Working together for a sustainable public service

This year, negotiations for collective agreements for public sector workers in health, education and other public services will take place.

Services and information

This year, Alberta Health Services will be negotiating collective agreements with nurses, support staff and other health care professionals.

This year, government and school board representatives will begin negotiating a new contract with the Alberta Teachers' Association.

Alberta’s post-secondaries will be negotiating collective agreements with unions and associations representing faculty and support staff.

This year, the Public Service Commission will be negotiating a new collective agreement with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

It is a misconception that Alberta’s cost of living is higher than other big provinces.

Government will protect a universally accessible, publicly funded health care system for today and tomorrow

Alberta’s new funding model will inspire change that benefits students and taxpayers

Despite weakening economic conditions, Alberta public sector workers are among the highest paid in Canada

Alberta has the funding and resources to provide the best health care in the country

The Public Service Commission respects and values the dedication of government workers. It must also ensure spending on wages is sustainable.

New economic reality

Over the past 15 years, public sector wages in Alberta have grown faster than other Canadian provinces. And over 5 years of weakened economic conditions (2014-2019), despite growing debt, the size of the Alberta public sector continued to grow. Over that same period, the provincial unemployment rate was higher than other big provinces, hitting a peak of 9.1% in November 2016.

Today, as we face a new economic reality, government must increase its focus on ensuring the long-term sustainability of the province's world-class health and education systems.

Interest on Alberta’s taxpayer debt, forecasted to rise to more than $2 billion, is greater than the total budgets for all but 4 government ministries and more than enough to cover all of Alberta’s continuing care expenses each year, including home care. It is up to all of us to ensure we do everything we can so fewer hard-earned taxpayer dollars go to banks and more is invested in the high quality health, education and other vital services we all need.

Interest on debt

Interest on debt graph (millions of dollars)

Per-capita spending

Per-capita spending graph
Source: Calgary School of Public Policy: Canadian Provincial Government Budget Data (Newly Updated to 2017/18)
and Statistics Canada. * Alberta is on a pre-SUCH consolidation basis.
**Adjusted where possible to ensure consistency in accounting standards through time.
*** Due to differences in accounting standards across regions, data is not strictly comparable.

Making public services sustainable will require common sense collective agreements that over time will help to bring Alberta’s spending in line with other provinces. This would permit government to sustain and improve the services Albertans need, while ensuring dedicated public sector workers continue to earn good, competitive wages.

What we spend

Excluding payments to physicians, Alberta’s spending on public sector compensation would be approximately $3 billion less every year if it matched the average spending of other big provinces. That’s enough to:

  • cover the cost of all scheduled surgeries including cataract, hip and knee replacements done in Alberta over 3 years, or
  • fund the entire operations of the four largest school boards in the province – the public and separate boards in both Calgary and Edmonton, which together serve 330,000 students

In 2018/19, Alberta spent $26.9 billion on public sector compensation. That represents 55% of the Alberta government’s operating budget and is the largest single expense in that budget.

  • $8.3 billion within Alberta Health Services
  • $5.2 billion on physician compensation and development
  • $6.3 billion by school boards
  • $3.5 billion by post-secondary institutions
  • $2.9 billion by Alberta government departments
  • $700 million by other government agencies, boards and commissions

Each one per cent increase in public sector compensation costs taxpayers an additional $270 million every year – enough to pay more than half of all of all expenses associated with ground and air ambulance services in the province each year.

Total compensation for all jobs (2018)

Public sector compensation (Statistics Canada Table)
Note: Total Compensation for all jobs includes Government educational services, Government health services and Provincial and territorial government services.
Source: Statistics Canada Table: 36-10-0480-01 and Table: 17-10-0005-01.

We're here to answer your questions

If you want to know why the government is taking a certain action, how that action is being taken, or have any other questions about our efforts to make spending sustainable, we want to hear from you.

All fields are required unless otherwise indicated.

This personal information is collected under the Freedom of Information of Privacy (FOIP) Act. Read more about information collection.

  • Aren't public sector workers due for a pay increase?

    Since 2000, Alberta’s public sector wage growth has far exceeded the rate of inflation.

    While zero per cent increases were negotiated in recent collective agreements with public sector unions, many unionized public sector workers still receive pay increases year-over-year through normal in-range pay progression as they accumulate years of service. Earlier this year, unionized government workers and some workers in certain health care occupations were awarded a one per cent increase to their wages.

    Read more

  • Should wages in Alberta be higher to match a higher cost of living?

    As the MacKinnon Panel report on Alberta’s Finances showed, it is a misconception that Alberta’s cost of living is higher than other big provinces.

    Read more


Collective bargaining: Minister Toews
Feb 6, 2020

Minister of Finance Travis Toews issued the following statement on collective bargaining negotiations between the Public Service Commission and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

Arbitration award: Minister Toews
Feb 5, 2020

President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Travis Toews issued the following statement about the arbitration decision involving the Health Sciences Association of Alberta.

Arbitration awards: Minister Toews
Jan 31, 2020

Finance Minister Travis Toews issued the following statement on three arbitration decisions involving the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).

Budget 2019 speech
Oct 24, 2019

Read the speech delivered by Finance Minister Travis Toews to introduce the provincial government's 2019 budget.

Report on Alberta’s finances: Minister Toews
Aug 15, 2019

President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Travis Toews issued the following statement to acknowledge the receipt of the report from the Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s finances.