms of a deal the UNA had hammered out with the previous government.
It’s complicated, Larivee says, but the simplified version is after two years of zero pay increases, the government had promised to sit down and at least discuss the possibility of an increase in Year 3. But along came Bill 9, which “said they didn’t have to have that conversation,” Larivee says, calling in breach of contract and a blow against the right to collective bargaining.
“When you have a contract, you’re expected to honour it,” she says.
The safety of nurses on the job and the safety of the public are other, related concerns Larivee expects to be advocating for in her new position. Safety becomes a real issue when there aren’t enough nurses to handle the demands of patients, Larivee explains.