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Statement from NDP Leader Brian Mason on Labour Day


Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason has released the following statement to commemorate Labour Day:
 
“On behalf of Alberta New Democrats, we would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the strides workers’ have made in our province when it comes to labour rights.
 
“Despite the enormous strides workers have made in the past, the Alberta government continues to have the worst labour laws in Canada.
 
“We still butt up against the barriers the PC government has created, whether it’s the unconstitutional anti-strike legislation of Bills 45 and 46, or the attack on pension security of provincial employees in Bills 9 and 10.
 
“When fall session resumes October 27, Alberta’s New Democrats will continue our fight in the Legislature defend workers’ rights, as well as push for better protection for farm workers, a higher minimum wage, and work with our federal counterparts to dissolve the Temporary Foreign Worker program and establish better immigration practices.”

Statement from NDP Aboriginal Relations Critic Deron Bilous on Aboriginal Consultation Levy Act


Alberta NDP Aboriginal Relations Critic Deron Bilous has released the following statement about the PCs' failed Aboriginal consultation policy:
 
“Alberta’s New Democrats continue to support Treaty 8 and all of Alberta’s Indigenous peoples in voicing their concerns about this government’s approach to consultation.
 
“We fought hard against the Aboriginal Consultation Levy Act when it was introduced in the Assembly and we have continued to call for the PCs to abandon it and start over. No Indigenous input was included in the Act. The PCs clearly can't be trusted to create a consultation policy that respects the voices, the constitutional rights and the wellbeing of Indigenous peoples.
 
“Again, we call for the PC government to respect Alberta’s Indigenous peoples by engaging in real, meaningful discussions on a consultation policy that works for everyone.
 
"As New Democrats, we will continue to stand strong with Indigenous communities."

NDP calls on the PCs to eliminate mandatory public school fees


EDMONTON – Alberta’s New Democrats are calling on the PC government to put an end to mandatory school fees in Alberta public schools.
 
As students get ready to head back to class next week, Alberta families are paying more up-front in mandatory school fees than ever before, paying tens of millions of dollars to cover shortfalls left by PC government underfunding.
 
“In the absence of stable funding for Alberta public schools, the government continues to pass its financial responsibility onto Alberta families and that is not fair,” said NDP Education critic, Deron Bilous.
 
For example:
 
Fees for students entering grade 5 at a Calgary Public School add up to $650.
 
Fees for a Grade 12 student, attending convocation at an Edmonton Public School will cost an estimated $883.


 
Though fee waivers are available, the option is available only to a very small portion of the population.
 
“The fees, mandatory school supplies and busing just keep adding up. Public education has become an unfair expense for Alberta families. How many kids will be missing out on field trips, sports or elective courses because their families can’t afford to spend any more money?” said Bilous.
 
The New Democrats continue to call for the prohibition of mandatory school fees. Continuous predictable funding will give public education the stable injection that is needed to reduce class sizes, build new schools, and ensure a well rounded education for Alberta’s youth.
 
“The PCs have broken another promise to Albertans. Instead of providing adequate and stable funding for education we’re seeing damaging cuts to services and inflated fees,” said Bilous.
 

Statement from NDP health critic David Eggen on centralized ambulance dispatch in Calgary


EDMONTON – New Democrat health critic David Eggen released the following statement on the PCs’ plan to centralize ambulance dispatch in the city of Calgary:
 
“Since it was first announced, the PCs’ plan to centralize ambulance dispatch has been controversial with both Albertans and their municipal leaders.
 
“The New Democrats have been critical of this plan from the start. We’ve heard from those on the front lines that these changes could add minutes to emergency response times.
 
“Calgary’s mayor, Naheed Nenshi, has publicly rejected the centralized dispatch system. EMS workers and public safety communications experts have asked Minister Horne to halt the decentralization, and yet it is still planned to be implemented in Calgary in 2015.
 
“It’s clear that Alberta Health Services is not listening to Albertans, and that the PCs do not respect the opinions of municipal leaders.
 
“It’s time to halt the centralized dispatch project and develop a plan that works for and with Alberta municipalities.
 
“Albertans deserve a system that makes quality patient care a priority.”

Statement from NDP Leader Brian Mason on anniversary of Jack Layton’s death


 EDMONTON – New Democrat Leader Brian Mason released the following statement on the three-year anniversary of Jack Layton’s death:
 
“It’s hard to believe it has been 3 years since our nation lost a courageous and dedicated leader in Jack Layton.
 
“Jack Layton was a man who inspired Canadians with his authenticity and his energy. He worked tirelessly to enhance the lives of families, regardless of their political outlook.
 
“Today, three years after his passing, Canadians are fondly remembering Jack as a man who strengthened our hope for a better Canada.
 
“The Alberta New Democrats continue to fight for Jack’s vision. We continue to push for the just, open and equitable society that he spent his career fighting for.
 
“As I reflect on Jack’s contributions and ideals today, I’m drawn to a quote from his final letter, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Mason calls on PCs to clarify position on post-secondary tuition freeze


 EDMONTON - In response to the news that the PC government is accepting submissions from Alberta universities who wish to increase their tuition fees again, New Democrat Leader Brian Mason called on the PCs to explain their plans for tuition.

“After the PCs promised to freeze tuition last spring, and after they promised that the “market-modifier” tuition hike of 2010 would be a one-time thing, Albertans are learning, yet again, that this PC government can't be trusted to keep their promises.
 
The government sent a letter to institutions, asking them to submit their proposals for market modifiers no later than October 15, 2014. The decision to accept proposals for increases was made without consultation with Albertans and there has been no public discussion about how tuition hikes could impact Alberta students who want to continue their education.
 
 “By refusing to live up to their promises of stable funding increases for post secondary education, this government is yet again placing a burden on the shoulders of Alberta families. This is an entitled government that believes it can do whatever it wants without being held accountable for its decisions.

"Today, I'm calling on the PCs to explain their plans for tuition. They announced a freeze last year, and this year they're asking for proposals to increase tuition. Alberta families deserve to know what this PC government has planned."

NDP calls for immediate halt to Michener Centre closure in the wake of transferred patients’ deaths

Deaths prompt renewed calls for PCs to review decision


EDMONTON – Following reports that several former Michener Centre residents have died, Alberta's New Democrats renewed their call for the PC government to halt the closure of the facility.
 
“We're hearing disturbing reports that appear to confirm what many of the families of the residents predicted: that a move like this would put these vulnerable Albertans at risk,” said NDP Health Critic David Eggen.
 
“This PC government is well aware of the immense strain that a move like this could put on a long-time resident of Michener, and yet they continue to push the Michener Transition Team to clear the facility out by the end of the year.”
 
Since the process to shut down the facility began last year, forty-one people -- many who are severely disabled or have high medical needs -- have been transferred to new facilities and, according to information obtained by the New Democrats, five of those people have died.
 
“Closing Michener is not in the best interest of the people who have lived there for decades and who call it their home," said Lee Kvern, whose sister remains at Michener Centre. "By failing to halt the closure and review a decision that is endangering these vulnerable residents, the PCs are continuing to fail the families and the residents."
 
All three PC Leadership candidates have expressed concern over the closure.
 
“If this process is just going to be stopped in three weeks, why don't we hit the pause button now? The PCs need to start putting Albertans first, and halt this hasty closure, pending a review of the impacts of the moves on the remaining residents of Michener," said Eggen.

Alberta's New Democrats have provided names and details to the ministry to aid in an investigation of the closure and the causes of these deaths.

Internal branding report shows AHS a political smokescreen

Alberta New Democrats call for PCs to abolish AHS


EDMONTON – Alberta’s New Democrats released an internal Alberta Health Services report on image and branding this morning. The report was ordered by the fired board of Alberta Health Services, and discusses the need for the board to separate the AHS brand from that of the PCs' to avoid political scandal.

Previously released FOIP documents, show that AHS spent more than $25,000 on the completed portion of an Image and Reputation Strategy. When Health Minister Fred Horne fired the board last summer, the report was scrapped.

"This report shows that AHS only exists to shield the government from the problems that Alberta families have all the time in the health care system," NDP Health Critic, David Eggen said. "And with the PCs working to bring the board back this fall under Jim Prentice, Albertans deserve answers about this waste of our money and the government's continued unwillingness to take responsibility for health care in this province."
  
The report, prepared in June 2013, points to a more effective opposition as part of the reason the public feels AHS isn’t doing its job. It goes on to call for more separation between AHS and the PC government.
 
The report also points to the media and blames outlets for giving “undue prominence to political differences” and “provoking protagonists to encourage a one day story into a four-day running sore.”

“The real question is why AHS needs a reputation strategy in the first place? The problem isn’t the media or the opposition. It's the fact that Albertans know that they deserve better than crumbling hospitals, no access to a family doctor and long wait-times to receive services. But, once again, this PC government and their insider appointees would rather spend money to twist public perception than to invest time and resources into solving the real problems in health care."
 
Alberta’s New Democrats continue to call for the PC government to abolish AHS to restore political accountability for the quality of the health care Albertans receive.

 

REALITY CHECK: Jim Prentice and the company he keeps


Jim Prentice has promised integrity and honesty as a cornerstone of his campaign, but his latest endorsement from former cabinet minister and lobbyist Jay Hill is raising eyebrows about whether Prentice can follow through with his vision of Alberta.                                        

In a letter to Prentice supporters, Hill commends Prentice for constantly performing his work with the “utmost honesty and trustworthiness,” but Hill’s own record raises questions.
 
Let’s begin by pointing out that Hill contravened the Conflict of Interest Act, after making calls to ministers regarding a 2011 oil industry deal. The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner said Hill used his former position to “facilitate access” to the ministers on behalf of his spouse and her employer. The Commissioner found that Hill’s conduct was “inappropriate and fell short of the standard of ethical conduct that could reasonably be expected of him.”
 
Hill is a registered lobbyist in British Columbia and up until three weeks ago, he was a registered lobbyist in Alberta. He deregistered in Alberta, half-way through the campaign he is co-chairing and weeks before sending out a letter highlighting a need for government integrity.
 
Prentice’s alignment with Jay Hill stands in obvious contrast to the candidate’s promise to “restore public trust in government by improving accountability and governance, and by putting an end to entitlement”
  
Mr. Hill isn't just a lobbyist. He's a lobbyist who hasn’t always followed the rules.
 
In his letter of support for Jim Prentice, he calls the PC leadership candidate his friend.
 
As the old saying goes, “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.”
 
We can learn a lot about Jim Prentice by the company he keeps.
 
To view the email, click here
 

NDP calls for the PCs to take meaningful action to enforce emission limits in the oil sands


EDMONTON – Alberta’s New Democrats are calling for the government to start strictly enforcing reasonable limits on new and existing industrial projects in the oil sands.

“We have meaningful data now and we need to use that data to act swiftly and proactively to control emissions, especially as we’re seeing this unprecedented rate of development in Alberta,” said NDP Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Critic, Rachel Notley.
 
The air quality report released today under the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan shows that, in 2012, levels of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide rose to levels 2 and 3 on a scale of 4, at a number of monitored sites, in the oil sands region.
 
Level 4 is the legal limit for pollution levels. Levels 2 and 3 are warning levels and require the government to take action.
 
Instead of acting on those warnings, the PCs will begin with another assessment to determine the appropriate next steps.  
 
“A plan to monitor that simply generates more monitoring is ineffective and serves only as a smokescreen,” said Notley. “Emission rules are in place so that air pollution never reaches a level 4. This government needs to heed the level 2 and 3 warnings and take appropriate action now.”
 
Data from 2013 isn’t expected to be released until December, at which point it’s possible projects could be exceeding a Level 4 on the air pollution scale.
 
“For years now, the government has put on a big show about how developing these regional plans will strengthen our cumulative effects monitoring and enforcement. Now, when faced with data, they take no real action. It calls into question whether this PC government will ever stand up to protect clean air and water for Albertans,” said Notley.
 
Alberta’s New Democrats are calling for the PCs to take immediate action by strictly enforcing the limits that have been set out.

NDP calls for PCs to sell the government fleet to fund a public inquiry


EDMONTON – Alberta’s New Democrats are calling on the PC government to sell its private air fleet and put the money towards funding a public inquiry.
 
“It’s time to get rid of those planes and put the money toward an open and impartial process that will provide transparency and peace of mind to Albertans,” NDP MLA Deron Bilous said today.
 
Alberta’s queue jumping inquiry cost seven million dollars. The PCs selling the fleet would generate an estimated $10 million from the sale and save $3.9 million a year in travel costs.


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“It seems like a no-brainer. Get rid of the temptation for this entitled PC government to continue to misuse government assets, and use the money to find out how deep this secrecy runs, and who is perpetuating it,” said Bilous.
 
The AG report raised questions about the abuse of government assets by other Tory MLAs. It also raises eyebrows about Doug Horner. The Auditor General points to the Finance Minister, as the man who was to be overseeing the use of the planes saying but Minister Horner says it wasn’t his job to know anything nothing about it.
 
 “Albertans have questions about how these planes were used and they deserve the answers to those questions. It is ludicrous that the PCs are refusing to call for a public inquiry on the issue, said Bilous
 
“When children choose not to follow rules, they have their privileges taken away. That principle applies here, government officials have blatantly broken the rules regarding the fleet and Albertans can no longer trust the PCs to follow the rules, so it’s time to get rid of the planes, “said Bilous.

Horner’s letter to PC caucus reinforces NDP call for public inquiry


EDMONTON – Doug Horner’s email to Alberta’s PC caucus reinforces the NDP’s call for a public inquiry, NDP MLA Deron Bilous said today.
 
“Horner says it’s entirely the fault of the individual ministers’ offices if the planes were misused, so let’s find out who misused them and when,” said Bilous.
“This investigation shouldn’t end with Redford. This issue of entitlement runs through the entire PC party.”
 
The Auditor General's report was limited to the conduct of the premier’s office but it uncovered examples of misuse on the part of several other ministers and caucus members.
 
 “Albertans deserve the full story about the PC caucus’ misuse of public resources and that can only happen through a public inquiry,” said Bilous
 
Alberta’s Treasury Board President and Minister of Finance sent a letter to his colleagues over the weekend, defending his reputation, and dismissing calls for his resignation.
 
Horner says his office is only responsible for the maintenance of the fleet. It is up to authorized users to follow the policy.
“Sections 7 and 8 clearly note that the accountability for use, destination, who flies, changes to the manifest etc. all lie with the requestor of the flight.”
 
“If it is up to individual ministers to ensure protocol and policy is followed, then it seems obvious that we need to expand the scope of this investigation into those ministers’ use of the planes as well,” said Bilous.
“Minister Horner is wiping his hands of the issue and passing the buck. No one in the PC caucus is willing to look into this issue any further. It’s time to call in an independent body.”
 
Alberta’s NDP was the first opposition party to call for a public inquiry.
 
“We haven’t been getting straight answers from anyone,” said Bilous.
“The NDP want to see those involved, compelled to answer questions about abuse of public assets, under oath.”
 
The NDP continue to call for an independent investigation into the misuse of government aircraft by cabinet ministers and senior staff.
 
“This game of trying to scapegoat only one person has gone on long enough.  It’s time to expose this PC government and Albertans can judge for themselves how deeply the 43 year old sense of entitlement runs through the whole gang,” said Bilous.

NDP challenges Tory leadership candidates to commit to public inquiry


EDMONTON – Alberta’s NDP is challenging all three PC leadership candidates to commit to a full public inquiry and the results need to be made public before the next election.
 
“All three PC candidates have publicly committed to openness, transparency and respect for public dollars. Now it’s time for them to put their money where their mouths are,” Bilous said.
“The only way we will get to the bottom of this issue and find out who was involved is if we allow an independent body to go through the information and come to an impartial conclusion.”
 
The Auditor General’s report, released yesterday raises more questions than it answers. It shines light on abuse of government assets by a number of Tory MLAs, including nine who were used a government plane to get to or from a PC Leadership dinner.
 
Those MLAs are: former Premier Alison Redford, Wayne Drysdale, Fred Horne, Everett McDonald, Wayne Cao, Christine Cusanelli, Cal Dallas, Ken Hughes and Donna Kennedy-Glans.
 
The report has found the flight was chartered specifically for partisan purposes, not government business. The PC party has seemingly conceded, vowing the repay the cost of that flight.
 
“This is not just about Redford, and it’s not just about Horner. It’s the entire PC government,” said Bilous.
"The entitlement rot goes right to the core of this PC government. Instead of putting Albertans first, this government- its cabinet, its party and its caucus- puts themselves and their friends and insiders first. This behaviour is completely unacceptable for elected officials.”
 
Alberta’s NDP continues to call for a public inquiry.
 
 “Albertans want an explanation. They want to know how their money is being spent. Any cost related to an inquiry is worth those answers,” said Bilous.
 
 

Alberta’s NDP call for a public inquiry into the Auditor General’s findings


EDMONTON –Alberta’s NDP opposition is calling for a public inquiry into the misuse of government aircraft by cabinet ministers and senior staff.
 
“We found three examples where only partisan business occurred and we could not identify any government business from Premier Redford’s schedule that occurred at those locations,” said the Auditor General in his report released today.
 
“The Auditor General found that a flight to Grand Prairie carrying nine MLAs - including members of cabinet - was used explicitly for non-government business, specifically, Progressive Conservative party business” said NDP MLA Deron Bilous.
 

The Alberta Government flight manifest from October 25, 2012. by Alberta NDP


 
When confronted with questions about the PC Party Fundraiser during the Grande Prairie trip, then Ministers Hancock, Horner, Horne and Denis said again that this trip was government business. Now the Auditor General has confirmed that no government business was conducted on that trip.  On the face of it, these cabinet ministers lied to the House, and the NDP Opposition will bring this issue to the Speaker for disciplinary investigation when the house resumes.
 
“This is proof that Redford did not act alone. All cabinet ministers are implicated and there is a unified effort to cover it up,” said Bilous.
 
“This further justifies a full public inquiry into this issue.”
 
The Auditor General also reports that staff in the then-Premier’s office as well as staff from the Department of Treasury and Finance knew about this practice and did nothing.
 
The report found that Alison Redford’s desire to take her daughter on out-of-province trips may have influenced her decision to fly privately. There were instances where commercial options were never even considered, where government planes flew back to Alberta empty, and instances where there was no effort made to co-ordinate travel with other government officials and reduce cost.
 
“This is typical Tory behavior and it’s time it ended. The PCs have become so comfortable spending public dollars on themselves that they’re not even covering their tracks anymore,” said Bilous
 
Alberta’s New Democrats agree with the Auditor General’s report that checks and balances are needed in the future. The NDP are calling for a public inquiry into this issue that would get to the bottom of the PCs complicity in Redford’s actions. 

NDP call on PCs to cap the number of children allowed in foster homes



 
EDMONTON – Today, NDP Human Services critic, Rachel Notley, called on the PC government to put limits on the number of children who can be placed with one foster family after a Children’s Advocate investigation described loopholes the government is using to approve foster homes that have up to nine children in the home.
 
“In 2008 the government’s own internal review recommended that a limit be imposed on the number of children who can be in a foster home,” Notley said. “That same year, the PCs promised they would implement the measure.  Now we are hearing about yet another broken promise to vulnerable Albertans.”
 
According to the Advocate’s report, the government’s policy limiting the number of children in a foster home excludes birth children and children in respite care so they are not counted toward the total. The Advocate therefore did not review this issue any further and made no recommendations as to limits or capacity of foster homes.
 
“Children who are receiving respite care require at least as much care as any other child; sometimes they may be even more vulnerable with greater needs than usual and I am extremely troubled that the government would have a policy that effectively endorses less care for these kids,” Notley said.
 
Notley has repeatedly raised concerns about overcrowded foster homes dating back to two separate incidents in 2007 and 2008. In June 2008, the government said it would implement the recommendations from an internal review of the system, including setting limits on the number of children allowed per foster home.
 
“Despite these promises, the PCs are still putting vulnerable children at risk by carving out exceptions to the principle that every child deserves to be placed in a home with the capacity to give them adequate care and attention,” Notley said.

Nominations close for Leadership 2014; New Democrats continue proactive financial disclosure


EDMONTON - Nominations for the leadership of the Alberta New Democrats closed yesterday, with three candidates officially in the race: David Eggen, Rod Loyola and Rachel Notley.

"This is an extremely exciting time for the Alberta New Democrats," said Provincial Secretary Brian Stokes. "People across this province are engaged and excited to see a vibrant, real alternative to conservative entitlement."

The New Democrats also released information about the leadership candidates' fundraising up to the end of July, as part of a commitment to proactive financial disclosure and transparency. The disclosure statement is available here.

NDP MLA Deron Bilous on Alison Redford’s resignation


EDMONTON – New Democrat MLA Deron Bilous released the following statement on the resignation of former Premier Alison Redford:

"I'd like to begin by thanking Ms. Redford for her service and acknowledging her work as Premier and as MLA. On behalf of the Alberta New Democrats, I want to extend our best wishes to Ms. Redford in her next steps. 

“However, with today's announcement, it's clear that the PCs hope that Ms. Redford can serve as the scapegoat for the mess made by this entitled 43 year-old government.
 
“It's obvious that the PCs hope this resignation will distract Albertans from the extremely serious issues raised by the Auditor General about abuse of government aircraft and expense policies. Albertans know that Ms. Redford did not act alone in her abuse of government planes and resources and that the issues of entitlement and disrespect for public dollars will not change when she is no longer an MLA.
 
“And today we see, yet again that this PC government only responds to public shock and outrage, instead of governing in the best interest of Albertans to begin with. A new leader won't solve these problems -- they run throughout this entire cabinet, caucus, and party.
 
“Alison Redford’s resignation is not the last chapter of this government’s entitlement story. Albertans know that and it's up to Albertans to change it."

NDP leads charge for a new hospital in Southwest Edmonton


alberta misericordia hospital ndp new democrat petition new mis now
EDMONTON – Southwest Edmonton needs a new hospital says Alberta’s New Democrat Opposition and the province’s health care practitioners.
 
In a public campaign launched today, Alberta’s New Democrats are calling for an immediate commitment from the Progressive Conservative government to build a new hospital in Southwest Edmonton to replace the aging Misericordia Hospital.
 
At a press conference on Wednesday, New Democrat Health critic David Eggen was joined by representatives of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the United Nurses of Alberta, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta and the Alberta Federation of Labour in their call for a new hospital.
 
“The PCs diversion tactics and band-aid solutions to dealing with infrastructure problems have gone on long enough,” NDP Health critic, David Eggen said. “The Misericordia is beyond reasonable repair. It’s time the government listened to Albertans and committed to a new hospital.”
 
For years the PC government has ignored requests for critical infrastructure funding from Convenant Health. The cost for repair to the facility continues to rise.
 
“When you have staff in tears over the working conditions in a hospital, it’s clear that the Misericordia is no longer a safe working environment for staff, let alone as an environment that promotes healing for patients,” Canadian Union of Public Employees-Alberta President Marle Roberts said.
 
“Covenant Health and the staff at the Misericordia hospital work very hard to maintain the absolute best conditions for patients. It’s time that something was done to get a new hospital in southwest Edmonton,” United Nurses of Alberta second Vice-President Daphne Wallace said.

The Misericordia is not only in poor repair, it’s bursting at the seams.

From January 2013 to February 2014, Overcapacity protocol in the Misericordia was triggered 576 times.
 
“This city is growing, and our staff is seeing a huge increase in patient numbers without an increase in capacity. Edmonton needs a new hospital, and it should be built with consultations of front-line workers who know the issues in southwest Edmonton best,” Heath Sciences Association of Alberta Vice-President of Human Resources Mike Parker said.
 
“The staff and patients at Misericordia have put up with too much for too long,” Alberta Federation of Labour Secretary Treasurer Siobhan Vipond said. “It’s time the PC government steps up to the plate and make a new Southwest Edmonton hospital a priority. Staff are doing everything they can to provide the best care to Albertans, but it’s starting to be overwhelming. It’s time for a change.”
 
“The government needs to make a responsible decision and commit to building a fully functioning hospital that has enough space to accommodate our province’s growing population,” Eggen said.
 
The NDP is calling on Albertans to make their voices heard. Go to www.newmisnow.ca and sign the petition for a new hospital in Southwest Edmonton.

PC government quick to go back on their word over wage freeze


EDMONTON – Alberta NDP critic Deron Bilous released the following statement regarding the wage hike for senior government staff and associate ministers.

“Albertans will not be surprised that the PC government has gone back on their word yet again when it comes to raises for senior management and associate ministers.

“Last year, the Finance Minister used a three-year wage freeze on senior manager salaries to justify rolling back the wages of Alberta families all over the province. After the government attempted to force a freeze on AUPE employees, those workers fought back and won modest pay increases. Now the PCs have decided that Tory insiders like Gary Mar can’t possibly be asked to live with frozen wages.

“This is truly a Tale of Two Albertas, with one set of rules for PC insiders and another for middle-class families. Everyone deserves fair compensation and people need raises to keep up with the cost of living. But a modest increase on a middle-class income is quite a different thing than a similar increase to an exorbitant salary.

“Meanwhile, we’re still hearing that there is no money to properly fund legal aid, Alberta’s doctors and teachers still have frozen wages, and we continue to have hospitals that spring a leak every time it rains.”

NDP MLA David Eggen on the Industry Canada approval of the sale of AltaLink



EDMONTON – New Democrat MLA David Eggen issued the following statement on the Industry Canada approval of the sale of AltaLink to American-owned Berkshire Hathaway:
 
"The New Democrats believe that this sale is not fair to Albertans. Our transmission system should not be an internationally traded commodity. Electricity is an essential service and it should be operated for Albertans, not for a massive profit for a foreign company.
 
“This deal will allow an American company to reap the benefits of utility lines paid for by Albertans, and will likely drive up electricity prices.
 
"We will continue to oppose the sale and call on the Alberta Utilities Commission to hold public hearings on this sale."
 

NDP calls for HQCA board member John Vogelzang to resign


EDMONTON – Alberta’s NDP are calling for John Vogelzang to resign his position with the Health Quality Council of Alberta after FOIP’d documents show Mr. Vogelzang made illegal political donations to the PC party while he was the CEO of David Thompson Health Region in Central Alberta.
 
“Because of the secrecy across all government departments, the HQCA is one of the only ways for Albertans to know what is happening in our healthcare system. How can we trust them to exercise good judgment and be forthcoming and impartial, as is their role, when there are PC insiders like Mr. Vogelzang influencing their decisions?” NDP Health Critic, David Eggen said today.
 
CBC Investigates released FOIP documents today that show John Vogelzang’s expense claims, including  illegal political donations made to the PC party before he was named to his current position on the HQCA board.
 
It wasn’t until after CBC filed its FOIP request that Vogelzang repaid nearly three thousand dollars to Alberta Health Services.
 
“This is a man who knew the jig was up. As soon as someone started sniffing around Mr. Vogelzang starting backpedaling,” said Eggen.
 
“The PCs have been weaving their web of insiders for 40 years, using them to funnel money back to the party. They will always be looking out for themselves. Albertans are not and never will be the priority under a PC government.”

NDP applauds the protection of the Castle Special Place

South Saskatchewan Regional Plan disappointing


EDMONTON – The NDP is applauding the government for listening to the activists and opposition parties who worked tirelessly to get the Castle Special Place protected NDP MLA, David Eggen said today.
 
The government released the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, outlining land use framework for 44 per cent of the province, today.
 
The report includes significant changes to SSRP draft that came out earlier this year, increasing the area of the Castle Special Place that will be protected.
 
“The castle is such a special area. It needed to be protected. The government completely overlooked it in the first place, but we’re very happy to see the PCs have finally listened to Albertans and protected it,” said Eggen.
 
“That being said, the NDP would still like to see the entire Castle Special Place receive the same level of protection.”
 
The plan also fails to protect against industrial activity in the area. The SSRP maintains the status quo and prioritizes fossil fuel production and transportation over conservation, environmental protection and the development of southern Alberta’s abundant natural resources for renewable energy.
 
“Earlier this year we saw the PCs unwillingness to limit drilling within Lethbridge city limits. Only the sustained public pressure from residents and the NDP, got results,” said Eggen.
“This is yet another example of the PCs inability to put Southern Alberta families first by creating meaningful, responsible limits on industrial development in and around communities.”
 
“This government can’t be trusted to stand up to their corporate insider friends.”
 

NDP calls for responsible review of Alberta’s Justice system


EDMONTON – Alberta’s New Democrats said Monday that the announcement of an increase to the small claims limit won’t solve the numerous issues in Alberta’s courts, and are calling on the government to take meaningful steps to improve access to the provincial justice system, including properly funding Legal Aid.
 
The PCs announced today that Provincial Court’s small claims limit will increase from $25,000 to $50,000. The new $50,000 figure is the highest small claims limit in the country – more than double the next highest.
 
“Alberta Provincial Courts are already overloaded,” said New Democrat MLA David Eggen.
“This increase will only invite an influx of complex, time-consuming cases into a system that is already struggling to keep up. The problem is exacerbated by the number of people representing themselves in these complex cases. Now we’re talking about $50,000 lawsuits that require a significant amount of research and knowledge of the law. Many of those litigants will require frequent guidance from the courts, and need to have hearings re-scheduled as they try to navigate the system.”
 
The number of self-represented litigants is not tracked in Alberta, but self-represented matters in Court of Queen’s Bench increased from 12 per cent to 27 per cent from 2006 to 2012. Deputy Minister of Justice Ray Bodnarek admitted at a Public Accounts committee meeting on March 6, 2013 that self-represented litigants are slowing the system down.
 
Eggen said the small claims limit is connected with another major issue in Alberta’s courts: the crisis in Legal Aid. Last week, Legal Aid Alberta announced last week that they would be cutting drop-in services from most Alberta communities, a move which is expected to save $4 million over three years. Legal Aid Alberta has predicted a $15 million dollar deficit by 2016-2017.
 
“This PC government can’t be trusted to stand up for Albertans and to protect their rights in the justice system,” Eggen said. “The announcement today is just another short-sighted fix for a crisis that wouldn’t exist if the PCs funded Alberta’s essential services properly in the first place.”

New Democrats call for immediate review of breast cancer care


Breast cancer survivor Lucia Iorio and NDP Health critic David Eggen speak about the wait times for breast reconstruction surgery referrals. Iorio has been waiting more than 18 months for a referral for a plastic surgeon.
Breast cancer survivor Lucia Iorio and NDP Health critic David Eggen speak about the wait times for breast reconstruction surgery referrals. Iorio has been waiting more than 18 months for a referral for a plastic surgeon.

 

EDMONTON – A disorganized and disjointed health care system has created long waits for breast reconstruction surgery in Alberta, leaving patients waiting years for the surgery, said New Democrat Health critic David Eggen.
 
“Albertans deserve access to health care that serves them on every level, including giving them the peace of mind to know they will be taken care of every step of the way,” said New Democrat Health Critic, David Eggen.
 
Eggen was joined by a breast cancer survivor, Lucia Iorio, who first asked for a referral to a plastic surgeon for breast reconstruction surgery in January 2013, following her July 2011 surgery.
 
“When I look in the mirror, I don’t see myself. I want to feel whole again. This long wait to see a doctor is prolonging my suffering and holding me back from healing,” said Iorio.
 
Plastic surgeons across the province estimate wait times for a referral appointment to be from 1 to 2 years. According to AHS, 90% of patients receive breast reconstruction surgery within 52 weeks after seeing a specialist, meaning that for many patients, the wait is three years for the surgery.
 
Alberta’s New Democrats are calling on the minister to review breast cancer care in Alberta, looking specifically at wait times for reconstruction surgery.
 
“This PC government promises a health care system that is accessible to all Albertans, but when breast cancer survivors are waiting years for just to meet face to face with a plastic surgeon, I think it’s pretty clear our health care system is falling short of what’s been promised,” said Eggen.

Are you a breast cancer survivor who has experienced long waits for reconstruction surgery?
We want to hear your story. Tell the PCs wait times are too long! Comment here, send us a message on Facebook or write health critic David Eggen.

NDP calls for independent environmental assessment before Grand Rapids Pipeline is approved


 EDMONTON – In response to news that TransCanada now plans to submit an environmental protection plan for the Grand Rapids pipeline, New Democrat Environment Critic, Rachel Notley, called on the Alberta Energy Regulator to complete its own environmental assessment of the pipeline to ensure that important issues are addressed.
 
“The problem is that the environmental assessment needs to be completed independently, and then fully evaluated at the hearing stage. This is not something the company does for its own project after it’s granted approval,” said Notley.
 
TransCanada has made an application to begin construction on a pipeline that would carry 900,000 barrels of bitumen across Northern Alberta every day. Originally the company had planned to proceed without an environmental plan, but during the Alberta Energy Regulator hearing today, the company announced it will file a plan prior to proceeding with the 500 kilometer pipeline.
 
“Landowners and community members have a right to review and ask questions about the environmental implications of this project and the AER has a responsibility to ensure that process is fair and transparent,” said Notley.
 
As it’s proposed, the Grand Rapids pipeline would cross Alberta rivers four times, including the North Saskatchewan River, 30 kilometers from Fort Saskatchewan, and the Athabasca River, upstream from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.
 
“When the Northern Gateway pipeline was approved water crossings were identified as a major concern and a number of measures were recommended,” said Notley.
“It’s important that the same standard, if not a higher standard, is applied to this pipeline.”
 
The NDP are calling for these measures to be included in an independent environmental assessment.
 

  • A baseline study to track and monitor the water quality and health of aquatic flora and fauna in the North Saskatchewan and Athabasca rivers
  • The implementation of a research program on the behaviour and cleanup of heavy oil, that is specific to cold, freshwater rivers.
  • A leak detection plan
  • Detailed final drawings and plans for the proposed river crossings, including construction methods
  • Environmental monitoring system
  • Leak emergency plan

 
“Already, serious concerns have been raised around the implications of this massive project on Alberta communities. Due to its size, and complexity in the river crossings, it is the responsibility of the Alberta Energy Regulator to step in and complete an environmental assessment on this proposed project before it moves forward,” said Notley.

Auditor General responds to NDP’s call for Legal Aid audit


EDMONTON – New Democrat Justice critic Rachel Notley welcomed the news that Alberta’s Auditor General will undertake a systems audit of the funding provided to Legal Aid Alberta in response to her request. Legal Aid has been in crisis in recent months as a result of insufficient funding.
“Access to justice is critical to ensure that all Albertans are treated fairly,” Notley said.

“I hope that the Auditor General will fully investigate the costs to the system of this government’s failure to properly fund Legal Aid and provide strong recommendations about how to fix this mess. We continue to see a PC government that can’t be trusted with our money, never mind with protecting the rights of all Albertans.”

In the letter, the Auditor General remarks that “We appreciate the thoughtful analysis and insights you provided and will certainly consider it as we proceed with the audit.”

Legal Aid Alberta announced yesterday that they would be cutting drop-in services from most Alberta communities, a move which is expected to save $4 million over three years. Meanwhile, Alberta’s Justice Minister continues to blame the federal government for Legal Aid’s deficit, which only serves to evade responsibility for a serious problem with Alberta’s justice system.

“Every Albertan who interacts with the justice system is affected by this crisis—they see the delays in our already-overcrowded courts. What we don’t know is what other costs are associated with this, and that’s what I’m very hopeful the Auditor General will look into.”

The Auditor General’s letter is here. Notley’s original letter to the Auditor General is here.

AUDITOR GENERAL REPORT SHOWS GOVERNMENT STILL FAILING ON ACCOUNTABILITY


edmonton media, calgary media alberta legislature new democrats
New Democrat MLA David Eggen is calling on the PCs to start providing meaningful reporting to Albertans.
 
EDMONTON – Today’s Auditor General report strongly critiques Alberta’s PC government on a series of key issues, including accountability, environmental protection and ensuring safe health care services, said New Democrat MLA David Eggen.
 
“Once again, we see that this is a government that can’t be trusted to put Albertans first,” Eggen said. “Albertans believe in protecting our air and our water. Albertans want a public health care system that is closely monitored to ensure safety and quality. And Albertans want a government that ensures that they are clearly communicating their spending, their priorities and analyzing what’s working. This is simply what Albertans expect, but the PCs just aren’t delivering.”
 
The Auditor General strongly criticized the PCs’ results analysis in their annual reports, saying that they fail to provide proper analysis of government spending and programming.
 
The Auditor General goes on to say that the government continues to lag behind on accountability for its climate change strategy and has also failed to properly monitor safety and outcomes at contracted surgical facilities, where many Albertans receive services.
 
“Albertans have been clear that they want a government that takes climate change seriously and takes meaningful action, but this report says quite clearly that six years after the Auditor General first looked at this issue, the PCs have yet to implement any clear standards for what to do or what success looks like,” Eggen said.
 
“For the PCs to fail to follow-up on ensuring safety in our contracted surgical facilities directly endangers Alberta families. The message from this Auditor General report is clear: the PCs can’t be trusted to provide the services that Albertans need.”

GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO STEP UP AND PROTECT PEOPLE, ENVIRONMENT FROM OIL SANDS EFFECTS: NOTLEY


 
EDMONTON – The PC government needs to act on the study released today by Indigenous leaders and scientists that show the harmful effects that oil sands development has on the health of residents, wildlife and the environment in Northern Alberta, NDP Environment critic Rachel Notley said today.
 
The study funded by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation and completed by the University of Manitoba, concludes that the negative effects of industrial operations in the Fort Chipewyan region have resulted in changes to traditional lifestyle and diet, which are impacting physical and mental health and community wellbeing, including high cancer rates in the region linked to eating traditional foods that are now contaminated with known carcinogens.
 
“This PC government has relied on denial and delay to cover up the relationship between community health hazards and industrial activity upstream from Athabasca indigenous communities. It is time for them to admit their wrongdoing and formally accept the findings of this report,” said Notley.
 
“This study shows that the previous AHS claim that there is no relationship between oil sands activity and downstream human health was based on political wishful thinking and not on science,” said Notley.
 
“Today, I urge the government to meet with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation with a new mandate to work together to urgently adopt measures that will protect these communities from further human health and environmental hazards due to unchecked industrial activity in the oil sands.”
 

STATEMENT FROM NDP HEALTH CRITIC ON FLOODING AT MISERICORDIA HOSPITAL


EDMONTON – This weekend’s flooding at Misericordia hospital  is another demonstration of how the PC government is failing Albertans when it comes to healthcare.

A drain pipe burst on the hospital’s roof Sunday morning, flooding the day-surgery area and affecting the surgeries of 300 patients.

“Edmonton’s public heath infrastructure is not meeting the needs of Albertans. We need a new hospital in our city and in the meantime, we need to take care of the hospitals that already exist,” says NDP Opposition Health Critic, David Eggen.

Covenant Health requested $36 million over three years in April 2013 to “Eliminate the immediate critical risks to patient safety” in Misericordia.

 “The PC government is boasting a surplus, and although he’s been asked time and time again Minister Horne has yet to commit the necessary funding to infrastructure upgrades,’ says Eggen.

In March, Minister Horne stated that the conditions in the hospital are as ‘safe and comparable to any other hospital in the province.’

 “We need to be proactive in our approach,” says Eggen, “and instead of piling on costly band-aids in the Misericordia, let’s be responsible and get the repairs done before someone gets seriously hurt.”
 

PRIVACY COMMISSIONER RULING SHOWS EDUCATION MINISTER’S ATTACK ON TEACHERS A PATTERN OF DISRESPECT


EDMONTON – Today’s ruling from the Privacy Commissioner shows that Education Minister Jeff Johnson broke the law by sending a mass e-mail to teachers, which clearly showed a lack of respect for Alberta teachers said New Democrat Service critic David Eggen.
 
Alberta’s privacy commissioner ruled Thursday that Alberta Education contravened the FOIP act when he obtained the personal email addresses of 34,328 teachers through the Alberta Teacher Registry.
 
Despite complaints from teachers who called his message inappropriate, Johnson vowed last year that he would continue contacting teachers at home until he was told to stop.
 
“Today’s ruling confirms that the Education Minister violated the trust of teachers by misusing their personal information,” Eggen said. “Perhaps changes to the disciplinary process should be in the Minister’s office, not coming from the Minister’s office.”
 
The Privacy Commissioner recommended that all personal email addresses be removed from the Minister’s mailing list.
 
“At the very least, Johnson owes Alberta teachers an apology,” says Eggen.

INCREASED FUNDING FOR CHILD AND YOUTH ADVOCATE INSUFFICIENT: NDP


EDMONTON – The Alberta New Democrats continued to advocate for a significant increase to the budget of the Child and Youth Advocate today in the Legislative Offices Committee.  Although voting in favour of the modest increase requested by the Advocate, Committee member David Eggen noted that the overall budget was inadequate for the Advocate to do the job that Albertans want to see done on behalf of vulnerable children in Alberta.
 
In November 2013, the PC-dominated committee voted against an NDP motion to provide a $4 million increase to the funding for the Advocate’s office so he could complete investigations into all deaths of children in care.
 
“The job that the Child and Youth Advocate has is extremely important, and his office needs to be properly funded for him to do the job that Albertans expect,” New Democrat Human Services critic Rachel Notley said.

"When we raised this issue in November last year the Advocate was only investigating 20% of the deaths that the government was reporting at the time.”
 
Today, in answer to questioning by NDP committee member David Eggen, the Advocate noted that his office will undertake at least 7 investigations into the 35 deaths and serious injuries which occurred in the province in 2013 to 2014.
 
“This level of accountability for deaths which occur to Alberta’s most vulnerable citizens is simply not good enough. Albertans expect better,” said Eggen.
 
In the spring session of the Legislature, the PCs changed the mandate of the Child and Youth Advocate to allow the office to investigate deaths of children within two years of receiving designated services. This change will increase the responsibilities of the Advocate. As a result, the additional resources he is requesting will not allow him to increase the percentage of cases he looks into and may even result in a reduction depending on the number extra cases this expanded mandate brings to the Advocate’s office.

 

STATEMENT FROM NDP LEADER BRIAN MASON ON CANADA DAY


EDMONTON – Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason released the following statement on Canada Day today.

"Canada Day is a celebration of our diversity, heritage and promising future as a nation and citizens.

"Whether this is your first or 91st Canada Day, may today be an opportunity to reflect on the rights and freedoms of Canadians that has brought us together as a nation for the last 147 years. With open minds and open arms, we have continually embraced the rights and freedoms, democracy and social justice values that are the backbone of this country.

"Canada holds a wealth of opportunity and prosperity for citizens to thrive in our largest cities and smallest villages, and to raise their families and create a home in an inclusive nation.

"Canada’s natural beauty is only rivaled by our social values, like public health care and education, safe, progressive communities and our willingness to embrace people from hundred of nations, cultures and religions.

"Canada Day is the perfect opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to protecting those things that we as Canadians hold dear, and that are the draw for many to make Canada their home.
On behalf of Alberta’s New Democrats, I wish you and your family a happy Canada Day."
 

PC GOVERNMENT LOST ON BUILDING SCHOOLS: BILOUS


EDMONTON – New Democrat Education critic Deron Bilous said today that the PCs are clearly lost when it comes to a model for building schools.
 
Last week, Infrastructure Minister Wayne Drysdale stepped back from the P3 model that the government has long been committed to and admitted that the 50 schools promised in the last election would not be build by 2016. This week Education Minister Jeff Johnson suggested that the schools could be built in time with the use of portables. Then, a PC leadership candidate promised an additional 50 schools on top of the already-promised schools.
 
Edmonton Public School Board’s most recent capital plan, found here, notes a five-year period (page 79) where no school projects were approved by the province.
 
“For years of this government has failed to listen to communities and school boards about where and when growth was going to take place. Now we’re in a position where portables could be a temporary way to get the space for students where we need it. But Albertans are tired of promises made, and then broken. I think the Education Minister has some pretty serious questions to answer,” Bilous said.
 
Bilous noted that last fall, the province didn’t even have enough portables to fulfil the need for extra space at current schools, and that there weren’t enough companies to build the portables at that time.
 
“This PC government was elected on promises to build schools and improve the education system for students, parents and teachers alike. But with all the confusion about how we’re going to build those schools, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this government doesn’t have, and has never had, any idea about how they were going to get the job done.”

CONSULTATIONS SHOW ALBERTANS’ DESIRE TO KILL PENSION BILLS


CALGARY – Packed rooms and longer meetings are evidence of Albertans’ desire to see the end of the PCs' unfair pension legislation, Alberta NDP MLA David Eggen said today.

“As the committee travels across Alberta to hold these consultations, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that that Albertans want the PCs to scrap these bills,” said Eggen.

Now at the halfway point in the tour, today’s consultation meeting in Calgary will host more than 100 observers and 45 presenters, almost exclusively there to call on the PCs to permanently withdraw Bills 9 and 10.

“If passed, these bills will devastate the retirement security of thousands of Albertans.  What we’re seeing across the province is that Albertans want the PCs to stop attacking middle class families and stop this pension legislation.”

“The PCs listened to the NDP and other opposition parties when we called for further consultations; now we hope they’ll finally listen to Albertans and stop these unfair bills once and for all.”
 

STATEMENT FROM NDP LEADER BRIAN MASON ON ANNIVERSARY OF ALBERTA FLOODS


EDMONTON – NDP leader Brian Mason released the following statement on the one-year anniversary of the floods in Southern Alberta.
 
“On behalf of my fellow New Democrat MLAs and along with all Albertans, I am joining Albertans in Calgary, High River, Canmore, Pincher Creek and communities throughout Southern Alberta in remembering the devastating floods that happened one year ago.
 
“When we remember the floods, we think not only of the devastating power of water and weather, but of the strength of community spirit in our province. As Albertans continue to rebuild their homes and lives, they are working together to not only restore their communities, but make them even more vibrant.
 
“We also remember Jacqui Brocklebank, Amber Rancourt, Lorraine Gerlitz, Dominic Pearce and Rob Nelson, the five Albertans who lost their lives during the flood.
 
“I’d also like to recognize the extraordinary efforts of volunteers and frontline staff throughout Alberta in keeping people safe during the flood and helping our province rebuild.”

LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY HURTING PATIENTS: EGGEN


EDMONTON – Today, Alberta NDP Health critic David Eggen called on Alberta Health Services take immediate action to implement target response times for critical EMS cases and a feedback system when those targets are exceeded.

Eggen made the call in response to a memo, reported in the media today, which shows AHS is ignoring growing concerns from EMS workers over the lack of accountability for response times.
 
“AHS seems to think that if they don’t have a target, they don’t have to be accountable. To Albertans and to frontline EMS staff who care about the safety of their patients, that’s simply not good enough,” said Eggen.
 
The document says that there is no response time target for ambulance services in Edmonton. Meantime, wait times in Edmonton have not improved.
 
“EMS workers want to help improve the system and Albertans deserve a system that works, and where clear benchmarks for what is good service have been established. By failing to let Albertans and frontline workers know what that standard should be, this PC government is failing Alberta families.” 

PCs COULD HAVE AVOIDED BROKEN PROMISES ON SCHOOLS IF THEY ABANDONED P3s YEARS AGO: NDP


EDMONTON – Today, the New Democrats called on the PC government to take responsibility for their school mismanagement and to apologize to Albertans for yet another broken promise.
 
Reacting to the government’s announcement it is abandoning the P3 model of school construction, New Democrat Education and Infrastructure critic Deron Bilous noted that the NDP has been telling this government for years that P3 financing is nothing more than an expensive way to hide debt while compromising accountability and quality in construction of new schools.
 
“Instead of listening to Albertans and to the NDP, this government’s stubbornness will mean an extra year of children in overcrowded classes and taking long bus rides,” said Bilous.
 
“This just goes to show that the PC government will do anything to get elected without a plan to back it up, including making unrealistic promises that end up compromising the education of Alberta students.”
 
Meanwhile the PCs are finally admitting the extravagant election promises they made to Albertans will be broken. Just last month, Hancock was still promising that 50 schools would be built by 2016. Today’s announcement makes it clear that he was not correct.
 
“Albertans need a government that works with cities and school boards to plan for the needs of growing communities, not one that reaches for headlines but doesn’t deliver,” added New Democrat House Leader Rachel Notley.

INDUSTRY INSIDERS SETTING THE AGENDA ON FRACKING REGULATIONS: NOTLEY


EDMONTON ––Today, New Democrat Environment critic Rachel Notley released an internal document obtained by the New Democrats which shows that the new energy regulator and the PCs are only consulting with industry insiders on a pilot project for fracking. Notley is calling on the PCs to ensure that First Nations, environmental groups, as well as all other interested Albertans, are included in the consultation process.
 
“Yet again, this PC government is only consulting with their friends and insiders, while excluding the rest of us,” Notley said. “Making major changes to the regulations that govern fracking shouldn’t be done behind a closed door, with a bunch of industry insiders—it should happen out in the light, in public.”
 
In 2011, the New Democrats released information showing that the government was colluding with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) to create a public relations strategy for fracking.
 
Yesterday, two First Nations announced they were suing the Alberta Energy Regulator, after they had been excluded from hearings on development applications.
 
“It’s just business-as-usual for this PC government to talk about consulting and about a world-class regulatory regime and then turn around and work secretly with industry to ‘reduce the regulatory burden,’” Notley said. “Albertans are tired of a secretive, old-boys club approach to development in this province. We need a government that puts Albertans first.”
 
Notley noted that the draft regulations include several troubling elements which would profoundly reduce independent oversight of fracking activity in the province.
 

 

Concerns Around Draft Play Based Regulation (PBR)

  • Process around developing this regulation is fundamentally flawed. When AER legislation was first introduced by Redford government in 2012, those who worried about the exclusion of interested parties from application hearings were assured that extensive consultation would occur on policy prior to the application process commencing.  The process around these regulations, and the process for consultation within these regulations both represent a clear example of that promise being broken 

  • Stated Objective is to reduce regulatory oversight of industry (characterized as regulatory burden within the document). (pg. 5)

  • Proposes moving towards a single application and approval process that covers the entire lifespan of projects throughout the play (one play can cover hundreds of square kilometers). This obviously significantly reduces objective oversight. (pg. 3)

  • Justifies new play based regulation process by suggesting that it will be completed within context of other land management processes (i.e. water for life and land use planning).  However, those other government initiatives are stalled and incomplete throughout most of the province. (i.e. Pilot project site has no completed land use framework and is also the site of endangered caribou herds). (pg. 4)

  • Delegates the task of consulting with stakeholders on the particular application throughout its lifespan to industry itself.  In so doing, removes the objectivity and the integrity of the stakeholder consultation process. (pg. 9, 11) 

 

“DIAMOND” JIM PRENTICE MUST EXPLAIN PREFERENCE FOR PRIVATE FLIGHTS: NDP


EDMONTON –– Despite his hypocritical promises to the contrary, 'Diamond' Jim Prentice's use of government aircraft while a Harper cabinet minister shows a sense of entitlement and disregard for public money that Albertans have come to expect from the Alberta PCs, said NDP MLA Deron Bilous.
 
“Mr. Prentice is a Bay Street lawyer and a millionaire banker who’s very used to taking private planes,” Bilous said. “He used them repeatedly as a cabinet minister, costing the federal government hundreds of thousands of dollars. Albertans expect their leaders to show respect for public money and Albertans deserve a leader who understand what that respect looks like.”
 
Prentice has been repeatedly quoted in the media claiming to prefer commercial flights over the use of a government jet. Moreover, his leadership website says: “We will respect the hard work of Albertans by treating the public treasury with respect and common sense.”
 
However, a highlight reel of Prentice’s travel includes calling an empty plane to Regina to pick him up with one staff person and fly both back to Ottawa. On a flight to Oslo with two staff, the choice to use the government plane instead of flying commercial cost Canadians $26,000. The total cost of his use of government aircraft exceeds $400,000.
 
“Albertans are tired of hearing one thing from their leaders and seeing another. Mr. Prentice is promising to offer change to this province and to the Alberta PCs. But, once again, we see that he’s just offering more of the same.”
 
BACKGROUNDER: JIM PRENTICE FLIGHTS
 
Grand total of flights made by Prentice as the lead Minister using government planes total more than $421,000 over 29 flights, at a cost of roughly $14,500 a flight.
 
He took a total of 117 passengers, meaning a seat on Prentice Air cost an average of $3,600.
 
Highlights include:
June 2006 (page 78): Prentice had the government plane fly from Ottawa to Toronto empty, so he could fly back to Ottawa by himself at a cost of $3,794.
 
June 2006 (page 79): Prentice had the government plane drop him off by himself in Washington, DC from Ottawa and the plane flew back empty. The cost was: $10,490.
 
June 2009 (page 1062): Prentice had the government plane fly from Ottawa to Calgary to drop him and his constituency director off in Washington DC, and then the plane flew back to Ottawa empty at a cost of: $29,169
 
May 2010 (page 12 of first set): Prentice flew to Oslo from Ottawa with his Communications Director and Chief of Staff at a cost of: $41,522.
  • A comparable commercial flight would have cost $26,000 less.
Due to the file size of the flight manifests, they will be available to media by request. 

INDEPENDENT SENIORS’ ADVOCATE NEEDED TO FIX LONG-TERM CARE MESS: EGGEN


EDMONTON –– Alberta NDP health critic David Eggen is calling for the establishment of an independent Seniors’ Advocate following two disturbing reports on continuing care by the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA).
 
The HQCA report into quality assurance in continuing care noted a lack of authority, consistency and clarity within the current monitoring system. While the government recently introduced a seniors’ advocate, the advocate focuses on ‘way-finding’ rather than dealing with systemic issues, leaving the HQCA report concerns outside of the advocate’s mandate. The advocate is also an employee of the Ministry of Health, raising the potential for political interference. Last fall, a bill that would create an independent seniors’ advocate failed to pass second reading.
 
“While the HQCA reports highlighted some issues, they missed a central point: every time this PC government says it’s going to fix things for seniors, they create more of a mess. We’ve seen that with pharmacare and homecare and we’re seeing it with long-term care too,” said Eggen.
 
After announcing $180 million in cuts to seniors’ pharmacare in Budget 2013 but refusing to provide details on how that cut would impact drug recipients, the Minister of Health ignored requests meet with seniors until they occupied his office. Last year the government also cut home-care services and contracted them out to providers who have failed to keep appointments, meaning home care patients have been left without medication or baths.
 
The second HQCA report focused on AHS’ “first available bed” policy for placing seniors in continuing care spaces and noted that some families “felt pressured into accepting an offer of placement they felt did not meet their needs, and felt there was no recourse available to them if they were dissatisfied” and that families did not “feel they were sufficiently consulted about their preferences” before being placed in a home. There is a serious shortage of long-term care beds in the province, leaving hundreds of seniors waiting in acute care beds for placement.
 
“This government is overlooking very basic things like safety, dignity and access to family when it comes to caring for seniors in Alberta. The Minister has abandoned seniors too many times to be trusted now,” said Eggen. 
 

NDP CALLS ON PROVINCE TO STOP SELLING MORE CARIBOU HABITAT


EDMONTON –New Democrat Environment critic Rachel Notley is speaking out against government plans to sell yet even more land where endangered Alberta caribou live, rather than increasing protection.
 
“I’m absolutely shocked that instead of halting the sale of Alberta caribou habitat, the government has put even more land up for sale. This flies in the face of common sense, let alone environmental protection.”
 
Last month, the PC government put 1,700 hectares of caribou habitat up for sale for energy development despite scientists noting that the herds should be considered endangered species and the federal government releasing a plan calling for restoration.
 
Now, a further 500 hectares is going on the auction block next week.
 
The federal government suggests that 65 per cent of a herd’s habitat should be left undisturbed. One of the herds that would be impacted by this auction has already had 81 per cent of its habitat disturbed. The herds have lost about 60 per cent of their numbers over the last 10 years.
 
“The government needs to be restoring these herds and their habitats, not destroying them. We need to be taking care of our environment before helping PC friends and donors in the oil and gas industry. Instead, the government is going to shoot first and ask questions later.”

CONFUSION AND DUPLICATION REIGN IN CONTINUING CARE, HEALTH QUALITY REPORTS SHOW


EDMONTON – Two reports released today by the Health Quality Council of Alberta give damning evidence that Alberta Health Services isn’t working, Alberta New Democrat Health critic David Eggen charged.

“These reports just paint a picture of the chaos and confusion between the Ministry of Health and Alberta Health Services. It hasn’t gotten better; in fact, it is exacerbating the problems that we have in home care and continuing care. Alberta Health Services has been a very expensive failed experiment. Albertans need something better.”

The Review of Alberta Health Services’ Continuing Care Wait List: First Available Appropriate Living Option Policy found that a province-wide policy for moving patients into continuing care is not in effect, which means transfers differ from region to region in Alberta.

Eggen said the government needs to take a look at creating province wide standards for transfers that are accessible and transparent to patients and their families, while allowing regions to make the bulk of decisions in transferring patients.

“We have this illusion that families can make a choice about home care and continuing care, but really people just get jammed into whatever they can find. There’s lots of regional disparity where some services aren’t available and then families and patients are feeling compromised.”

“I think it’s important that we clean up the responsibility between the ministry and AHS. We can give much more responsibility and decision making capacity to the regions – that’s the boots on the ground that actually know what’s needed and required – while still trying to use the Ministry as a way to provide central standardization.”

The report states “Making the transition to a continuing are living option is a significant life event. The healthcare system is unable to consistently respond with a transparent process that patients and their families find acceptable or appropriate.”
The province also lacks proper tracking and forecasting databases, making wait lists inevitable.

The second report, Review of Quality Assurance in Continuing Care Health Services in Alberta, noted that AHS and the Ministry of Health are confused, where there is overlap in some areas and missing responsibilities in others. The report says that there is a monitoring responsibility lies in various AHS departments, resulting in an ‘everyone is responsible’ situation -  the direct effect of that being that ‘no one is responsible’.
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For more information, contact: Laurie Callsen, Communications Assistant: 780-935-9242 or Laurie.Callsen@assembly.ab.ca

NDP CALLS ON PRIVACY COMMISSIONER TO EXPAND SCOPE OF INVESTIGATION


Photo by Simon Law / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0 Photo by Simon Law / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

EDMONTON –Today, New Democrat Infrastructure critic Deron Bilous called on Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton to expand her current review of the FOIP process due to concerns the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure either purposefully avoided creating or improperly withheld documents related to the cancellation of the premier’s suite in the Federal Building, better known as Sky Palace.
 
Following then-Minister Ric McIver’s claims that he cancelled Sky Palace in January 2014 despite no documents supporting his claims, the NDP filed a broad request for all documents related to Sky Palace, excluding those already released. The request turned up no further documents related to cancellation.
 
“Sky Palace is a project that has cost taxpayers thousands of dollars, and yet there seem to be no records of the project being killed,” said Bilous. “A project of this magnitude must have a paper trail, and yet the Ministry of Infrastructure has failed to produce any documents that relate to the suite being cancelled. We believe this is an attempt to undermine the FOIP act.
 
Also troubling is that the FOIP tracking document indicated the request originated from the office of an official, which Clayton previously warned the Premier about in October 2013.
 
Citing the federal privacy commissioner, Clayton noted that identifying where FOIP requests originate “creates a high-risk environment for potential influence or interference”. Clayton is currently investigating the identification of applicants.
In the letter, Bilous asks the Commissioner to include this identification in her investigation and explore whether it impacted the production of results regarding the cancellation of the project.
 
“It’s concerning it appears that while one of the PC leadership candidates was Minister, his ministry was either hiding records related to Sky Palace or trying to keep it off books.”
 

NDP CALLS FOR PCs TO HALT MICHENER CLOSURE


EDMONTON – As the three candidates in the PC leadership noted concerns regarding the controversial closure of the Michener Centre in Red Deer yesterday, the Alberta New Democrats are calling on the PCs to immediately halt all plans to move residents out of the facility.
 
“The PCs need to press the pause button on moving these vulnerable Albertans from their homes,” said New Democrat Health critic David Eggen. “This decision was clearly made by a government with more interest in privatizing the care of vulnerable Albertans than protecting them.”
 
On Monday, Eggen released a letter from Alberta Health Services detailing plans to reduce on-site nursing services at the facility, plans which family members have suggested were an attempt to force residents out with greater speed.
 
“From the moment this decision was made public, the New Democrats have been opposed to closing Michener,” New Democrat Human Services critic Rachel Notley said. “There's no reason to push forward with a hasty plan to force residents out, when the very people who will be leading this government have admitted it's a bad choice. This was a bad decision, made for the wrong reasons that showed, yet again, that the PCs can't be trusted to protect vulnerable Albertans.”

 

PC GOVERNMENT ENDANGERING MICHENER RESIDENTS: EGGEN



EDMONTON – The PC government continues to endanger residents at Michener Centre with a series of cuts to the care they receive, said New Democrat Health critic David Eggen. Eggen also called for all three PC leadership candidates to clarify their position on the closure of the facility.
 
“The callous decision to cut health care staff at Michener will undoubtedly endanger resident care,” Eggen said. “Is this something that the PC leadership candidates are comfortable with—is this a policy that they’re willing to stand behind? These decisions are being made quickly, without consultation or even much advance notice, which is totally unfair to the families, and the residents themselves.”
 
A May 26 letter from Alberta Health Services announced that, as of June 1, there would be no more on-site nursing staff available on weekends or statutory holidays, meaning that severely disabled residents “will get help from HealthLink, a walk-in clinic or the nearest hospital.”
 
The letter also announces the end of on-site pharmacy services and Michener recreation activities.
 
“Albertans who live at Michener have severe disabilities and particular health challenges. The move to get rid of on-site nursing staff throughout much of the week means that they will no longer receive care from people who know them well.
 
“The loss of medical services and recreational activities makes it seem that the PC government is doing everything it can to force these residents out as quickly as possible. This PC government clearly can’t be trusted to do the right thing for vulnerable Albertans.”
 

MASON APPLAUDS INVESTIGATION INTO GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE OF FOIP PROCESS


EDMONTON, AB—New Democrat Leader Brian Mason released the following statement, Friday, after the Information and Privacy Commissioner launched an investigation into government handling of information requests under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act:

“On behalf of Alberta’s New Democrats, I would like to thank the Commissioner for investigating government interference in the FOIP process. We have long been concerned about political interference with the FOIP process and have experienced constant delays when requesting information. Some of these delays appear, from our perspective, to have been the result of a government attempt to apply mitigating strategies to the information we have requested,” Mason said.
 
In April, the NDP requested an investigation under Section 53(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act into possible contraventions of the Act by the PC government. Section 10 of the Act requires that all FOIP requests be answered “openly, accurately, and completely,” without politically motivated delays to the process.
 
“This PC government has long been known as the most secretive government in Canada. Now we see that the PCs’ obsession with control of information may, in fact, violate their duty to provide accurate and timely information to the public. To have political staffers review requests before their release in order to come up with mitigating strategies raises serious red flags. There is no doubt this investigation is warranted,” said Mason.

PCs FALLING BEHIND ON HOSPITAL REVIEWS


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EDMONTON – New Democrat Health critic David Eggen and Infrastructure critic Deron Bilous are continuing to call on the PCs to do a full inspection of the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre and to put a process in place to ensure that both health and infrastructure inspections are being done regularly and thoroughly.

It’s been over two weeks since the New Democrats released FOIP documents showing the state of the Edmonton General and called on Health Minister Fred Horne to do a complete health inspection of the hospital. 

“From missing sprinklers in an administrative wing to and HVAC system that is referred to as a “life-safety issue”, the failure to fix the problems at Edmonton General show a PC government that just can’t be trusted to stand up for Alberta seniors,” said Eggen.

The Auditor General said in his briefing to the committee that Alberta Infrastructure is falling behind in its review of health facilities, and have only evaluated 88% of Alberta centres in the last five years.

In Public Accounts today, NDP infrastructure critic Deron Bilous pointed out that the failure to inspect facilities in a timely fashion has a major impact on the safety of seniors and staff.

“In 2008, the Infrastructure report stated that the missing sprinklers in the R wing of the General were a life safety issue, and yet the issue has been deferred over the last five years. How can the PCs explain leaving staff and seniors in a care facility facing a life-safety risk for that long?”

“We need to know what checks are in place to ensure critical issues are prioritized so the government isn’t just sweeping these issues under the rug.”

MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE NOT ENOUGH FOR ALBERTA FAMILIES: NOTLEY


Alberta minimum wage


EDMONTON - The announcement of a slight increase in the minimum wage in the fall isn’t enough for the Alberta families making minimum wage, said New Democrat Labour critic Rachel Notley.
 
“The minimum wage in this province is just another example of the tale of two Albertas,” Notley said. “For the thousands of Albertans who have to make ends meet on this wage – never mind those that continue to make even less as servers and bartenders – the minimum wage continues to provide them with less than the bare minimum.”
 
Years of PC policies enacted to benefit the wealthy and corporations have left hardworking Albertans behind, Notley said. Alberta has the highest income inequality in the country. Alberta also has the fastest growing cost of living.
 
According to Vibrant Communities Calgary, a single person without children living in Calgary would need at least $14.50/hour in order to be making a living wage.
 
“This PC government has never put the interests of hard-working Alberta families first. But there’s just no good reason why someone working full-time in this wealthy province, with a rapidly increasing cost of living, shouldn’t have access to a wage that allows them to live comfortably.”
 
Notley also noted that research released yesterday by the Alberta Federation of Labour shows that many employers that bring workers in under the Temporary Foreign Worker program are paying less than the market rate, effectively depressing wages for Albertans.

MASON COMMENTS ON “POWER TO CHANGE” CLEAN ENERGY REPORT


EDMONTON, AB—Alberta New Democrat Leader Brian Mason is urging the government to adopt recommendations in the report "Power to Change: How Alberta Can Green its Grid and Embrace Clean Energy”, released today by the Pembina Institute and Clean Energy Canada.
 
“The recommendations outlined in the report show that transitioning our reliance on coal and natural gas to renewable resources like solar and wind power will be a win-win for Albertans, particularly when it comes to the cost of electricity and economic boosters, not to mention the effects it will have on our environment and health,” said Mason.
 
The report notes that by 2033, cost of power using renewable resources would be four percent that of continuing to rely on coal, and could be done without interrupting the current power grid or relying on volatile-priced natural gas as Plan B.
 
By far, the largest barrier to developers who want to create wind and solar energy farms is Alberta’s market deregulation.
 
“The Alberta NDP has consistently called for a fairer electricity market for Alberta consumers, and the Power to Change report is just another nail in deregulation’s coffin,” Mason said.
 
“By allowing market deregulation, the government is forcing Albertans who want to provide renewable energy solutions to fight it out against the big guy, or take their electricity to other, more accommodating markets.”
 
Aside from the consumer benefits of renewable energy resources, transitioning to wind and solar power can save on health care costs. The report states that Alberta spends $300 million a year on health costs related to burning coal, and cutting back the reliance on fossil fuels could prevent 590 premature deaths over the next 50 years.

HUMAN SERVICES MINISTER MUST INVESTIGATE CASE OF FOSTER CHILD SEVERELY BURNED IN CARE


EDMONTON– New Democrat Human Services critic Rachel Notley is calling on the Human Services Minister to commit to a full investigation into a case where a foster child was severely burned while in care.

“I have written to the Minister asking that an immediate and thorough investigation be commenced into this case and that the imminent safety and wellbeing of this child be thoroughly reviewed through the Quality Assurance Council – on an urgent basis.”

“The fact that the Ministry is taking a cursory glance at the incident over the expertise of a 30-year physician concerns me.  This is especially the case given the recent report of the Children’s Advocate titled “Baby Annie: An Investigative Review” where the advocate concluded that ‘Child Intervention Services and Alberta Health Services should work together to develop protocols, effective relationships and communication pathways.’ Not interviewing a treating physician in this case shows that isn’t happening,” Notley said.

Dr. David Rudkin raised concerns with the Calgary Herald that when the two-year-old child was brought to a Strathmore ER in January with severe burns, her injuries were inconsistent with the foster parents’ story of her being scalded with hot water during a bath. He believes the two-year-old, who has special needs and demands a high level of care, may be in further danger and followed up with RCMP and Alberta child welfare officials once the child was transferred to Alberta Children's Hospital.

Rudkin was told that the child was being bathed with a shower nozzle when the tap was turned to hot by another child, but he said the injuries are more not consistent with scalding. Furthermore, Rudkin said the child wasn’t brought to hospital until 12 to 15 hours after receiving her injuries.

“This government is tasked with protecting the safety and security of the vulnerable children within its care.  That is what Albertans expect to see and that is what they should do,” Notley said.

Notley’s letter to Human Services calling on an investigation can be viewed here.

JOHNSON TO BLAME FOR CALGARY BOARD OF EDUCATION FEE HIKE


CALGARY – The PCs’ failure to invest in education has led to the massive increase in school fees that parents will have to pay in Calgary public schools, Education critic Deron Bilous said today.

“The Education Minister is trying to blame the CBE for this increase, but years of failing to properly fund our education system is what’s really behind this. Calgary is already an expensive city for young families, and this PC government’s failures with our education system are only making things worse,” Bilous said.

Supervision fees for non-bused students will double next school year. Bus fees and supply fees will see an increase in order to cover a $6-million shortfall in the CBE’s budget.

“The only way that we can ensure equal access to education and maintain the quality of education is to provide school boards with sustainable, predictable funding,” Bilous said.

The NDP believes that there should be an end to all mandatory school fees and that the government must finally keep its promise to provide sustainable, predictable funding for schools.

NEW REPORT BY PARKLAND INSTITUTE SHOWS UNION PARTICIPATION BENEFITS ALL ALBERTANS


EDMONTON– New Democrat Labour critic Rachel Notley says that a new report released today by Alberta’s Parkland Institute reinforces that increased union participation helps reduce inequality, improve workplace safety and ensure fair wages. Alberta continues to have the most regressive labour legislation in the country.

“This report emphasizes that the government’s anti-union attacks in Bill 45 and 46 and most recently with Bills 9 and 10 were absolutely wrongheaded. By attacking unions and the important work they do, the government negatively impacts employment standards and wages for all Alberta families.”

The new report entitled On the Job: Why Unions Matter in Alberta highlights some of the benefits that unions bring to all Albertans.  Parkland’s findings show that not only do unions contribute to making workplaces safer for all Albertans, they can also help reduce ever-growing income inequality. The study notes that while union participation generally leads to increased wages and benefits, the benefits for women and youth are especially important.

“The PCs and their corporate insiders have put this province in a race to the bottom that only hurts Alberta families,” Notley said. “The fact that there are two Albertas – one for PC insiders and corporate donors and one for Alberta families – is obvious. Alberta has the highest levels of income inequality in the country. Meanwhile, the unions this government has attacked for the last two years have a strong record of doing work that benefits all Albertans with fairer wages, safer workplaces and a more secure retirement.”

PCs’ DEREGULATED ELECTRICITY SYSTEM A “MESS”: MASON


PONOKA, AB – In remarks to the Ponoka Chamber of Commerce, New Democrat leader Brian Mason said that the PCs’ deregulated electricity system isn’t working for Albertans, and that the government should re-regulate power rates to protect Albertans.

“This system isn’t set up to work for Albertans—it’s set up to make sure that PC donors can turn a big profit,” Mason said. “The revelation that manipulating the market to increase rates is just an ordinary practice in this deregulated system is outrageous, and the sale of our transmission to an American company who stands to make an obscene profit on the deal just isn’t fair to Alberta families.”

Recent events have led to a spate of criticism over the electricity system in Alberta, including:

  • Allegations that TransAlta manipulated the market to increase their profits, and the subsequent revelation that price fixing is an accepted practice in the deregulated system
  • The sale of AltaLink, which owns 85% of the transmission in Alberta to an American company owned by Warren Buffett
  • A Fraser Institute report showing that Edmonton has the second-highest rates for electricity out of 119 cities in North America
  • ATCO CEO Nancy Southern’s criticism of the high costs to consumers under deregulation
  • The approval of two new power plants near Wabamun, which are expected to put the Edmonton-area’s area air quality below acceptable levels. Neither public hearings nor an analysis of the cumulative effects of the plants are required by the Alberta Utilities Commission

“There’s only one way to fix this problem: the PCs need to regulate power prices to protect Alberta families. The system is a mess—it’s clearly not working in the best interests of Albertans.”

JOHNSON’S ATTACKS ON TEACHERS TO BLAME FOR UPCOMING VOTE OF NON-CONFIDENCE



EDMONTON, AB—According to New Democrat Education critic Deron Bilous, Education Minister Jeff Johnson has only himself to blame, this weekend, for a potential vote of non-confidence in his work as Minister from the Alberta Teachers’ Association at their annual representative assembly.
 
 “Johnson is running an all-out offensive on teachers, slashing compensation, excluding them from negotiations and blaming them for declining test scores.  All of this while failing to invest in Alberta’s classrooms,” Bilous said.
 
The vote comes at the tail-end of a series of attacks on teachers. Johnson has also reduced the daily pay for diploma exam marking by 50 per cent, from $200 to $100.
 
 “Reducing teacher compensation devalues the work teachers do and will decrease the number of teachers taking part in the marking process,” Bilous said. “This may even cause delays for students applying to post-secondary. The Minister’s agenda is putting Alberta’s students at a clear disadvantage.”
 
Earlier this month, Johnson released the results of his long-awaited Task Force on Teaching Excellence. The task force has been slammed by the Alberta Teachers’ Association for its failure to adequately consult teachers and its failure to address workload issues and rapidly increasing class sizes.
 
Johnson is also under fire for voting down a motion that would give students the right to start gay-straight alliances in schools and for giving oil and gas corporations input into the current curriculum redesign.
 
 

EGGEN STATEMENT ON INCREASES TO ACCOMMODATION COSTS FOR LONG-TERM CARE


EDMONTON – In response to the province’s announcement of their intention to raise the accommodation costs for long-term care, New Democrat Health critic David Eggen issued the following statement:

“Within months of the 2012 election, the province raised the cap for seniors accommodation, and the New Democrats said at the time that this would be the first in a series of increases. Yet again, the Conservatives are kowtowing to their donors in the private long-term care operators, instead of standing up to ensure that Alberta seniors have access to affordable long-term care.

“There are close to 1,200 seniors waiting for long-term care in this province. Instead of focusing on building more affordable, public long-term care capacity in our system, this PC government is increasing the profit margins for private operators on the backs of our seniors.”

PROVINCE MUST HALT SALE OF CARIBOU HABITAT: NOTLEY


EDMONTON – New Democrat Environment critic Rachel Notley called on the PCs to halt the sale of leases that will threaten one of Alberta’s caribou herds.

“We’re calling on the government to protect Alberta’s caribou by putting a halt on the sale of these leases,” Notley said. “By allowing allow oil and gas development to proceed unchecked in this area, the government would be further endangering a herd that is already endangered. We need to balance the needs of development with the needs of a clean, diverse environment—not go full speed ahead when we could cause untold damage.”

The federal government suggests that 65 per cent of a herd’s habitat should be left undisturbed. One of the herds that would be impacted by this auction has already had 81 per cent of its habitat disturbed.

“This PC government always puts the interests of their friends and donors in big oil and gas ahead of protecting wildlife and keeping our air and our water clean and safe. But intentionally endangering caribou is something that I know most Albertans just won’t be willing to accept.”

FULL INSPECTION OF EDMONTON GENERAL NEEDED IMMEDIATELY: EGGEN


EDMONTON – Alberta New Democrat Health critic David Eggen released documents obtained through a FOIP request showing that Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre is in such bad shape that a full inspection “has the potential to be catastrophic.”

“The state of this facility proves, yet again, that this PC government can’t be trusted to stand up for our seniors,” Eggen said. “There have been repeated issues at the Edmonton General, and yet the government is turning a blind eye to the health and safety of the 450 Alberta seniors who live there and the people who care for them day in and day out.”

In 2012, the New Democrats raised the alarm over the state of the Edmonton General, including a leaky roof, which meant that seniors in the facility were living under tarps. Issues that remain outstanding as of March 10, 2014 include an HVAC system that is referred to as a “life safety issue,” a tree growing out of the roof, steam heating that could fail, no sprinklers for floors 6-12, and elevators at risk of “imminent” failure.

“By continuing to rely on a private model for building long-term care in this province, this PC government has failed our seniors. This province doesn’t have the capacity to ensure that all Alberta seniors have access to a healthy and affordable place to live. This is an absolute outrage.

“The Minister needs to immediately order a full public inspection of the building. Let’s get all the information about the General out on the table, so that we can make an informed and sensible decision about whether to fix the problems or whether we need to build a facility that gives our seniors the dignity they deserve.”

The documents are available here.

TORIES IGNORING SENIORS IN LONG-TERM CARE IN KILLAM


EDMONTON, AB—Alberta’s NDP leader Brian Mason is calling on the government to immediately provide funding for a new bath tub in the Killam Health Care Centre.

“Today, I received a letter from a resident of Killam who is seeking pledges for the Killam 5km Walk/Run for Health which is raising money to install two new tub bathing systems as well as commercial washers and dryers in the community’s long term care facility.”

Alberta’s NDP has been raising serious concerns over access to bathing in long-term care facilities in the province.  The Health Care Centre in Killam has only one bath tub shared between 45 residents. The tub is also used for home care and hospital patients. Despite the province’s “two-bath-a-week policy,” the Premier has admitted that there are not sufficient funds to increase staffing levels so as to ensure that this policy is being followed.

“The entire issue of access to baths in long-term care facilities shows very clearly the government’s neglect of seniors.  Not only has the lack of funding limited the number of staff at facilities caring for our loved ones, but, as we see in Killam, there is a significant infrastructure deficit as well,” said Mason.

“It is absurd that this lack of provincial support has put the community of Killam in the position of having to resort to fundraisers in order to provide a decent quality of care to our senior citizens.  This is an issue of dignity, but clearly this government has pushed dignity aside in order to save a few dollars.”

While a new continuing care facility is in the planning stages for Killam, it is possibly years away.  In the meantime, the current facility must be able to provide an acceptable level of care for residents.

NEW DEMOCRATS FOCUSED ON REAL ISSUES FOR ALBERTANS IN SPRING SESSION


EDMONTON, AB—Alberta New Democrat House Leader Rachel Notley said that the New Democrats are proud of what they accomplished in the Spring Session—especially their call for the Legislature to focus on policy instead of scandal, and their work to organize a filibuster on the PCs’ flawed pensions legislation.

“Last month, the New Democrats said that we would focus the rest of our work in this session on stopping the PCs’ attack on retirement security for hundreds of thousands of Alberta families and we called on all parties to refocus our work from expenses and personal scandals to the decisions this government is making that affect the quality of life of Alberta families,” Notley said. “We worked hard to get the other opposition parties to fight with us to hold the pensions bills up in the Legislature for as long as possible, and we are very proud of our success in that regard.”
 
On Monday afternoon, New Democrat Leader Brian Mason announced that there was a deal to end the opposition filibuster on the pensions legislation, and that the government would send Bill 9 to the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future.
 
“While the New Democrats were ready to debate in the Legislature, the PCs suddenly realized their pensions changes were massively unpopular and got out of here as quickly as possible, probably so that members of cabinet could get out on the leadership campaign trail.
 
“It’s clear that this PC party has run out of steam, run out of ideas and run themselves out of the support of Albertans. Regardless of who the PCs send back as their leader in the fall, I don’t see that changing. The PCs will still be the party of big corporations and big entitlement, and Albertans will need their New Democrat MLAs to stand up for fairness, for better public services, and for a sustainable economy that includes everyone.”

PCs SHOULD “PRESS PAUSE BUTTON” ON BILL 12, TOO: NDP


EDMONTON – The PCs should also press pause on Bill 12, the Statutes Amendment Act, which is an omnibus bill that makes substantial changes to 16 pieces of legislation, said Alberta New Democrat House Leader Rachel Notley.

“These are not minor “housekeeping” changes to Alberta’s legislation – these are major amendments which stakeholders have raised serious concerns about,” Notley said. “I believe that each of these amendments deserves a real debate in the Legislature—not a passing mention while the PCs are rushing out the door to start their leadership race.”
 
Opposition received its first briefing on Bill 12 yesterday at 11:30 and were expected to debate the bill four hours later.
 
The PCs rushed Bill 12 through both Second Reading and Committee of the Whole yesterday. Now, several stakeholder groups have come out against specific changes contained in the bill. The Privacy Commissioner sent out a news release this morning raising concerns about changes to the Health Information Act. Last night, the Trans Equality Society of Alberta sent out a news release with concerns that changes to the Vital Statistics Act are extremely problematic. Meanwhile, the government refuses to provide a written explanation of how changes to the royalty collection regime will impact Albertans.
 
“For the opposition to do our job in the legislature, we need time to call stakeholders, look at what other jurisdictions have done and read the pieces of legislation that are amended,” said Notley. “This is a Harper-esque omnibus bill. We should have fulsome debate on all of these changes.”
 
The Alberta New Democrats will introduce a hoist amendment to Bill 12 in the Legislature this afternoon, to attempt to delay its passage through Third Reading.

STATEMENT FROM NDP LEADER BRIAN MASON ON BILL 9 DEAL


EDMONTON – New Democrat leader Brian Mason released the following statement on a deal reached to refer Bill 9 to the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future:

“This afternoon, the opposition parties reached a deal with the government to end our filibuster on Bill 9 following a couple of hours of additional debate this evening. In exchange, the government has agreed to refer the bill to the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future for public hearings with the committee reporting back to the Legislature in the fall sitting.
 
“This is a real victory for the hundreds of thousands of Albertans whose pension was seriously threatened by this legislation – the next step will now be to make sure that, if the legislation does come back, it protects, strengthens and broadens retirement security for Albertans.”
 

PC GOVERNMENT MUST IMPLEMENT RECOMMENDED CHANGES TO CHILD SERVICES


EDMONTON – Alberta New Democrat Human Services critic, Rachel Notley, is calling on the government to immediately and fully implement all recommendations made in the report released today by the Child and Youth Advocate. Notley noted that these recommendations have been made to and ignored by the government from as far back as 2009.

The Advocate found that inadequate information sharing and coordination between service providers meant that no one was able to identify Annie’s needs and risks. “The child intervention system has been mired in secrecy and ineffective bureaucracy for years,” said Notley.

“This is far from the first time these issues have been identified by an expert. Now, we see the real, tragic consequences of the government’s failure to get critical information where it needs to go.”

In 2009, 2010 and 2011 annual reports, the Advocate noted that historical information was not being shared and considered adequately in the decision making process for children. “We have seen this recommendation repeated and rephrased for five years. All we have seen from this government are piecemeal responses that are clearly not closing the gaps. It is time for concrete action.”

Furthermore, the Advocate highlighted the fragmented, compartmentalized system as a barrier to getting children the services they need. “Annie and her family were receiving services from many dedicated professionals, but the gaps in the system failed them,” said Notley.

“Instead of seeing this government make meaningful improvements for better coordination and collaboration to protect vulnerable children, we see even more of this short-sighted decentralization of services as proposed by the government in their social policy framework released last year. We need a more constructive perspective.”

PCs MUST PROTECT ALBERTANS BY HALTING ALTALINK SALE


EDMONTON – New Democrat leader Brian Mason called on the PC government to protect Alberta consumers by asking the Alberta Utilities Commission to reject the sale of AltaLink to American company Berkshire Hathaway.

“Albertans have been paying for this infrastructure on their electricity bills and now an American company is swooping in to make profits off of the utility lines built and paid for by Albertans,” Mason said. “This is just another example of the tale of two Albertans. The PCs’ deregulated electricity market allows corporations to make massive profits, while Alberta families are left to pay too much on their power bills every month.”

The sale of the company, for $3.2 billion, is subject to regulatory approval by the Alberta Utilities Commission and Industry Canada.

AltaLink delivers electricity to around 85% of the province and owns more than half of Alberta’s transmission grid and its assets are estimated at around $5.9 billion. The company had profits of $107 million last year alone.

“The deregulated, market-based approach to delivering this essential service doesn’t work for Alberta families. Building transmission lines in a deregulated market means that we don’t have the necessary oversight to build transmission in a sensible, organized way. Albertans pay for the infrastructure so it should be owned and operated without a profit motive.”

STATEMENT FROM NDP LEADER BRIAN MASON ON MAY DAY


EDMONTON – Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason has released the following statement to commemorate May Day.

"As workers across Alberta recognize May Day, we reflect on the enormous strides workers have made in our province for the economy as well as labour rights. 

But the government still have a long way to go when it comes to the rights of working people.  Alberta has the worst labour laws in the country – making it extremely difficult for workers to organize into unions that protect their best interests and safety.  

Labour relations in this province have been severely damaged by years of the conservative agenda, but most recently, this PC government has attacked the rights of association, collective bargaining and free speech by forcing through Bills 45 and 46.  Bills 9 and 10 attack the retirement security of provincial employees and, respectively, put public and private pensions at risk.

Today, Alberta’s NDP Opposition calls on the provincial government to abandon its anti-worker agenda and join us in protecting the rights of all working people.  Alberta’s NDP Opposition and our allies in the labour movement have worked tirelessly along with other opposition parties to stop Bills 9 and 10 from passing second reading in the House last month. When the Legislature resumes session May 5, we will redouble our efforts to ensure pension plans for hardworking Albertans are not slashed."

NDP CELEBRATE LETHBRIDGE VICTORY OVER GOLDENKEY PROJECT


EDMONTON, AB—The Alberta New Democrats are pleased to learn that Goldenkey Oil Inc. will withdraw its Penny Project application which would have resulted in risky drilling operations within a kilometre of the homes and schools of the residents of west Lethbridge.
 
“I have visited Lethbridge many times to discuss the issues around this project with concerned residents,” said Brian Mason, Leader and Energy critic. “The Alberta NDP was the first political party to raise the alarm about this project.  We congratulate the people of Lethbridge on the outcome of their hard work today.”
 
“The people of Lethbridge formed a strong and intelligent collective opposition to this project. They showed us that, even against tough odds and an unresponsive government, persistence pays off,” said Mason. “We thank and congratulate the Lethbridge City Council, both school boards and all of the tireless citizens and volunteers who stood up for their community.”
 
“Though we are relieved for the citizens of Lethbridge, the threat of urban drilling in other cities and towns remains.  Today, we repeat our demand that the provincial government ban all drilling in urban areas and commit resources to a study of the impact of drilling,” said Mason. “Today, the people of Lethbridge forced a company to back down when the provincial government failed them. But what about another city or town tomorrow?”

 

BRIAN MASON STEPS DOWN AS LEADER OF ALBERTA NEW DEMOCRATS


Brian Mason announced Tuesday that he would step down as leader of Alberta New Democrats effective October 19. Mason will stay on as MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood.

 

EDMONTON – NDP Leader Brian Mason released the following statement:

"This morning, I announced that effective October 19, 2014, I will be stepping down as the leader of the Alberta New Democrats. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve the party and the public in this role. I am proud of the work that we have done together, but I believe that it is time for a new leader to tackle the changing political landscape and lead us in to the next election.

"The PCs won the last election with promises meant to appeal to progressively-minded Albertans. Their broken promises from that election have left many of their voters feeling betrayed, and led to the collapse of their public support. And now, many Albertans are looking to the Wildrose as an alternative. But much like the PCs before the last election, the Wildrose is now pretending to be a moderate and socially progressive political party. However, there are hundreds of thousands of Albertans able to see through this deception who are looking for a new political home.

"A leadership race and a new leader are the best means to attract those progressively-minded Albertans to our party.

"The Alberta New Democratic Party is the only party in the province that can attract those voters disappointed with the PCs’ broken promises and that has the political, organizational, and financial capacity to make gains in the next election. We have a proven track record of standing up to the PCs, and we’re ready to take on the Wildrose as well.

"I feel confident that I’m leaving the party in a strong position and that we are ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead."

STATEMENT FROM NDP HEALTH CRITIC DAVID EGGEN ON LAB PRIVATIZATION


EDMONTON – New Democrat Health critic David Eggen released the following statement on Alberta Health Services’ announcement of the bidders in the $3 billion lab services contract.

“Albertans deserve high-quality public health care, but this PC government continues to undermine the quality of our health care system. Alberta’s New Democrats have been sounding the alarm about this private contract for months. Two weeks ago, we asked the government to promise not to award this contract to a company with a long record of overbilling other governments. They refused.
 
“Some of these companies have very questionable records of overpricing, overbilling and poor data protection, so we have serious concerns about costs in our health care system going up.
 
“The PCs should be strengthening our public system, not handing over the largest private health contract in Alberta history to companies with questionable records. We are calling on the government to halt this process and build the new lab publicly.”

NDP SUCCESFULLY DELAYS PC PLAN FOR PENSION BILL


EDMONTON – New Democrat leader Brian Mason is applauding the work of opposition MLAs to delay the passage of the PCs’ unilateral changes to pensions.

“I am very proud of the work that NDP MLAs and other opposition members have done to delay this unfair pension legislation. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to build pressure on this government to withdraw this bill,” said Mason.

During the course of this week, the New Democrats have rallied opposition parties to prevent second reading of the bill two nights in a row. As a result, the bill will be debated again when the legislature resumes in May.

“This bill attacks the retirement security of hundreds of thousands of Albertans. We encourage government MLAs to join the opposition to force the government to withdraw this bill completely.

“The NDP opposition will continue to stand up for the retirement security of Albertans, and we will continue to work with others to prevent this bill from being passed,” said Mason.

INFORMATION AND PRIVACY COMMISSIONER NEEDS TO FULLY INVESTIGATE ANY POLITICAL INTERFERENCE OR DELAYS IN RELEASE OF FOIPs


EDMONTON – New Democrat leader Brian Mason has requested that Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton conduct a full investigation into allegations of political influence and interference into FOIP requests.

Yesterday, former Deputy Premier Thomas Lucaszuk tabled a letter in the house showing that Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton had expressed serious concerns about a new policy, initiated by Lukaszuk that would ensure press secretaries reviewed all FOIP releases prior to public release. The commissioner stated that the collection of this information “creates a high-risk environment for potential influence or interference.”

“This PC government has long been known as the most secretive government in Canada, and we have long been concerned about political interference in the FOIP process,” Mason said. “Now we see that the PCs’ obsession with control of information may in fact violate their duty to provide accurate and timely information to the public. To have political staffers review requests before their release in order to come up with mitigating strategies raises serious red flags.”

Under Section 53(1) and (1)(a) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Alberta NDP has requested that the commissioner investigate possible contraventions of the act including those that require timely access to information and the duty of public bodies to provide assistance “openly, accurately and completely”

“We have experienced constant delays when requesting information. Some of these delays appear, from our perspective, to have been the result of a government attempt to apply mitigating strategies to the information we have requested. There is no doubt that a full investigation is warranted,” said Mason.

PCs SHOULD MAKE ALL CHILD DEATH REPORTS PUBLIC AND EXPAND RESOURCES OF CHILD ADVOCATE


EDMONTON –New Democrat Human Services critic Rachel Notley said that Bill 11 allows for greater internal quality control and some good changes to publication rules, it does little to ensure that the actual investigative reports compelled in cases of death or serious injury to children in care will be made public.

"Albertans want true independence and accountability for the review process. This could be achieved through the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate but this government has not made the changes to make this happen,” said Notley.

The Alberta NDP has called several times for the mandate and resources of the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate to be expanded so that all deaths and serious injuries of children who have received services are fully investigated. That request for further resources was voted down by the PC government in the Legislative Offices Committee on November 29, 2013.

"The PCs say they have expanded the powers of the youth advocate, but without additional resources, there is no possible way to investigate all deaths or serious injuries,” said Notley.

The Alberta NDP is also proposing that a truly public and transparent mechanism be put in place for tracking the government’s progress on recommendations.

"For far too long we have seen recommendations fall on deaf ears. We need to ensure this government is listening to experts and following through on best practices, and not just providing lip service," added Notley.

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PCs SHOULD MAKE ALL CHILD DEATH REPORTS PUBLIC AND EXPAND RESOURCES OF CHILD ADVOCATE


EDMONTON –New Democrat Human Services critic Rachel Notley said that Bill 11 allows for greater internal quality control and some good changes to publication rules, it does little to ensure that the actual investigative reports compelled in cases of death or serious injury to children in care will be made public.

"Albertans want true independence and accountability for the review process. This could be achieved through the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate but this government has not made the changes to make this happen,” said Notley.

The Alberta NDP has called several times for the mandate and resources of the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate to be expanded so that all deaths and serious injuries of children who have received services are fully investigated. That request for further resources was voted down by the PC government in the Legislative Offices Committee on November 29, 2013.

"The PCs say they have expanded the powers of the youth advocate, but without additional resources, there is no possible way to investigate all deaths or serious injuries,” said Notley.

The Alberta NDP is also proposing that a truly public and transparent mechanism be put in place for tracking the government’s progress on recommendations.

"For far too long we have seen recommendations fall on deaf ears. We need to ensure this government is listening to experts and following through on best practices, and not just providing lip service," added Notley.

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STATEMENT FROM NDP LEADER BRIAN MASON ON GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE RALLY


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Members of the NDP Opposition, including leader Brian Mason, attend a rally on the steps of the Alberta Legislature to support gay-straight alliances in the province's schools.

EDMONTON –Alberta New Democrat leader Brian Mason released the following statement on today’s rally for gay-straight alliances:

“On the steps of the Legislature today, I stood proud for gay-straight alliances with all NDP MLAs. Unlike the PCs and the Wildrose, New Democrats have always supported human rights and opposed discrimination against the LGBTQ community. And unlike the PCs and the Wildrose, the New Democrats voted proudly in favour of Motion 503, which supported gay-straight alliances to combat bullying in schools.

“Gay-straight alliances are proven to reduce bullying, encourage understanding, and build truly inclusive school communities, which is something that deserves all-party support.
 
“The Alberta New Democrats will continue to fight for the rights of LGBTQ students.”

ALBERTA ENERGY REGULATOR AND ESRD NEED TO FULLY DISCLOSE ALL RECORDS ON CONTAMINATED EDSON WATER WELLS


EDMONTON – New Democrat Environment critic Rachel Notley says the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource development (ESRD) need to immediately release all records in relation to the Sulfolane spill near Edson, including details of past spills, all remediation efforts, what government oversight was conducted and potential health risks for nearby residents.

“Once again we see the health and welfare of Albertans take a back seat to the needs of big oil and gas. The failure to notify the public and clean up the spill at the time means that over the years this toxic chemical has been allowed to slowly leach into community wells,” said Notley.

According to reports, the spill was discovered by Bonavista Energy on February 28, but no advisory was given until March 12 by Alberta Health Services. Sulfolane can cause liver problems, decreased white blood cells and nerve problems.
 
“That is, at least, two whole weeks and possibly years where Alberta residents were drinking highly contaminated water. Albertans deserve to know how and why this dangerous chemical was released into the water system, why it took so long to inform residents and why there was no oversight while this chemical was leaching into ground wells,” said Notley.
 
“Bonavista Energy said it is likely the spill occurred before they acquired the property in 2010. How long was this chemical being consumed by residents? Why did it take so long to be discovered? Any why wasn’t adequate groundwater testing done to ensure that the contamination could be prevented before it happened? These are serious questions that need serious answers.”

MASON: PENSIONS THE DEFINING ISSUE OF REMAINDER OF SESSION


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Hundreds Albertans protest the changes to public sector pensions. Photo by David Climenhaga

EDMONTON – Today, Brian Mason said that the New Democrats will focus the remainder of the spring session on the government’s plan to attack retirement security for public-sector employees.

“The changes this PC government is expected to make to pensions will affect hundreds of thousands of Albertans every day,” Mason said. “Endangering the retirement security of this many families is something that this government needs to be accountable for—and so the New Democrats will make this the fight of the session.”

Since September, the PC government has repeatedly announced plans to make changes, without consultation, to the pension plans of over 300,000 Albertans. The legislation that will make these changes possible is expected in the Legislature this week.

“This is an incredibly important issue that affects hundreds of thousands of Albertans. While other parties focus on jackets and junkets, we are focusing our efforts on real issues that affect real Albertans,” said Mason.

“This government is directly attacking the modest retirement security of public workers without any consultation or proof that these changes are needed, and the New Democrats will fight them every step of the way,” said Mason.

The NDP is calling on the government to stop its attack against middle class families and to halt legislation until further consultation has been held with those members affected. 

PC GOVERNMENT CONTINUES TO FAIL ON PROTECTING ALBERTA STUDENTS FROM DISCRIMINATION


EDMONTON – Today, Alberta's New Democrat Education Critic Deron Bilous called on the PC government to stop turning a blind eye to the ongoing discrimination of Alberta students in some Christian schools based on sexual preferences.

“Last week, the PC government refused to support Gay-Straight Alliances, and now we are learning that Albertans are paying for intolerance at two ‘Lake of Fire’ academies,” said Bilous. “Without a doubt, these policies violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and subsequently the Constitution.”

According to recent reports, both Heritage Christian Academy in Calgary and Prairie Christian Academy in Three Hills have students and teachers sign conduct policies that threaten both groups with serious consequences, including expulsion and dismissal if they engage in “immoral behaviour” such as a homosexual lifestyle. The St Albert Catholic School Board also prevented a student from forming a GSA in 2012.

“This type of intolerance has no place in Alberta,” said Bilous. “Millions and millions of dollars are going into schools which actively discriminate on the basis of gender identity and sexual identity.”

The NDP is calling on the government to immediately review policies at all publicly funded schools to ensure that they adhere to the Charter and to amend current legislation to ensure that Constitutional human rights are protected.
 

FOIP DOCUMENTS SHOW STAFF AT MISERICORDIA HOSPITAL FORCED TO REGULARLY IMPLEMENT OVER CAPACITY PROTOCOL


Edmonton, AB—Today, the New Democrats released documents obtained through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) detailing how the Misericordia Hospital is forced to trigger its Over Capacity Protocol as many as 19 times per week.
 
According to FOIP documents, the Over Capacity Protocol is enacted when the site is over capacity at the time of a bed call. A bed call is made two to three times a day. The over-capacity numbers mean that patients either have no bed, are placed on a gurney, or there is no staffing for the bed.
 
“What we have learned from these documents is the problems at the Misericordia Hospital are not just centered on infrastructure. We know this hospital is crumbling thanks to inaction by this PC government, but these numbers tell us that the hospital is constantly over-utilized and unfortunately it’s the patients and staff who suffer,” said NDP Health critic David Eggen.
 
Since the beginning of 2013, the Misericordia has implemented its Over Capacity Protocol 576 times. The over-capacity protocol is a crisis protocol and was intended to be a short-term solution.
 
“This PC government is happy to let this hospital run into the ground. They have no plans to deal with the over-capacity issue, even though they are acutely aware of the problem. Residents of West Edmonton deserve better than this,” said Eggen.
 
The NDP has called on the government to immediately implement a plan to build a new hospital for the area, while investing proper resources in maintaining the Misericordia until such a time that a new hospital is constructed.
 
The documents can be found here.

AISH APPEALS TRIPLE AS GOVERNMENT DENIES HALF OF APPLICATIONS PCs ABANDONING VULNERABLE ALBERTANS


EDMONTON – New Democrat Human Services critic Rachel Notley says that the PC government is abandoning vulnerable Albertans, with the numbers of Albertans appealing their application for Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) tripling since this time last year.

“It is unbelievable that in one year, the number of applicants who are waiting to have their appeals heard has tripled,” Notley said. “These are extremely vulnerable Albertans—Albertans that this PC government promised to protect. These numbers show that’s just not happening.”
 
Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar says that the initial denial rate for AISH applications is 50%. The government’s own appeals body has an overturn rate of 35% for the minority of cases that go to appeal.
 
Notley says that the initial denial rate is also extremely concerning.
 
"Of every Albertan that applies to receive AISH, this government turns away half. Every year, more than 2,000 Albertans are turned down for AISH who would likely win an appeal if they brought an appeal forward."
 
Notley is concerned that the vast majority of people being turned down for AISH benefits are those with mental health issues whose disability makes it more difficult to pursue appeals, and feels that this is a form of discrimination against those Albertans.
 
 

NDP PRESENTS PETITION WITH OVER 26,000 NAMES TO HAVE BIG OIL AND GAS REMOVED FROM ALBERTA EDUCATION CURRICULUM REDEVELOPMENT


alberta education oil and gas alberta new democrats NDP jeff johnson deron bilous curriculum redesign
A petition with 26,000 signatures calling on the Alberta Education Minister to bar corporate involvement in grade school curriculum redesign will be tabled in the Legislature on Wednesday, April 9 by NDP Opposition education critic Deron Bilous.
 

EDMONTON – Today, Alberta's New Democrat Education Critic Deron Bilous, along with concerned teachers, parents and students, presented more than 26,000 names on a petition to Alberta Education to remove big oil and gas from curriculum redevelopment.

“It was only a few weeks ago that we, and consequently, all Albertans learned about this PC government’s plan to give big oil and gas a major seat at the table to develop K-3 curriculum and beyond. The outrage has been deafening,” said Bilous. “In that short time thousands of concerned Albertans have signed a petition opposing this incredulous position by the PC government.”

 

According to Alberta Education documents, several oil and gas companies are given key partnership status in “helping draft Alberta’s future curriculum for our students.” Of further note is that teachers have been excluded from the curriculum redesign process in three of four grade categories.

“We need our kids to be well-educated about our natural resource development, and that includes our oil and gas industries,” Bilous said. “But we don’t need those corporations deciding what a student in this province should learn.”

PROVINCE SHOULD ENSURE REVIEWS OF CHILD DEATHS SHOULD BE BOTH INDEPENDENT PUBLIC; CALLS TO EXPAND MANDATE AND RESOURCES OF CHILD


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New Democrat Human Services critic Rachel Notley calls on the government to delegate all child fatality reviews to the Child and Youth Advocate to ensure that all deaths and serious injuries of children who have received government care can be fully transparent and accountable.

EDMONTON – “The only way this government can improve public trust in this broken system is to ensure that all fatalities or serious injury of children in care are reviewed by an independent body and released to the public. This PC government plans do neither to address the fundamental problems with this review system.”

New Democrat Human Services critic Rachel Notley was responding to a letter yesterday from the Child Intervention System Improvement Implementation Oversight Committee. The letter made several recommendations to the Minister of Human Services, which included plans for an internal fatality review process that may or may not be made public.

“We have heard this government say they want this system to be more transparent, but the first recommendations we see is to establish an internal child death review. This is just more of the same secrecy from the PC government on this broken system,” said Notley.

After attending the Child Intervention Roundtable, the Alberta NDP has called on the government to delegate all child fatality reviews to the Child and Youth Advocate to ensure that all deaths and serious injuries of children who have received government care can be fully transparent and accountable.

"We applaud some recommendations to increase training for front line workers, but it does run counter to government plans to water down the quality of front line workers with child protection responsibilities.”

NDP CALLS ON PCs TO PRACTICE ACCOUNTABLE AND TRANSPARENT COMMUNICATIONS WITH ALBERTANS


edmonton media, calgary media alberta legislature new democrats
New Democrat MLA David Eggen is calling on the PCs to stop locking out opposition parties from government press conferences.

EDMONTON – Today, New Democrat MLA David Eggen is calling on the PCs to stop locking out opposition parties from government press conferences.

“It’s actually quite shocking. Opposition members of the legislature were democratically elected by Albertans to represent their interests. We are asking the PCs to stop this abuse of democracy and let us do our job properly. It is ironic that this government has over 200 communications staff, whose main job seems to be preventing opposition parties from learning what the government is doing,” said Eggen.

In recent years, the PC government has prevented opposition parties from attending many news conferences and do not inform opposition parties about upcoming press conferences, media advisories, or general media information. The Alberta NDP is constantly forced to get information on government news from local media.

“We are here to stand up for our constituents and to reflect their views in the legislature. For the opposition to do its job we need to know when media events are taking place, and we need to be able to observe their proceedings,” said Eggen.

PCs SHOULD STAY TRUE TO THEIR WORD AND RELEASE LAB SERVICES RFP NAMES


NDP Party alberta privatization lab services alberta health fred horne david eggen frontline workers AHS
NDP Opposition health critic David Eggen is calling on Health Minister Fred Horne to release the names of bidders for a $3 billion lab services contract in Alberta.

 

EDMONTON – Today, New Democrat Health Critic David Eggen is calling on Alberta Health Services to finally release the names of the laboratory companies who have bid for the $3 billion contract to be the sole provider of the largest privatization of health services in Alberta.
 
The deadline for the Request for Proposals for the new “Super Lab” in Edmonton was extended from March 12 to April 1. The Minister of Health said in the legislature on March 13 that he would release the names if the commitment was made and if the RFP allowed.
 
“Albertans have a right to know who may be providing these privatized services before any contracts are signed. In the spirit of transparency, we ask that Health Minister Fred Horne to stay true to his word and direct the AHS to follow their own rules and release the names of these companies immediately,” said Eggen.
 
Alberta’s New Democrats have raised the alarm since September 2013 on the privatization of lab services in the Edmonton area and have supported calls from frontline workers to keep lab services public.

PCs NEED TO DISCLOSE ALL DETAILS ON SECRET TRUST FUND


EDMONTON – Alberta's New Democrat Justice Critic Rachel Notley is calling on the PCs to immediately release all details of their previously undisclosed trust fund to the public.

A news report yesterday revealed the existence of a secret PC trust fund that does not disclose any of its financial information to Elections Alberta. The PCs passed legislation in 1977 which made the establishment of such funds illegal for political parties, but grandfathered in the PCs’ fund.
 
“The whole purpose of elections finance laws is to ensure that Albertans know who is funding political parties and to at least attempt to create a level playing field for the parties,” said Notley. “That the government would write laws that gave them an unfair advantage over other political parties is perhaps even more offensive than the advantage itself.”
 
Notley pointed out, “At this point we need to know how the PCs could move $139,000 from this secret fund as they did in 1996 when other political parties are limited to a donation of $15,000 from one source.  We need to know if the trust can receive money and if so whether they received undisclosed donations from corporations or individuals which might have been otherwise illegal. Finally, we need to know whether the trust was a blind one or whether the PC cabinet was making decisions that could impact the wealth of the trust in violation of the spirit of conflict of interest prohibitions.”
 
“Albertans want to believe that their government is acting in the best interests of everyone – not in the best interests of their own chances at re-election. But that wasn't true in 1977 and it certainly isn't true now. If the PCs really believe in transparency, accountability, or openness, they will disclose all information about this trust that would be available had the unfair exemption not been made in the first place,” said Notley.
  

MASON ANNOUNCES WILDROSE LEADERSHIP RUN


EDMONTON—Today, Brian Mason made the following statement:

"In light of Danielle Smith's decision to run for leader of the PC Party, I was pleased to announce, on Twitter, of course, that I will step up to fill the leadership void within the Wildrose Party.

"As Danielle Smith has reminded us, the problem is the PC party, not just the leader.  As leader of the Wildrose, I will unite the right by supporting public health care, higher royalties and borrowing lots of money." said Mason.

Mason also says he plans to unionize Wildrose staff. "I'm sure they will thank me for that."

"The political world in Alberta is in flux and I think we can use the buckets of money in the Wildrose's accounts to help fight climate change. I think the party donors will feel good about that decision," Mason said.

Smith's decision to lead the PCs means she will continue in her role as leader of the opposition after the next election, Mason concluded. "She's pretty good at it, and I look forward to facing her across the aisle".
  

HEALTH MINISTER NEEDS TO LEAD CALLS TO RENEW CANADA HEALTH ACCORD


EDMONTON—Today, New Democrat Health critic David Eggen called on Health Minister Fred Horne to step up to help secure the Canada Health Accord, the health agreement between the federal and provincial governments that expires today.

“Without active negotiation between the provincial and federal governments, Alberta’s health care system is in jeopardy,” said Eggen. “Conservative governments, both federal and provincial, have a long history of attacking public health care. But Canadians across the country want to see our public health care system protected and expanded, not weakened by a conservative privatization agenda.”
 
The federal government has refused to meet with Canada’s Premiers to negotiate a new Accord, and are cutting $36 billion over ten years from public health care.
 
“As the federal government refuses to come to the table to renew this vital agreement, the PCs must stop running away from this issue and take a leadership role in calling on the federal Conservatives to step up and do what’s best for Canadians.”
 
The end of Canada’s Health Accord may result in provinces and territories footing a larger portion of health care costs for our aging population, potentially creating bed shortages, driving up the costs of prescription drugs and increasing privatization in Alberta’s health care system.


 

PCs MUST COME CLEAN ON COSTS, ACCOUNTABILITY FOR FEDERAL BUILDING SUITE


Photo by Simon Law / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0 Photo by Simon Law / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

EDMONTON—New Democrat Infrastructure critic Deron Bilous said that the PCs must immediately release all costs incurred for beginning work on a penthouse suite in the Federal Building for the Premier and publicly release all plans to ensure that the hosting space is appropriate for government business, rather than a special perk for PC insiders.

“This entitlement is, frankly, beyond what everyday families could even have imagined and clearly goes far beyond the former Premier,” said Bilous. “Steamrolling city planners, and wasting time and money to build a palatial suite in a public building is outrageous. And all of this from a government that has spent the last two years underfunding our public services and allowing our schools and hospitals to fall apart.”
 
Even more troubling, Bilous said, are the obvious contradictions between what former Infrastructure Minister Wayne Drysdale and the current Minister Ric McIver.
 
“The ministers can’t even get their stories straight,” said Bilous. “They’re both trying to take credit for putting a stop to building this suite, but the documents show at least one of them isn’t being forthright. We need clarity on who in the government knew about this project, when they knew, and whether any member of the PC cabinet or caucus who knew about the so-called Premier’s suite raised any concerns about the outrageous inappropriateness of this project.”
 
Bilous noted that the documents contain a reference to separate elevator access being required for VIPs and catering, a “Butler’s Pantry” and that the “user group’s” design “benchmark is the Hay Adams Hotel,” where rooms range from $571 to $4,351 USD a night.

STATEMENT FROM NEW DEMOCRAT LEADER BRIAN MASON ON THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION


EDMONTON, AB—New Democrat Leader Brian Mason released the following statement on the final hearing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, taking place in Edmonton Thursday March 27 through Sunday March 30:

“On behalf of Alberta’s New Democrats, I want to encourage all Indigenous and non-Indigenous Albertans to take part in this event as an opportunity to confront the legacy of residential schools.
 
“The damage that residential schools have caused in Indigenous cultures and communities is extensive, and it will require all Canadians to work together to address these historic wrongs.
 
“The New Democrats will advocate for better education on the history and legacy of residential schools in all of our classrooms and will continue to put forward policy that seeks to address racism and discrimination in our communities. Truth and reconciliation must be an ongoing process, but I urge all Albertans to take part in that process over the next four days.”
  

“TASK FORCE” ON URBAN DRILLING HIGHLIGHTS PC DELAY AND DEFLECTION


EDMONTON—New Democrat Deputy Leader Rachel Notley is calling on the PC government to immediately ban urban drilling and fracking, and to stop delaying their policy with another “task force.”

“It is quite clear that residents of Alberta’s cities and towns do not want urban drilling. We have seen the residents of Lethbridge stand up against this government, but unfortunately, they have two government MLAs who are joining in the PCs’ foot-dragging,” said Notley.
 
The PC government first promised an urban drilling policy over 18 months ago. Then it announced the policy would be ready by the end of 2013, and finally announced a policy would be in place last month. Instead, the government announced a “task force” or series of “roundtables.” 
 
“Enough is enough. This foot-dragging just can’t continue. Residents who are waiting for clarity on this project are facing continuing uncertainty. They are left to wonder if and when their property values will go down, if they will have to move, or whether they will need to look at various school alternatives for their children should this project move forward,” said Notley.
 
“This government needs to stand up for Albertans and say no to urban drilling. There has been enough talk; what we need is action.”
  

STATEMENT BY NDP DEPUTY LEADER RACHEL NOTLEY ON INDIA AND SWITZERLAND EXPENSES


EDMONTON-- New Democrat Deputy Leader Rachel Notley issued the following statement on the release of the latest international travel expenses for Alison Redford’s trip to India and Switzerland:
 
“This shows that the problem of extravagant travel isn't limited to Alison Redford. There were two members of cabinet along for the ride.

"These are significant costs. We need to see an immediate breakdown of these numbers to see exactly how they spent taxpayers’ money. The way these expenses are being reported without receipts, we can only assume that it is clearly designed to hide some embarrassing information regarding individual totals.
 
“This government has already proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted to travel internationally in an affordable and responsible way.
 
“We have also not seen what the costs of the cancellation for the Afghanistan trip are, not have we seen anything on a purported personal trip to London, England on January 18 and 19 that taxpayers may have funded.
 
“This is just more evidence of a government that believes it is entitled to extravagant trips and entitled to hide information. Albertans need a government acting in their best interests, not a cabinet full of high-fliers spending hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars on expensive international travel."

DOCUMENTS SHOW HEALTH MINISTER HAS IGNORED PROBLEMS AT MISERICORDIA FOR A YEAR: NDP


NDP Opposition health critic David Eggen discusses FOIP documents that show the Alberta Health Minister has been ignoring issues at Misericordia Hospital in west Edmonton for a year. - See more at: http://ndpopposition.ab.ca/news/post/documents-show-health-minister-has-ignored-problems-at-misericordia-for-a-year-ndp#sthash.9uNSKKco.dpuf
NDP Opposition health critic David Eggen discusses FOIP documents that show the Alberta Health Minister has been ignoring issues at Misericordia Hospital in west Edmonton for a year.

 

EDMONTON – Today, the Alberta New Democrats released further FOIP documents detailing how the Ministry of Health has been acutely aware of “catastrophic” risks to infrastructure and patient safety at the Misericordia Hospital, but has so far ignored the majority of funding requests from Covenant Health.

“This minister is misleading Albertans on a day-to-day basis. Minister Horne had stated as recently as March 10th that conditions at the hospital are as ‘safe and comparable to any other hospital in this province.’ Yet, letters to the minister from Covenant Health in April 2013 and December 2013 clearly outline infrastructure issues that are on the cusp of causing ‘catastrophic failures’ and could risk ‘patient and staff safety.’

The minister has also stated that his department has provided $19 million for critical infrastructure repair. However, only $9.8 million has actually gone to infrastructure upgrading, while the rest was allocated to flood repair. Covenant Health requested $36 million over three years in April 2013 to “eliminate the immediate critical risks to patient safety.”

Also of note is that before Alberta Health Services was formed, Alberta Infrastructure had agreed to fund a $100 million replacement tower at the Misericordia which would have been completed in 2010. When AHS was formed in 2008 the plans were scrapped and in the subsequent six years Misericordia has been in limbo.

The FOIP documents detail a litany of ongoing infrastructure and patient safety issues, including:

  • Medical gas lines, only partially repaired, “could potentially fail at any time” requiring evacuation of the hospital (pg 127)
  • Lack of sprinklers in some areas, elevating “fire and life safety risk” (pg 129)
  • Exhaust fumes from vehicles sucked into intakes and distributed through the hospital (pg 131)
  • Major facility issues that “interfere with patient care” requiring “daily crisis management” (pg 164)
  • Constant temperature and humidity fluctuations, resulting in shutdown of labs and ORs (pg 132)
  • Lack of security systems for entrances and exits as doors are not monitored and can be propped open without alerting security (pg 134)

“Covenant Health has told this minister over several years that the situation at the Misericordia has become untenable and that there are significant risks to patient care. But this minister puts his head in the sand and obfuscates to the legislature. Albertans deserve better,” said Eggen.

FOIP documents are available here or below.

FOIP - Infrastructure and safety issues at Edmonton Misericordia Hospital by Alberta NDP

MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS MINISTER SHOULD STEP DOWN WHILE CONSIDERING LEADERSHIP BID


EDMONTON— New Democrat House Leader Rachel Notley is calling on Ken Hughes to immediately step aside as the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Mr Hughes held a media conference in Calgary today where he has obviously entered the PC leadership race and is currently gathering support to become the next Premier of Alberta.

“To say he is gathering input from Albertans is just another way of saying he is gathering support, resources and troops on the ground to become the leader of the PC party,” said Notley. “This party has been so dogged by entitlement that even the appearance of wrongdoing will not be acceptable to Albertans.”
 
Since announcing Friday that he was considering a run for the leadership, the minister has been giving campaign-style speeches and has styled himself as being the right person to rebuild the PC party.
 
“I have no reason to doubt Mr. Hughes’ integrity. However, given the PCs’ history of accepting illegal donations from municipalities, to have the Minister of Municipal Affairs out there courting support for a leadership run is inappropriate. The minister should be act now to ensure that no appearance of impropriety exists,” said Notley.
 
In January 2013, the PCs were forced to pay back $45,000 in illegal donations from municipalities, colleges and universities, all prohibited corporations under the Elections Act.
 
“To suggest that he hasn’t started campaigning when he has already launched a webpage entitled albertaleadership.com is misleading semantics at best. He should step aside now.”
  

FIRST APPOINTMENT TO INDEPENDENT “MONITORING AGENCY” LONGTIME PC INSIDER


EDMONTON, AB—New Democrat Environment critic Rachel Notley said that the first appointments to the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) confirm that the agency, which was supposed to be independent, will be yet-another PC-insider, industry-friendly body.

Lorne Taylor, a former Minister of Environment in the province was appointed as Chair of AEMERA today.
 
“The whole point was that AEMERA was supposed to be truly independent from government,” Notley said. “Mr. Taylor is the poster child for exactly the opposite.”
 
Lorne Taylor served as Alberta’s Environment Minister from 2001 to 2004, leading the fight in Alberta against Kyoto and insisting that Alberta must not introduce a deadline on reducing greenhouse gases until 2020. He now works with Alberta WaterSMART, which has among its clients Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance and the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada. Since his retirement from politics, Taylor has regularly worked on contract for the PC government.
 
“When this legislation was introduced in the fall, we proposed amendments to ensure that there would be balance on the board of this new monitoring agency,” said Notley.  “Instead, it looks like we’ll have yet another board stacked with PC insiders and industry insiders.
 
“It’s essential for this board to be independent and impartial in order for it to do its job to protect our air and our water,” Notley said. “This government also needs to ensure that any potential conflicts-of-interest have been addressed by their appointees to this board. We simply can’t have someone providing strategic direction to the oil and gas sector about getting projects approved while he’s supposed to be the guardian of our environment.”

 

NEW DEMOCRATS TO INTRODUCE AMENDMENTS TO END FUNDING FOR ASSOCIATE MINISTERS


Brian Mason, Leader of Alberta's NDP Opposition, speaks to media at the Legislature Media Room on March 18, 2014 on his caucus' proposed amendments to Budget 2014. The amendments offer $3,191,000 in savings.

Brian Mason, Leader of Alberta's NDP Opposition, speaks to media at the Legislature Media Room on March 18, 2014 on his caucus' proposed amendments to Budget 2014. The amendments offer just over $3.1 million in savings.

EDMONTON —Today, New Democrat Leader Brian Mason announced that the NDP will be introducing a series of amendments during the budget estimates process to reduce the budgets for Associate Ministers to zero and to freeze the Premier’s Office budget at the level of Budget 2013.

“These are common-sense amendments that will save us over $3 million in unnecessary spending,” Mason said. “For a government to talk about the need for us to tighten our belts living within our means and then spend all of this money on Associate Ministers and funding for the Premier’s Office is wasteful and hypocritical.”

The total savings from the NDP’s amendments would be $3,191,000, broken out as follows:

  • $911,000 from the Premier’s office
  • $250,000 from Energy for an Associate Minister of Renewable Energy and Electricity
  • $673,000 from Human Services for an Associate Minister for Family and Community Safety and an Associate Minister for Services for Persons with Disabilities
  • $250,000 from International and Intergovernmental Relations for an Associate Minister
  • $561,000 from Health for two Associate Ministers for Seniors and Wellness
  • $286,000 from Municipal Affairs for three Associate Ministers for flood recovery and one Associate Minister for Public Safety
  • $260,000 from Service Alberta for an Associate Minister for Accountability, Transparency and Transformation

“This Premier is spending public funds to reward her caucus for support by appointing cardboard Ministers. They have no real responsibilities for any departments. Instead of creating the largest cabinet in Alberta’s history, the PCs should be focusing on investing in the services that matter to Albertans.

“We’re also introducing an amendment to reduce the Premier’s office budget to the same levels it was in 2013. She has proven over and over again that she wastes public money. It’s time for the Premier to learn to live within her means, exactly as she’s said that she expects other Albertans to do.”

Alberta’s NDP MLAs will be introducing these budget amendments throughout estimates, which started last night and will continue into the third week of April. The first amendment will take place tonight during estimates for Service Alberta.

WILDROSE MOTION ENDANGERS PROTECTION FROM HATE SPEECH FOR GENDER, SEXUALITY, ETHNICITY


EDMONTON— New Democrat Justice critic Rachel Notley said that the Wildrose’s motion to repeal part of Section 3 of the Human Rights Act endangers minorities in Alberta and represents a slippery slope towards limiting the protection of those groups from hate speech.

Both the Premier and the Justice Minister for the PCs have also publicly stated their support for repealing the entirety of Section 3 of Alberta’s Human Rights Act. The act prohibits exposing “a person or a class of persons to hatred or contempt because of the race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income or family status of that person or class of persons.”

“Once again, we see that the PCs and the Wildrose are are beholden to the same narrow ideology,” Notley said. “We can’t trust them to stand up for all Albertans or to protect all members of our society.”

“While the task of balancing free speech with protection from hate is a complex one that requires ongoing attention, and while the processes around the administration of this legislation may also warrant improvement, neither changing the Act without wide-ranging consultation nor the complete gutting of this provision will help grow inclusion and acceptance in our increasingly diverse province.”

It is well established by the Supreme Court of Canada that necessary limits exist on certain rights to be able to give them their meaning. The Court and the Canadian Bar Association maintain that protections from hate speech are necessary to encourage a fair and safe society.

“This is not about freedom of expression,” said Notley. “This is about actively excluding women, LGBTQ people and ethnic minorities from protection from discrimination—a shocking and disappointing exposure of the shared ideology of Alberta’s conservative parties.”

PCs ENDANGER AIR QUALITY MONITORING IN OILSANDS REGION


EDMONTON, AB—A funding shortfall of $3.4 million dollars will soon put an end to air monitoring throughout the heavily industrialized Wood Buffalo Region of northern Alberta, said New Democrat Environment critic Rachel Notley.

At a recent AGM, the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA) was denied the amount by the Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Project, a joint provincial/federal initiative designed to distribute industry funds for environmental monitoring. Unless their budget is passed, the WBEA will shut down on March 31.
 
“By failing to step up to properly fund air monitoring, the PCs are leaving the areas of the province with the highest level of oil and gas development unprotected. When you consider that the $3 million being called for by the WBEA already represents a $5 million dollar reduction from their previous investment, this government’s failure is particularly indefensible. This government can’t announce a budget surplus while sacrificing the safety of our air for so little,” Notley said.
 
The Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Project is set to expire at the end of 2015, indefinitely suspending the WBEA’s operations until the implementation of the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency, which sources within the WBEA say is nowhere near ready to assume responsibility for the Region.
 
“This PC government is clearly much too distracted by internal squabbles to do their job, which includes protecting the air, land and water in this province,” said Notley.
 
A map of the affected region is embedded below.


View WBEA in a larger map

EDUCATION MINISTER HAS LEFT TEACHERS OUT OF CURRICULUM REDESIGN IN FAVOUR OF OIL AND GAS COMPANIES


EDMONTON – Today, NDP Education Critic Deron Bilous said that the government’s statement yesterday that “every Albertan has a stake in the education system” is misleading, when the ministry has shut teachers out the curriculum redesign process in three out of four age groups.
 
Yesterday during question period, Bilous questioned Education Minister Johnson on why major oil and gas companies were listed as “key education partners” in developing K-3 education in Alberta. Johnson responded by saying that people from around the province have been invited to provide input.
 
“This was a very disingenuous answer to a very serious question,” said Bilous. “There is a huge difference between getting ‘input’ from a room full of parents and grandparents to having oil and gas companies sitting at the decision-making table. To compare the two is ridiculous. Once again we see Tory insiders given special status above education experts in the field.”
 
Bilous noted that if the minister was actually serious about having all Albertans involved in curriculum redesign, there would be a much larger scope for teachers, parents and other education experts.
 
“Why are teachers not at the table for each and every part of the curriculum redesign? These education experts are on the front lines every day with students and they understand the needs and wants of their students better than any Tory-friendly corporate insiders. But yet the Education Minister has made sure that oil and gas companies have a much bigger voice than dozens of other worthy groups,” said Bilous.
 
The documents from the Ministry of Education are available here or below.
 

Alberta Education Curriculum Development Prototyping Partners by Alberta NDP

CURRICULUM REDESIGN LISTS OIL AND GAS COMPANIES AS KEY EDUCATIONAL ADVISORS FOR K-3


EDMONTON – Today, NDP Education Critic Deron Bilous said he was shocked to learn that Syncrude and Suncor were listed as key partners in developing the new Kindergarten to Grade 3 curriculum.
 
“Kindergarten to grade three is a very formative time in a child’s education where their minds are still developing. It is outrageous and appalling to have oil and gas companies involved in any way in developing curriculum for Alberta’s youngest students,” Bilous said.
 
According to Alberta Education documents, several oil and gas companies are given key partnership status in “helping draft Alberta’s future curriculum for our students.”
 
“Maybe the minister can explain why parents and teachers are being pushed aside to make room for oil and gas companies? I certainly can’t even to begin to rationalize these decisions, or why the minister would undermine the value of our education system,” said Bilous.
 
Of further concern is the rapid pace of the curriculum development. According to Alberta Education, the complete redesign of K-12 is to be completed within two years.
 
“Parents and teachers are confused and angry. A complete redesign of what we are teaching our kids should not be hurried in any way. I encourage the minister to slow this process down and remove any partners that are not experts in childhood education. Somehow, I don’t think that oil and gas companies have the necessary qualifications,” said Bilous.
 
“For this minister to say he has no issue with these companies being involved in curriculum development for young children is appalling.”
 
The documents can be found here or below:

Alberta Education Curriculum Development Prototyping Partners by Alberta NDP

STAFF IN TEARS AT MISERICORDIA HOSPITAL

NDP RELEASES FOIP DOCUMENTS SHOWING HEATING, MOLD, ELEVATOR ISSUES


2014-03-10 Misercordia FOIPS Eggen

Alberta's NDP Opposition health critic David Eggen presents a stack of 250 FOIP documents detailing issues at the Misericordia Community Hospital in west Edmonton. The issues date back to January 2012, and include details on mold, heating, plumbing, electrical and infrastructure problems. The NDP is calling on immediate action to stabilize and replace the hospital.

EDMONTON – Today, the Alberta New Democrats released documents with details about the rapidly failing Misericordia Hospital.  In Question Period today, Health Minister Fred Horne claimed that the Misericordia is both safe and operating at a level comparable to any hospital in Alberta. The documents show otherwise.
 
“These documents are absolutely shocking,” said Eggen. “This hospital is falling apart while this PC government ignores the issue. Staff and patients deserve better than broken elevators, labs and operating rooms too hot to work in, and call bells that no one can hear. By ignoring the state of this hospital, the government is endangering Albertans.”
 
The documents detail a litany of issues, including:

  • serious problems with overheating in the hospital. At one point in December of 2013, the cardiac unit reached 33 degrees and management at the hospital report staff breaking down in tears because they are overheating
  • issues with the bell call system in many units. Nurses have said that “giving patients little silver bells is not a solution”
  • employees need protective equipment to enter the mechanical room because the mold levels are 10 times higher than a control sample
  • elevators and dumbwaiters that were regularly not working
  • a 4-year old hole that was growing on the floor of a delivery room, fills with blood and fluid and causes an infection hazard

“For a government that’s claiming they have a surplus not to invest in this hospital is a travesty. It urgently needs to be rebuilt to ensure that patients and frontline workers are safe and comfortable.”
 
There are two packages of FOIP documents: one that details staff requests for maintenance, and one with staff complaints.
 

 

PC BUDGET WILL SEE RICH GET RICHER, MIDDLE CLASS GET SQUEEZED AND VULNERABLE ALBERTANS ATTACKED


The latest budget from the PC government is a prime example of how out of touch the government is with Alberta families, said NDP Leader Brian Mason.
 
“This government has continued its attacks on Alberta families, while making sure the richest Albertans and corporations are well looked after. This budget completely abandons middle-class and vulnerable people,” said Mason. “This budget is the next chapter in the tale of two Albertans. Times are good for PC insiders and corporations, while Alberta families will continue to see tough times ahead.”
 
Examples of the PCs looking after the rich include: $150 million in-kind royalties to oil corporations, $8.6 million in corporate subsidies to industry in the post-secondary education budget, and a $1 million increase to Alison Redford’s office.
 
Middle-class families will also feel the effects of this budget with no reinvestment in post-secondary education despite a $147 cut last year, no funding for full-day kindergarten, a $120 million cut from seniors’ drug benefits and the continuation of a flat tax, which sees the middle-class pay more.
 
“With the extra revenue coming in, this budget was a really good chance for the government to help families. Instead they have been left behind and will see tough times ahead,” said Mason.
 
The PCs have also attacked the most vulnerable in Alberta. Not only have they given up their plan to eliminate child poverty, cutting $20 million for persons with developmental disabilities (PDD), huge cuts to programs to help low-income families get out of poverty and funding to human services well below the rate of inflation and population growth.
 
“This government that doesn’t understand the priorities of Albertans,” said Mason. “The Alberta New Democrats will continue to fight for middle-class families who are squeezed by PC policies, and to stand up for vulnerable Albertans that are attacked in this budget.”

PIPELINE LEAK REPORT SHOWS ALARMING NEGLIGENCE BY PC GOVERNMENT


EDMONTON – An investigation into a pipeline leak by Plains Midstream into the Red Deer River shows a negligent pattern by the PC government to protect the environment, charged NDP Environment Critic Rachel Notley.
 
“This investigation shows that a large pipeline company has been in a chronic state of non-compliance with safety standards for many years, but the Alberta Energy Regulator failed to address this issue and now we know that because of that failure the Red Deer River was severely contaminated,” said Notley.
 
Between 2008 and 2012, the company ignored several of its own internally-generated recommendations to upgrade the safety standards of the pipeline at the river crossing. In addition, they failed to meet government inspection guidelines mandating a minimum of one inspection per year and more in locations that are high-risk.
 
On June 7, 2012, a pipeline break resulted in 462,000 litres of crude oil being spilled into the Red Deer River near Sundre. The leak caused the closure of Gleniffer Lake to recreational users, led to a fishing ban and almost contaminated the City of Red Deer’s water supply.
 
“This history is a clear demonstration of the fact that industry self-policing doesn’t work and this failure will always undermine the safety of Albertans’ air, land and water,” said Notley.
 
Notley called on the government to move quickly to impose significant and meaningful sanctions, noting that none have been applied yet almost two years after the accident.
 
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SLAVE LAKE DOCTORS’ CRISIS A SYMPTOM OF PC CUTS


EDMONTON – Today, the Alberta NDP stood in solidarity with the citizens of Slave Lake on the increasing crisis over the doctor shortage in the northern community. NDP Health Critic David Eggen also tabled almost 3,000 petitions in the legislature calling on Minister Horne to immediately address the situation before lives are put at risk.
 
“This situation in Slave Lake is symptomatic of the short-sighted nature of PC cuts to health care in this province, yet this government has announced no plan to help this community,” said Eggen.
 
In November, four doctors resigned at the same time, leaving the community dangerously short of local care. There is also a severe lack of obstetric and gynecological physicians in Slave Lake, which has forced some expectant mothers to drive or be transferred to Edmonton. Further reports estimate that northern Alberta is short at least 40 family doctors.
 
“This health minister needs to meet with the community to determine how to ensure that Slave Lake has an appropriate level of care, and how we can recruit more doctors,” said Eggen.
 
“What we are seeing in Slave Lake is also happening in many other rural areas. Cold Lake is also concerned over the lack of obstetrical centre in their community and has had to ship expectant mothers to Bonnyville, while other reports state that central Alberta is short up to 57 doctors to meet rural needs. We can’t have this rural doctor shortage continue,” said Eggen.
 
The NDP would actively recruit doctors to rural areas, freeze tuition costs and will continue to call on the PC government to implement the promised rural and Aboriginal student bursary.