The reviews became mixed on the Alberta Party’s convention after the Edmonton Journal’s Keith Gerien offered a critical, but well-founded, review of the policies brought forward for debate.  He was right; there was little to get excited about in the policies.   The Alberta Party supports stability in fiscal management.  The Alberta Party supports healthcare and health professionals.  The Alberta Party supports Albertans who require government services.  I get it; the best part of the policy debate was Emma Graney’s tweets.

Emma Graney, Edmonton Journal, @emmalgraney

One of the first posts I wrote was a 2500 word mammoth on Jason Kenney’s Unite Alberta speech in Calgary in January of 2017.   I don’t have a word limit to stick to and I wanted to reveal more about what was going on than the mainstream media has space for.

I’m going to do that again now because Gerein’s summary, while true, is missing a lot; as summaries often do.  The Alberta Party isn’t very controversial; they use evidence-based decision-making to build policies rather than unfounded fears.   It’s great for policy-making but doesn’t give you much to gab about at the water cooler.

I have received permission to post the rationales from the document.  While it might not be exciting enough to alienate three-quarters of the population, it’s worth a look if you’re thinking “what’s in it for me?”.

Policy Statement: An Alberta Party Government would provide stable financial management through a review of government expenditures and the implementation of a balanced and sustainable taxation model to maintain a consistent and reliable revenue stream for the public services Albertan need

Rationale:

• Alberta has consistently run deficits in the past 10 years; primarily as a result of reliance on unpredictable non-renewable resource revenue for a large portion of provincial revenue
• The existing government revenue, taxation and budgeting models in Alberta do not provide an adequate, reliable revenue stream to allow consistent and effective planning and budgeting for the effective delivery of services
• The Alberta government currently pays a 14% differential in the cost of labour in comparison to other Canadian provinces due to the effect of historically high wages in the oil and gas industry
• The Alberta Party believes in tackling tough issues facing Albertans by examining root causes and maintaining a long-term view of prosperity and sustainability;
• Alberta needs an efficient and balanced taxation plan that works towards reversing the current trend of increasing provincial debt, while still providing adequate funding for the level of public services Albertans need
• Alberta needs to maintain a positive investment climate by having a stable and sustainable fiscal framework for its government

Policy Statement: An Alberta Party Government would support the legislation of a renewed savings framework which would commit a portion of resource revenue into funds for revenue stabilization and long-term savings

Rationale:

• Alberta was a world leader in developing a sovereign wealth fund for long term savings of resource revenue in 1976 through the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund Act
• The government did not meet the savings requirements of this legislation when commodity prices fell and contributions to the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund stopped in 1987
• Alberta saw tremendous resource revenue flow into provincial coffers in the 2000s with high commodity prices. No substantial amounts were contributed to long term savings
• Sharp and unsustainable increases in provincial spending occurred with the influx of resource revenue in the 2000s, resulting in the inability of the government to run balanced budgets in 8 of the last 10 years;
• A fiscally responsible government should be able to run balanced budgets independent of the current market value of volatile commodities;
• Other jurisdictions have demonstrated proper usage of a sovereign wealth fund can reap tremendous benefits
• External factors over the long term may shift the world away from non-renewable fuel sources, there may be a finite time where these commodities have value

Policy Statement: An Alberta Party Government would:
Promote economic development policies based on efficient markets, the removal of barriers for both large and small businesses, collaboration with industry, and an entrepreneurial ecosystem reflective of Alberta’s strengths and natural assets.

Rationale:

• There is a need to provide public policy that removes barriers and attracts private enterprise to invest
• There is a need to capitalize on Alberta’s existing strengths, to grow new industries and technologies, capabilities and economies of scale, and create more high-value employment
• The Government of Alberta must facilitate a stable and favorable investment climate
• The Government of Alberta should to encourage synergies and partnerships with industry inside and outside of the province to promote responsible energy development
• There is a need to enable Albertans by providing the right education, infrastructure, and regulatory environment

Policy Statement : (tabled; sent back to committee for more information)

An Alberta Party Government would:
1) Phase in reductions to funding for private schools that selectively admit students and charge tuition for enrollment to 50% of the per student instructional cost typically given to public schools
2) Private schools which focus on special needs education would NOT see any decrease in their funding

Rationale:

• Albertans have expressed concerns about equitable access to educational resources
• The Alberta Party supports strong, equitable, quality public education through the responsible use of public funds
• Students who attend private schools are currently funded at 70% of the per student funding model
• Some private schools charge over $20,000 per year in tuition, while also raising over $20 million through fundraising every year
• Alberta, which is only one of five provinces that subsidizes private schools, provides the highest level of funding to private schools out of all the provinces (e.g. Quebec 60%, B.C. 50%, Manitoba, 50%)
• The Alberta Party would not cut any funding to schools focused on special needs education because the Alberta Party believes in improving the options and supports for students with special needs

Policy Statement: An Alberta Party Government would:
1) Improve quality and affordability of health care by partnering with physicians, healthcare providers, professional associations, and patients to raise awareness of evidence based best practices.
2) Ensure that patients receive tests, treatments, and procedures that are necessary and add value to their care.

Rationale:

• Quality health care services are important to all Albertans
• The health care system currently makes up over 39% of provincial government expenditures
• Health technologies and best practices change over time as new research findings become available
• A significant portion of medical tests, treatments, and procedures carried out may be unnecessary according to the best available research evidence
• Choosing Wisely Canada has engaged professional medical societies across Canada to review research evidence and identify unnecessary tests, procedures, and treatments
• Adoption of Choosing Wisely Canada recommendations and the elimination of unnecessary medical tests, treatments, and procedures have been shown to reduce costs while maintaining or improving health care outcomes
• There are often challenges with clinician and patient awareness and adoption of new research findings and best practices
• The Alberta Party believes in quality of life, quality services, and fiscal responsibility.

Policy Statement: An Alberta Party Government would:
1) Ensure stable and predictable operational funding to post-secondary institutions on a multi-year basis
2) Legislate a cap to limit tuition increases for both domestic and international students to Alberta’s CPI
3) Advocate that the Government of Canada increase the income threshold for recent graduates to begin repaying their student loans
4) Commit to providing ongoing funds for student mental health supports

Rationale:

• Our post-secondary institutions are key drivers of economic growth and of improving quality of life in Alberta.
• An educated workforce is key to maintaining Alberta’s economic advantage
• Students have expressed concerns over the uncertainty governing potential future increases to tuition and fees, once the tuition freeze expires
• The Government of Alberta should provide stable and sustainable funding to post-secondary institutions, so that students and institutions alike can plan ahead
• Year-to-year costs of education should be predictable so that students and their families can successfully plan for their futures
• Recent graduates face substantially higher rates of unemployment and
underemployment than the average Canadian, making it a challenge to repay their student loans
• The increasing cost of living is making it more difficult for new graduates to start repayment of their student loans
• Most individuals who experience mental illness will begin experiencing symptoms between the ages of 18-34, which makes accessibility to mental health services within post-secondary institutions crucial
• Addressing mental health issues at a young age greatly reduces their future impacts and equips young adults with skills and knowledge that will benefit our society
• The Alberta Party holds Social Responsibility, Prosperity, and Quality of Life among its core principles

Policy Statement: An Alberta Party Government would enact a provincial poverty and homelessness elimination strategy, which would seek to address the root causes of poverty

Rationale:

• Poverty arises when an individual or family lacks some or all of the necessities of life whether that be adequate housing, food, physical or mental healthcare, employment, transportation, protection from violence, and a voice in their community
• The data published in the 2016 Canada Without Poverty report, indicate that poverty has increased across the country and specifically in the province of Alberta, which has consistently had the highest per capita GDP relative to all the other provinces. The report states that 7 to 9.5% of Albertans live in poverty, up from 6.1% in 2007
• Adjusting for inflation, the current annual cost for just maintaining poverty is estimated to be between $7.5 and $10 billion.
• Past government initiatives have failed to identify and eliminate the root causes of poverty
• There is a recognized need for the continuity of a full provincial strategy to reduce, prevent, and eliminate poverty and homelessness;
• There is a need to entrench, in law, clearly and unequivocally, that it is the Alberta Government’s responsibility to ensure the human right to dignity and a decent life for all who reside in Alberta
• Social Responsibility is one of the Alberta Party’s core principles

Policy Statement: An Alberta Party Government would:
1) Conduct a thorough review of existing poverty reduction programs and produce a comprehensive plan to support Alberta’s working poor.
2) Introduce an income top-up program that will provide the working poor with targeted benefits while maintaining the incentive to work.

Rationale:

• Low wages and a lack of hours mean some working Albertans live below the poverty line, a group commonly referred to as the ‘working poor’
• The number of working poor in Alberta is likely to worsen as technological innovation disrupts labour markets and reduces the number of middle-income jobs
• Current Albertan programs to benefit low-income workers (such as the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit and the Alberta Child Benefit) exclude Albertans without children
• The Alberta Party would consider all possibilities to ensure that no working Albertan family lives in poverty
• The Alberta Party strives to help Alberta’s working poor in a targeted and efficient manner while maintaining the incentive to work
• Albertans who are employed gain non-financial benefits such as improved self-esteem, social connections and the development of life skills
• Research has shown that income top-ups can lead to significant increases in
employment while also providing targeted benefits to low-income workers

Policy Statement: An Alberta Party Government would:
1) Support seniors in Alberta by ensuring there are appropriate numbers of care facilities, including sufficient public facilities.
2) Implement a comprehensive dementia strategy to ensure that patients with dementia and their families and caregivers across Alberta have access to a range of services appropriate for their needs.

Rationale:

• The number of Seniors in Alberta has increased by 42.8% from 2009 to 2017, and is estimated to reach 1 million by 2035
• Seniors often wait in acute care hospital beds with many being placed in assisted living beds with inadequate care. Neither scenario leads to positive health or well-being outcomes for seniors
• The cost of a long-term care bed is $89/day, while the excess costs to the healthcare system per senior waiting in an acute care bed is up to $1,000 per day.
• Albertans of all ages have a right to cost effective, sustainable health care to enhance personal quality of life
• The number of dementia patients in Canada is expected to double in the next 15 years
• One in ten Albertans over the age of 65 and nearly half over the age of 90 will be living with dementia
• Many patients with dementia and their families would prefer to stay in their homes and receive care in the community
• The current resources available are not meeting the patient or care provider needs in the community necessitating an acute care (hospital) bed as the only option available
• Many acute care beds are consistently occupied by patients (including those with dementia) who are waiting placement in supportive living or facility living facilities. This has a negative impact on these patients as well as on other patients who are not able to access these acute care beds
• Care for patients with dementia and supports for their families and caregivers should be effective and sustainable, and promote quality of life, independence, and dignity

Policy Statement: An Alberta Party Government would empower Alberta Health Services and emergency departments to ensure that ambulance paramedics would not be required to wait with patients for longer than 30 minutes.

Rationale:

• In 2009, all responsibility for ground ambulance services was transferred to Alberta Health Services (AHS);
• AHS, and by extension the government, assumed the responsibility to ensure that EMS services would be provided to the province
• The primary field of expertise of an ambulance paramedic and their training are focused on providing emergency medical care in a non-clinical setting
• The current adopted policy of hospitals utilizing ambulance paramedics to provide care for patients while awaiting placement in an emergency department is a significant cause of resource depletion leading to situations known as “3 car alerts” or “Code Reds/Red Alerts” in major municipalities
• Code Reds and Red Alerts represent a situation where there are no Emergency Ambulances available to respond to the people of Alberta
• Ambulance paramedics often need to wait in the emergency department with their patients for over 1 hour.
• There are healthcare practitioners employed in emergency departments who could provide the same level of care as ambulance paramedics and are more suited to doing so in a clinical environment

Policy Statement: An Alberta Party Government would:
1) Support regional collaboration between urban municipalities and rural areas
2) Consult with municipalities to explore opportunities to improve the Municipal Government Act of Alberta and affiliated regulations to ensure future municipal and regional economic sustainability for all Albertans

Rationale:

• Alberta is made up of cities, towns, villages, hamlets, summer villages, municipal districts and specialized municipalities, all of which are considered municipalities under the Municipal Government Act (MGA)
• Regional economic sustainability can help ensure that all municipalities and rural areas across the province thrive
• Collaboration between municipalities, both urban and rural, within a region is a critical part of the economic sustainability of each respective region of the province
• Municipalities provide services within their boundaries to outlying areas of the province, yet in some cases not all within the respective region contribute to the cost of providing these services;
• The cost of regional services should be shared by municipalities and outlying areas to ensure greater efficiency

Policy Statement: An Alberta Party Government would:
1) Renew the Water for Life Strategy with a focus on the impacts of Climate Change on Alberta’s water supply.
2) Assess the risks posed by climate change on areas that are at risk of drought or flooding.
3) Create a needs-based plan for expanding, improving, and maintaining irrigation infrastructure in a manner that balances the needs of all Albertans.

Rationale:

• Water is essential for all Albertans and to future economic development
• Alberta’s Water for Life Strategy was introduced in 2003 and needs renewal
• Alberta’s Water for Life Strategy does not address impacts of Climate Change
• Climate Change is expected to result in higher variability in Alberta’s climate including prolonged drought and wet periods
• will have adverse social, environmental and economic impacts
• The current Water for Life Strategy says very little about water management and the impacts of industrial development in northern Alberta and the Boreal Forest
• The Government of Alberta estimates that 13% of the regional gross domestic product, 19% of regional production, and 30% of regional employment opportunities in southern Alberta are directly or indirectly associated with irrigated agriculture
• The export of food and the export of Alberta’s scientific and technological expertise in irrigation are important to Alberta’s economy
• Climate scientists forecast that climate change will increase the average mean temperature in Alberta by 1 to 4 degree Celsius or higher, agricultural land will need more water to sustain current production levels
• The amount of irrigated land could be increased without an increase in water allocations, partly through the use of technologies and farm management practices that improve efficiencies within the current system.

Policy Statement: An Alberta Party Government would:
1) Invest in accessible, high quality, cost-effective child-care spaces that address early childhood education needs.
2) Provide funding on an income-tested basis to improve access to childcare.
3) Assess the increasing need for before and after school care and invest in improving access.

Rationale:

• Scientific evidence indicates that early childhood is a critical stage for brain development and function
• The percentage of Canadian children under age 5, with access to early childhood education is significantly below average, ranking 30 out of 38 OECD countries
• There is a need to address significant inequalities in opportunity, beginning in the earliest years of life
• Investing in children is critical to our province’s social and economic future
• Child care in Alberta can cost between $950 and $1200 per month, and waits for childcare can take years
• Locating daycare, and before and after school care, in strategic places can eliminate the excessive cost to taxpayers and parents for bussing
• The Alberta Party believes in social responsibility and in investing in the future prosperity of all Albertans.
• The Alberta Party believes in targeting funding supports to those who most need it

Policy Statement: (Not Passed) An Alberta Party Government would:
1) Organize a citizen’s assembly to propose alternatives to the first-past-the-post system by which Albertans currently select their MLAs.
2) The citizen’s assembly will propose an alternative electoral system with the goal of increasing voter participation and more fairly representing the electoral preferences of Albertans.
3) The assembly will consist of Albertans, will be diverse and representative of Alberta, will solicit expert advice, and will be free from partisan interference.
4) Based on the recommendations of the citizen’s assembly, an Alberta Party government would hold a referendum to allow Albertans to decide whether they want to maintain the current electoral system or change it to an alternative system.

Rationale:

• Compared to majoritarian jurisdictions (such as Alberta), jurisdictions using proportional electoral systems:
− Have voter turnout that is higher by an average of 7.5%
− Have a higher youth voter turnout by up to 12%
− Have government policies that more closely reflect the median voter
− Tend to have a higher share of women elected to office
− Have citizens that are more satisfied with their democracy, even when their
preferred party does not win
− Have greater diversity of parties and viewpoints in their assembly
− Score higher on various measures of civil liberty and political participation
• The Alberta Party holds Democracy as one of its core principles.
• Albertans should have the final word on any potential changes to their electoral system.

Policy Statement: An Alberta Party Government would:
1) Provide Legal Aid Alberta with a stable and predictable base of funding at a level that is, at minimum, in line with the national average.
2) Work with the Government of Canada to create and fill more judicial positions at the Court of Queen’s Bench.
3) Assess Alberta’s courtroom infrastructure and staffing levels to identify specific areas of need and take decisive action to remedy them.

Rationale:

• The right to a fair and timely trial is fundamental in a free and democratic society.
• Social responsibility and democracy are named principles of the Alberta Party.
• Legal Aid Alberta is essential for providing legal assistance to Albertans and discounted
representation to those who could not otherwise afford it.
• Legal Aid Alberta receives less than the national average in provincial funding.
• A lack of access to justice resources slows down our court processes.
• Alberta is Canada’s most judicially starved province with only one Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench per 65,500 people compared to a national average of one Superior Court Judge per 41,500 people.

Policy Statement: An Alberta Party Government would:
1) Support a comprehensive transportation, social, and electronic infrastructure plan which satisfies the needs of Albertans.
2) Use a wide range of funding methodologies.
3) Prioritize and execute projects in an open, consultative, and transparent manner

Rationale:

• Infrastructure in Alberta, including: roads, schools, and hospitals, has seen
underinvestment in recent years
• Significant investment in Alberta road infrastructure will be required to maintain, improve, and expand the existing road network
• Alberta school boards have expressed serious concerns about their ability to provide and maintain adequate
• Alberta hospitals and medical facilities have been underfunded, resulting in worse health outcomes for Albertans
• Capital projects should be prioritized based on the overall benefit the bring to Alberta’s communities and residents, considering both the capital and ongoing costs
• The Alberta Party believes that strong transportation and social/high speed internet infrastructure are a requirement for creating a high quality of life for Albertans, as well as promoting economic growth
• Infrastructure helps strengthen public connectivity while reinvesting in regional craftsmanship and entrepreneurship
• A variety of funding models can be effective in delivering and maintaining high quality capital projects

Policy Statement: An Alberta Party government would:
1) Support and encourage the development of micro-generation in the province
2) Undertake a review of existing micro-generation legislation with the goal of simplifying the application and permitting process
3) Create a fiscal environment to promote a Smart Grid by encouraging grid modernization, security, and reliability
4) Would conduct full and detailed stakeholder engagements to ensure Smart Grid policy is acceptable to Albertans and meets the residential and industrial requirements of the province

Rationale:

• Reducing the carbon intensity of Alberta’s electricity grid is both demanded and desirable, and should be encouraged in a fiscally responsible manner.
• Micro scale renewable generation costs have fallen dramatically in recent years due to technological improvements in solar and other renewable sources.
• Enabling Albertans to choose how they power their homes and businesses contributes to a more robust and competitive energy landscape.
• In 2017, Alberta is estimated to have lost 3% of electricity to transmission, costing consumers $50 million in poor efficiency.
• Microgeneration uses existing distribution infrastructure and can result in a more efficient and cost-efficient grid by reducing system transmission losses
• The current process to develop and construct micro-generation is complex and additional simplification can further increase innovation and adoption rates.
• A Smart Grid would increase the use of digital information and controls technology to improve reliability, security, and efficiency of the electric grid. This can include smart metering, software, customer apps, grid batteries and storage, electrical generators, transmission line monitoring, data analysis, etc.
• Alberta has an aging and mature electrical transmission and distribution grid.
• Citizens and industries of Alberta require a safe, secure, reliable, and environmentally responsible electrical infrastructure.
• A more efficient, reliable, and flexible electrical grid will provide substantial economic and environmental benefits for Alberta. For example, Smart Grid implementation has allowed Spain to increase their GDP by 0.3% and reduce CO2 emissions by 3.7%.

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean

Content Director

contact: dmaclean@countersign.ca  Social media: @thisweekinAB

Sources:

Keith Gerein: Alberta Party convention offers little to get excited about

Alberta Party Policy Resolutions

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