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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.
 

 

THRONE SPEECH SHOWS PCS OUT OF IDEAS

More cuts to social programs and revenue rollercoasters expected



NDP Leader Brian Mason said the latest throne speech is proof that the PCs have run out of ideas and are out of touch.
 
“It’s clear this government’s only vision is to tie public programs to the needs of big business, particularly oil sands companies. There is absolutely nothing here to benefit Alberta families,” said Mason.
 
Of note in the speech is that spending for the province’s social programs does not match inflation and population growth, which will result in more cuts to public programs. There was also no mention of reforming the tax system to move away from revenue that is reliant on market fluctuations.
 
“Once again we will have fluctuating revenue that is tied to the royalty rollercoaster. This will result in continued cuts to government programs,” said Mason.
 
Alberta’s New Democrats have been fighting to make life more affordable for Albertans and will continue to do so in the next session of the legislature.

 

TRANSALTA MARKET MANIPULATION ALLEGATIONS MORE PROOF ELECTRICTY DEREGULATION DOES NOT BENEFIT ALBERTANS


Today, NDP Leader Brian Mason called the latest allegations of market manipulation by TransAlta shocking but hardly surprising, as the PCs’ ideological move to deregulation has been a disaster for Albertans since its inception.

“This is just further proof that deregulation has failed. Alberta families cannot afford these high electricity bills, and to see a major corporation allegedly manipulate the market to further squeeze Albertans out of more money is nothing short of unconscionable,” said Mason.

“We have no faith in this conservative government to protect Albertans from out of control electricity prices, especially when TransAlta is yet another one of their big corporate donors,” said Mason.

In the last two years, TransAlta has donated $28,089.25 to the PC party.

Alberta’s New Democrats have been fighting to make life more affordable for Albertans, and the failed deregulation of electricity shows that the PCs are more concerned with keeping their corporate friends happy than making life easier for everyday families. In the latest Hydro Quebec report on electricity prices in Canada, Calgary and Edmonton were the third and fourth most expensive cities in the country respectively.

“While travelling around the province, we have heard far too many stories of Albertans who struggle to make ends meet every day. People shouldn’t have to choose between buying food and paying their electricity bills,” said Mason.

Alberta’s New Democrats are calling on the government to immediately regulate consumer electricity rates.

MASON OUTLINES ALBERTA NDP PRIORITIES FOR SPRING SESSION


As the spring sitting of the Alberta Legislature is set to begin, NDP Leader Brian Mason outlined the Democrats’ priorities, including continued pressure on the PC government to focus on investing in essential services like public health care, K-12 and post-secondary education, affordable electricity and protecting the environment. The NDP will also continue to highlight the PC government's sense of entitlement, hypocrisy and lack of respect for public workers and the rule of law.
 
“This government has become completely out of touch with middle-class Alberta families. We have seen them spend like drunken sailors when it comes to extravagant trips, executive bonuses and corporate welfare for their friends and insiders.
 
“At the same time they have slashed budgets for front line services, implemented wage freezes for their employees, gutted public pensions, slashed post-secondary funding, packed children into already over-crowded classrooms and laid off nurses and teachers. The hypocrisy of this government knows no bounds and we intend to keep their feet to the flames,” said Mason.
 
During the recent Alberta NDP “Making Life Affordable” Pre-Budget Tour, many people stressed that they are struggling to make ends meet and said they are angry with Redford and the rest of the PC caucus on how out of touch this government is with the real priorities of Albertans.
 
“Life is getting harder for Alberta families, while PC-friendly corporations are bringing in record profits. This government only governs to benefit themselves and their corporate friends and that's just plain wrong,” said Mason.
 
“We will be pressuring this conservative government to get off the resource roller coaster and bring forward proposals surrounding a progressive tax system, fair corporate taxes and a competitive royalty system. We will be bringing a common sense approach to the issues that matter to Alberta families,” said Mason.
 
“We know this government can't be trusted and they will always put their interests and those of their corporate donors first. The Alberta NDP will continue to fight this out-of-touch, entitled government and we will protect Albertans from the Conservative priorities that are putting the quality of life of everyday families at risk.
 
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DRAFT REPORT SHOWS GOVERNMENT CUTS TO UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA HAVE IMPACTED REPUTATION, STAFF RETENTION, RESEARCH AND PARTNERSHIPS


EDMONTON – Today, New Democrat Advanced Education Critic Rachel Notley called on the conservative government to immediately reinstate post-secondary funding in this year’s budget after a recent draft report was released by the University of Alberta showing the catastrophic result of last year’s funding reductions. The U of A saw an overall reduction of $33.6 million in funding in 2013 from the government.

“This draft report reinforces what we have been saying since last year – that these cuts cannot be made without attacking the quality of post-secondary education in this province.  Moreover, it shows that the mid-year, seat-of-the-pants reinvestment in post-secondary has not fixed the damage done by the original cut,” said Notley.

In the draft U of A Comprehensive Institutional Plan 2014, university executives explain that the “2013-2014 budget had a negative impact on all aspects of the university including its students, staff, faculty, alumni, donors and strategic partners.”

The report goes on to state that the university feels there is uncertainty in government policy and funding support, and they need a commitment from the government for long-term funding. It further states that the funding cuts and uncertainty have made all aspects of planning difficult and long-term strategic planning almost impossible.

The report states the cuts “give rise to numerous institutional risks including the impact on quality; ability to grow research and establish international partnerships; maintenance of program accreditation; ability to attract and retain the highest-quality faculty, staff and students; maintenance of infrastructure; and overall institutional reputation.”

“As a starting point, the NDP is calling on the government to restore the remainder of the cut this year, to live up to its original promise to provide increases over a three year period, and to consider additional funds to offset the “chaos premium” imposed by the last 12 months of damaging Conservative mismanagement.” said Notley.

The draft report can be found here starting on page 83.

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REDFORD GOVERNMENT CONTENT TO STAY ON ROYALTY ROLLERCOASTER – NDP


EDMONTON – Today, New Democrat Leader Brian Mason called the Conservative government “lucky idiots” who simply stumbled across additional revenue this budget year thanks to higher energy prices and a low dollar. He called on the government to focus on implementing stable, predictable sources of revenue that will give stability to Alberta’s public services.

“The Conservatives continue to rely on the resource revenue rollercoaster. They’re still much too dependent on resource revenue to pay for our essential services.

“They forecast a deficit last year and now we’re running an operational surplus, so why should Albertans trust this government or its budget numbers? When the price of oil goes down, this Conservative government slashes frontline services, implements wage freezes and guts pensions. Albertans deserve better than this kind of seat-of-the-pants budgeting,” said Mason.

In the Q3 fiscal update, Finance Minister Doug Horner admitted that Alberta is at the mercy of market fluctuations and that revenue will continue to fluctuate.

“After inventing a “bitumen bubble” to justify cuts last year, this Conservative government is now charging forward with a Wildrose cutback agenda. Albertans have been clear that they want a government that invests in health care and education, not a government that racks up lavish expenses for themselves and their friends, while expecting Alberta families to make do with fewer services and less money,” said Mason.

Alberta’s New Democrats are calling for the PC government to stop depending on the volatility of natural resource revenue by implementing a fair, progressive personal tax system, a competitive corporate tax rate and a fair royalty system.

STATEMENT FROM NDP LABOUR CRITIC RACHEL NOTLEY ON PUBLIC SECTOR PENSION PLANS


EDMONTON – Alberta New Democrat Labour critic Rachel Notley released the following statement in response to pension changes announced by Finance Minister Doug Horner this afternoon:
 
“The Finance Minister’s plans for public sector pensions are yet another reason why Alberta families cannot trust this Conservative government to stand up for their interests.  Not only are they continuing their practice of arbitrary decision making in lieu of respectful negotiation with their employees, they are doing so by clawing back money from modestly-compensated Albertans and by ensuring a more uncertain future for a large number of future retirees.

“We know that the plans are not in any immediate crisis, and we have yet to see any proof from the PC government that these particular cold-hearted cuts are necessary to ensure the plan’s sustainability.  
 
“One of the areas where there is consensus amongst the experts is that the vast majority of Albertans do not have the financial ability to ensure a secure retirement.  Access to predictable secure pension plans must be increased not reduced, but this government is moving in the opposite direction.  As the government attacks the financial security of middle-class retirees, communities across the province will see their economic activity stunted and levels of inequality grow.
 
“The Alberta New Democrats will continue to fight against these changes because we know that a secure modest retirement is good for these workers, their families and their communities.”


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THE NEW DEMOCRAT PLAN FOR INVESTING IN HEALTH CARE

EXTRA FEDERAL FUNDS SHOULD GO TO PROTECTING AND EXPANDING PUBLIC HEALTH CARE


EDMONTON – Alberta's New Democrats are calling on the provincial government to use an increase in federal funding for health care to protect our public health care system, build new long-term care beds, reduce prescription drug costs for seniors and low-income Albertans, support mental health care, grow medical and nursing training programs and protect public lab services.

“While the Premier has said that this increase in federal funding for health care will go to general revenue, Alberta's New Democrats believe that the funds must go to protecting and expanding our public health care system,” said NDP Leader Brian Mason. “Long-term care in this province needs a major investment, seniors need better access to pharmacare and home care, and we need to ensure that we have the medical professionals for all of our communities. All of our recommendations support the public system, including a plan to ensure that Albertans get the benefit of a publicly-owned, state-of-the-art lab.”

Due to a federal government change in Canadian Health Transfer funds, Alberta will receive an additional $1 billion per year from the federal government. Alberta’s New Democrats fight to protect public health care in the face of PC mismanagement and privatization. The New Democrats have a straightforward five-point plan for $1 billion in additional health care services and supports that will help ensure quality care to all Albertans for generations to come.

We would improve access to health care and reduce wait times by:

1.     Investing in Quality, Public Long-Term Care

Albertans have heard too many stories of neglect in the PCs' for-profit long-term care system. We would immediately invest in building 1,500 new, public, fully-staffed long-term care beds to ensure Albertans are well looked after, regardless of their age or income. Doing so would also reduce the strain on our acute care system, freeing up funds for increased hospital staffing. We can also respect seniors who choose to stay at home by improving home care support rather than relying on a broken private model.

LTC beds/staffing ($100 million) and homecare improvements ($50 million)

2.     Reducing Prescription Drug Costs for Seniors and Low-Income Albertans

Currently nearly 8% of Albertans skip prescriptions to save money – something that costs our health system in the long-run. Alberta’s NDP would eliminate out-of-pocket prescription drug expenses for seniors and premiums for low-income Albertans. At the same time we would lobby the federal government for national pharmacare, saving the country money and ensuring coverage for all Albertans.

Eliminate pharmacare fees for seniors and premiums for low-income Albertans ($400 million)

3.     Supporting Mental Health Care

Treatment for mental health and addictions in Alberta operates as an uncoordinated patchwork of services, focused mainly on responding to people in crisis rather than working to preventing it. By strategically organizing our mental health and addictions treatment and funding 1,000 additional qualified counsellors within the public system, we can start to ensure that Albertans have access to long-term treatment options for mental health that improve quality of life.

Mental Health Care – additional counselors and systems-level planning ($100 million)

4.     Growing Our Medical and Nursing Programs

Our communities are facing dramatic shortages of qualified medical staff. At the same time, this PC government has made drastic cuts to post-secondary education in the province, reducing access to medical training for future doctors and nurses. Over the long-term we can ease our staffing shortage by increasing the number of seats in our health programs and improving educational opportunities in advanced medical studies and specializations.

Increasing Training for more Doctors and Nurses ($50 million/year)

5.     Protecting Public Lab Services

We would immediately halt the massive privatization of medical testing and instead work to expand the Calgary Laboratory Services model to the rest of the province, ensuring timely medical testing in all areas of the province and keeping a vital service in public hands. Alberta can afford to have innovative, cutting edge services. We cannot afford being at the mercy of a single, private provider for 25 years.

Keeping Lab Services Public ($300 million)

“This is a common-sense plan to strengthen public health care in Alberta,” said NDP Health critic David Eggen. “The PCs are using our health care system to funnel our health care dollars to their corporate donors. But we don't need more corporate friends and insiders having a chance to turn a profit off of the health services Albertans need – we need to invest in sensible, publicly-run services to improve the outcomes and the experiences of Albertans in the health care system.”

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ALBERTA NDP OPPOSITION RELEASES URBAN DRILLING POLICY, CONTINUES OPPOSITION TO GOLDENKEY PROJECT


LETHBRIDGE, A.B.  – Standing in a library two kilometres from a proposed new urban drilling project, New Democrat Leader Brian Mason released the NDP’s position on urban drilling and the Goldenkey application in Lethbridge, saying that the PC government needs to stand up for Alberta families and support a ban on drilling in all urban areas.

“The PCs have always moved at a breakneck speed when it comes to approving oil and gas development in this province, but when that endangers families and communities, it’s obviously past time to slow down,” said Mason. “We need this government to stand up for Alberta families—not to speed ahead with oil and gas development within municipal boundaries before their urban drilling policy has even seen the light of day.”

The NDP is calling:

  1. For the PCs to ban all drilling in urban areas.
  2. For the PCs to finally undertake an independent, scientific review of fracking, its impact on water quality, air quality and community safety.
  3. To implement independent pre-fracking groundwater monitoring, and a scientific assessment of river inflow needs before water allocation decisions are made.
  4. For the PCs to release any guidance that the Department of Energy has given to Goldenkey on their application.

On Monday, Mason released documents showing an increase of over 600% in the number of temporary diversion licenses granted to companies for fracking. The amount of water used with these licenses had increased more than 1,000%, an increase that is of particular concern in the South Saskatchewan basin, where water is scarce.

“People in West Lethbridge didn’t buy homes here to find out that they’d be within a kilometre of a drilling project, flaring, noise and possible air and water pollution,” said Mason.  “People have moved to these communities for a quiet, safe place to raise their families, and if the PCs allow this project to proceed, it will show that they have no respect for the quality of life of these Albertans.

“Since the NDP first heard about the Goldenkey application, we have repeatedly called on the PC government to put the homeowners and citizens of West Lethbridge first. And the local MLA needs to take that fight to Edmonton. A vague assurance that he's taking people's concerns forward doesn't cut it. He needs to actively join in the fight against these developments.  Residents of Lethbridge can be confident that the NDP will continue to fight for a ban on drilling in urban areas and for a complete and independent review of the safety of fracking, to ensure that the health and safety of Albertans, our water and our air is the first priority for all development in the province.”

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STATEMENT FROM NDP LEADER BRIAN MASON ON SHERRY McKIBBEN


EDMONTON - New Democrat Leader Brian Mason released the following statement on the passing of Sherry McKibben:

"Sherry was a strong and compassionate woman whose commitment to people was visible throughout her career. During our work together representing Ward 3 on Edmonton City Council, I was deeply impressed by Sherry's intelligence and work ethic.

"Sherry made an important contribution to Alberta's New Democrats. She served as the president of the party, represented the party as a candidate in two provincial elections and worked as Chief of Staff for the NDP caucus."

"On behalf of the Alberta New Democrats, I extend my sincere condolences to her family and her friends."

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STATEMENT FROM NDP LEADER BRIAN MASON ON HUMAN RIGHTS FOR INDIAN PRISONERS


EDMONTON - Today, the Alberta New Democrats urged Premier Redford to advocate for human rights on her trip to India. We share the concerns of Alberta’s Punjabi community about the treatment of prisoners detained under counterinsurgency laws in India.

“As Premier Redford leaves for India, she needs to keep in mind the concerns of over 4,000 Albertans who have signed a petition calling on the government to raise this issue during her visit and support the permanent release of any political prisoners being held past the end of their sentence,” said NDP Leader Brian Mason.

In December, Punjabi activist Gurbaksh Singh went on a 44-day hunger strike in an attempt to raise awareness about political prisoners in India.

The Alberta New Democrats urge the Premier to represent the Alberta Punjabi community and to speak out for human rights in India.

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QUEUE-JUMPING FOR FLU VACCINE FOLLOWS PC MISMANAGEMENT OF CRISIS: MASON


EDMONTON – Today, New Democrat Leader Brian Mason said that the government must put a stop to queue-jumping for the flu vaccine, as London Drugs stores in Calgary have been providing the vaccine for a $20 fee.

“It’s unacceptable for the PC government to allow a pharmacy to sell a life-saving vaccine to those who can afford it, while other Albertans have been unable to find a place to get vaccinated because of supply issues,” said Mason. “This is classic two-tier health care, where those who can pay jump the queue and those who can’t wait in long lines because the Minister and AHS haven’t provided adequate services or adequate supply.”

Health Minister Fred Horne created a weekend “flu frenzy” following a hastily-organized news conference last Friday urging all Albertans to get vaccinated. Many pharmacies did not have the vaccine and the two public health clinics that were open saw long lines throughout the weekend.

“As this PC government moves to increase the role that private pharmacies play in our health care system, they must also guarantee that the pharmacies provide fair, public care for all Albertans—not backdoor access for those who can pay,” said Mason.

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NDP CALLS FOR TRANSPARENCY AROUND LATEST DEATH OF CHILD IN GOVERNMENT CARE


EDMONTON – Today, New Democrat Human Services critic Rachel Notley called on the government to stop hiding behind a cloak of secrecy and confirm that yet another child in government care has died.

“Here we have reports of yet another tragic case of a child dying in care while the government attempts to conceal information from the public. This government constantly hides behind an overused piece of privacy legislation that is more focussed on protecting the government than actually protecting children,” said Notley.

Media reports have stated that a young girl with a developmental disability, died Sunday in an Edmonton group home. Human Services minister Manmeet Bhullar would not confirm or deny that a child had died.

“Has this government not learned anything from the mistakes of the past? We know that they have been underreporting deaths for many years, and despite all of the attention this topic received over the last few months, it’s obvious that the cloak of secrecy hasn’t been lifted. This government cannot be trusted to look after our most vulnerable children when their focus is protecting their own image,” said Notley.

The Alberta NDP is calling on the government to immediately confirm the death of the child, and to commit to real time reporting and investigations into every death of a child in care.

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM THE ALBERTA NDP


EDMONTON – Alberta New Democrat Leader Brian Mason released the following statement to wish all Albertans a happy holiday season:

“As Albertans spend time with family and friends, the New Democrats want to wish every Albertan a happy holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

“To Christians, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, Merry Christmas!

“To all Albertans, I wish you the very best of the season!”

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PCs MUST PAY BACK COSTS OF BUILDING ALBERTA PROPAGANDA


EDMONTON – In response to Speaker Zwozdesky’s ruling on an Alberta NDP Opposition point of privilege, NDP Leader Brian Mason called on the PC Party to pay back the costs of distribution and printing of a brochure that advertised wage freezes for public sector employees and MLAs before the decisions had been made by the Legislature.

“Yet again, we see that this government has no respect for Albertans’ tax dollars, nor do they respect democratic process,” said Mason. “This brochure used public money to pay for PC government advertising, and it’s simply not appropriate or acceptable. The PC Party must pay the costs of this Building Alberta Propaganda back to Albertans.”

The NDP Opposition raised a point of privilege against the Premier last week, after the government sent out an advertising piece trumpeting a Members’ Services Committee motion and legislation that hadn’t been passed.

Today, the Speaker ruled in favour of the point of privilege, asking the Deputy Premier to apologize.

“Albertans are standing up and showing their strong opposition to this PC government’s wage freeze legislation, and their elected NDP opposition members are standing with them. By sending out this propaganda, paid for by Albertans, this government showed utter contempt for the role of the opposition and for all of the Albertans who didn’t vote PC. Without question, the costs of this broken promises brochure must be paid back to Albertans.”

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For more information, please contact:
Brad Lafortune, Communications Officer: 780-446-2375 or Bradley.Lafortune@assembly.ab.ca

PCs MUST FIX SENIORS CARE: EGGEN

Government must legislate staff-patient ratios, move to public delivery


EDMONTON – In response to a provincial investigation into the care received by a Calgary senior at a private long-term care facility, New Democrat Health critic David Eggen said that the government must stop favouring the private delivery model, which short-changes and endangers seniors.

“The NDP has known for years, and told this government for years: the real issues in our system are staffing levels, funding levels and the government’s blind adherence to a private model, which provides a lower quality of care for residents,” said Eggen. “We’ve tabled thousands and thousands of working short forms from the staff who work in these under-staffed facilities, and we’ve seen report after report after report showing that the care in private facilities is inferior to what seniors receive in public facilities.”

A provincial investigation into the care of a senior in a Revera facility in Calgary showed that the woman was left in a soiled diaper for two days. She already had bed sores which lead to a blood poisoning infection.

“A Seniors Advocate, independent or not, won’t fix cases like this. We need a real commitment from this government to improving care for seniors by legislating staff-patient ratios and by investing in public delivery of seniors care. Both the PCs and the Wildrose have misdiagnosed this problem.”

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GOVERNMENT MUST REPORT ALL DEATHS OF ALL CHILDREN IN CARE: NOTLEY


EDMONTON— Today, New Democrat Human Services critic Rachel Notley said the PC government has failed to be accountable for the deaths of vulnerable children in care and called on Human Services to report and investigate all deaths of children receiving protective services.

“This government is more concerned with protecting themselves from their own record on kids in care than in actually protecting those kids,” said Notley. “But these kids deserve better—and so do Albertans. With this government’s cuts to the services that families living in poverty depend on, more children will likely end up in government care. We need to ensure that the system isn’t failing these kids.”

Notley explained that the government has changed how they report the deaths of children in care, exempting some types of care or causes of death.

“We’re seeing fewer and fewer reports on what happens to the children who die in care,” said Notley. “This government and the Child and Youth Advocate must publicly release a full report into the death of any child receiving any type of protective services.”

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STATEMENT FROM BRIAN MASON ON TYPHOON HAIYAN


EDMONTON – New Democrat Leader Brian Mason issued the following statement on Typhoon Haiyan:

“On behalf of the Alberta New Democrats, I want to offer our sincere condolences to every family in Alberta who has lost a family member or a friend. And to the families still waiting to hear if their loved ones are safe, our very best wishes that good news come soon. We know that Filipino families across Alberta are hurting, and we encourage all Albertans to learn what you can do to provide support and assistance to those families.

“Today, we’re also calling on the government of Alberta to provide monetary aid to assist in the recovery efforts in the Philippines. It is crucial that in times like this, Albertans come together to support those who are most in need. It’s not something we should do– it’s something we must do.”

 

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STATEMENT FROM BRIAN MASON ON REMEMBRANCE DAY


EDMONTON – NDP Leader Brian Mason issued the following statement on Remembrance Day:

“Today, Albertans gather to remember and honour the sacrifices of veterans in Canada.

“We acknowledge the sacrifices that our veterans have made and we thank them for being willing to sacrifice for their country.

"On Remembrance Day, we remember the cost of war, and the importance of working for peace."

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ALBERTA NEW DEMOCRATS FORCE TORIES TO BACK DOWN ON LAB PRIVATIZATION


LETHBRIDGE, AB – Pressure from the Alberta New Democrats and frontline workers have forced Alberta Health Services and Health Minister Fred Horne to back down on a planned $3 billion contract to privatize lab services, NDP Leader Brian Mason said Sunday.

“Once again, the New Democrats have proven that we are the only party in the Legislature that can stand up to the Conservative agenda on privatizing the services that Alberta families need,” said Mason.  “We met with the workers who will be most affected, we demanded answers in the Legislature and the Tories backed down. They realized that they can't give $3 billion of Albertans' money to these private health care corporations without a strong fight from the New Democrats.”

On Tuesday, the NDP released a letter from sixteen pathologists outlining serious concerns about the impacts of this massive privatization on patient care and on the quality of lab services and Mason asked  the Premier questions on this issue on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Yesterday, AHS CEO Duncan Campbell tweeted that “AHS will not be issuing its lab RFP as planned. Stay tuned for decision in mid Dec. when we complete consultation with staff and physicians.”

“This is a major victory for public health care in Alberta and I'm proud to say that the New Democrats are leading that fight.  The PCs can't be trusted to protect our public health care system. That's why Albertans need a strong group of New Democrats in the Legislature.”

This is the latest in a series of victories for the NDP on public health care – the PCs were forced to back down on some of the worst changes they made to homecare and on their plan to take $180 million out of seniors' pharmacare.

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PREMIER REVEALS PCs’ REAL AGENDA ON HEALTH CARE IN QUESTION PERIOD


EDMONTON – Today in Question Period, New Democrat Leader Brian Mason questioned Premier Alison Redford on the PC government’s massive planned privatization for lab services in Alberta.  Mason says the Premier’s response shows that the PCs have always had a privatization agenda.

“By mocking the New Democrats for our strong commitment to public health care the Premier made it very clear that her government doesn't share our commitment,” said Mason. “Her government is planning a massive, $3 billion privatization of lab services that health care professionals are rejecting and that hasn’t worked in the past.”

Yesterday, Mason released a letter from sixteen pathologists at the University of Alberta expressing serious concerns about the plan to privatize lab services.

“When the rubber hits the road, this government shows that they have the same agenda Conservatives always have: to privatize the services that Albertans depend on.”

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PC MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS MINISTER WANTS PUPPETS NOT PARTNERS: BILOUS


EDMONTON – New Democrat Municipal Affairs critic Deron Bilous is raising serious concerns over Minister Doug Griffith’s Bill 28, Modernizing Regional Governance Act, tabled Monday, calling the proposed law an example of this PC government’s “iron-fisted” approach to municipal governance.

“This Minister is hollowing out the autonomy of municipalities to impose this PC government’s agenda—they want puppets, not partners,” said Bilous. “It’s exactly this type of iron-fisted approach that leads municipalities to mistrust the PCs’ ability to facilitate complex regional relationships.”

Bill 28, Modernizing Regional Governance Act, would allow the PC government to impose “Growth Management Boards,” barring existing municipal bodies from undertaking public works, making bylaws and entering into other agreements that disagree with the Minister’s orders.

If a municipality were to contradict a “growth plan” as defined under this Act, elected officials could face a maximum fine of up to $10,000 or one-year imprisonment.

“Regional plans, such as the existing Capital Region Plan, will only work when members freely choose to collaborate on shared interests,” said Bilous.  “This PC government is arrogant and out-of-touch and cannot be trusted to protect the independence of municipalities. Where there should be autonomy, the PCs create dictates, where there should be progress, the PCs create resentment.”

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PATIENT CARE AT RISK WITH LAB PRIVATIZATION: MASON


EDMONTON – NDP Leader Brian Mason released a letter signed by 16 pathologists from the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, raising the alarm about patient safety and quality of care should the PCs proceed with privatizing lab services.

“This letter shows exactly how much will be at risk if the PCs proceed with this privatization scheme for lab services,” said Mason. “Patient safety, speed of results, a shutdown in the event of natural disaster and workload for our healthcare professionals are major areas of concern for the New Democrats.”

The writers raise serious concerns about privatization, saying “We remain extremely concerned regarding the totality of this decision and the use of public funds to support this degree of privatization” and go on to question their “ability to maintain research integrity, free of industry bias, in the proposed single private vendor model.”

Their concerns extend to the actual quality and speed of care in the system.

“This PC government continues to show its true Conservative colours, by cutting services and privatizing.  It simply can’t be trusted to protect public health care or to put Alberta families ahead of their corporate friends.”

Alberta’s New Democrats have previously raised the alarm on the privatization of lab services in the Edmonton area and called on the PCs to explain why they’ve decided to move to a private model.

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PC GOVERNMENT MUST DO MORE TO PROTECT LETHBRIDGE FROM FRACKING IN CITY LIMITS


LETHBRIDGE – Today, New Democrat Municipal Affairs critic Deron Bilous called on the provincial government to amend the Municipal Governance Act to ensure that municipal governments have appropriate input into applications for oil and gas development within urban boundaries.

“This PC government can't be trusted to put the health and safety of Albertans ahead of oil and gas development,” said Bilous. “The new Lethbridge council will have to deal with applications for fracking permits within city limits, and the Alberta Energy Regulator should not be able to approve those applications without consulting with council and ensuring that schools, businesses and homes are protected.”

Last month, the NDP expressed support for the Lethbridge city council's vote to ban fracking within city limits.

“The PC MLA for Lethbridge West has said that he doesn't support drilling here, but he's also said that he wants to make sure that drilling near Lethbridge happens safely,” said Bilous. “This government can do more to make sure that the Lethbridge council has grounds to stand up against fracking within city limits.”

Alberta’s New Democrat Opposition supports the City of Lethbridge’s position that oil and gas drilling activities not take place within its urban boundaries; such development is not in the best interest of the community or the environment.

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MASON OUTLINES NDP PRIORITIES FOR FALL SESSION


EDMONTON – NDP Leader Brian Mason said Thursday that the New Democrats will continue to focus on PC broken promises on important public services, while also holding them to account for an economic policy that moves jobs offshore, negligence regarding flood preparation and failures in accountability and transparency.

“Alison Redford lied to Albertans to get elected – she promised to protect and improve public programs but instead delivered the Wildrose's cutback agenda,” said Mason. “The New Democrats will continue to defend the public services that Redford's government is cutting, we'll continue to demand true accountability and we'll continue to remind Albertans that the PCs just don't plan for the future, whether that's on savings, flood mitigation or ensuring that we build a prosperous future from the oilsands.”

Mason said that cuts to services, most especially post-secondary institutions, supports for Albertans with disabilities, K-12 education and home care have marked Redford's first post-election budget.

Meanwhile, accountability has evaporated under Redford's leadership, with the PCs' recent disregard for rulings from the privacy commissioner, their attempts to silence criticism of the oil and gas industry and their decision to remove opposition parties from government communications. "This is the most secretive government in Canada," said Mason.

The PCs won't stand up for jobs in Alberta, allowing the export of unprocessed bitumen and supporting pipelines that will create investment and jobs in the US and China, meanwhile charging the lowest royalties in the world. "The Redford PC government has sold out our young people's future in exchange for political contributions from the oil industry," said Mason.

“This Premier likes to talk about making Alberta more transparent, and about improving primary health care and education. But a government's priorities really lie in their budgets, and Redford's budget was full of cuts to the services Albertans depend on. Cuts to needed services and layoffs are the direct result of the Conservative agenda. Alberta's NDP will stand up for the priorities of Alberta families: health and education, jobs and the environment, and openness and accountability in government."

PCs MUST COME CLEAN ON PLAN TO DRILL FOR OIL IN LETHBRIDGE: MASON


LETHBRIDGE – Today, New Democrat Leader Brian Mason is calling on local PC MLAs Greg Weadick and Bridget Pastoor to make their positions clear on oil and gas development within the city limits of Lethbridge.

“The PCs have been silent about the proposed fracking project within Lethbridge,” said Mason. “The people of Lethbridge need to know whether their MLAs support fracking or any other oil and gas development near homes, schools and businesses.”

On November 13, 2012, city councillors unanimously voted in favour of adopting a motion against any and all oil and gas development within Lethbridge city limits.

Documents released today by the New Democrats show that the company, Goldenkey, appears to want to begin its projects by March of next year.

“Lethbridge city council has been clear, both in November of last year and again two weeks ago: no oil and gas development in the city’s limits,” said Mason. “Now, the local PC MLAs need to stand up for Lethbridge.”

Alberta’s New Democrat Opposition supports the City of Lethbridge’s position that oil and gas drilling activities not take place within its urban boundaries; such development is not in the best interest of the community or the environment.

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MASON CALLS FOR ETHICS COMMISSIONER TO EXPAND SANDHU INVESTIGATION


New Democrat Leader Brian Mason has written a letter to Ethics Commissioner Neil Wilkinson requesting an expanded investigation into the allegedly improper conduct of Peter Sandhu, the MLA for Edmonton-Manning, while he was a member of Premier Redford’s PC Caucus.

“It’s disturbing that a PC MLA might attempt to use their position in the government to benefit their own private interests,” said Mason. “In light of the newly released documents, Albertans need to know that the Ethics Commissioner is investigating this case and considering all of the evidence.”

Documents published this morning appear to show that Mr. Sandhu convinced senior officials in Service Alberta to conduct an investigation into one particular lien and lobbied for amendments to the Builders’ Lien Act that may have benefited his own private interests.

“It is against the law for an MLA to use their position to attempt to influence a decision that could benefit their own private interests,” said Mason. “The Ethics Commissioner needs to look at all the evidence before reaching any conclusions about this Member’s conduct while he was in the PC Caucus.”

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For more information, please contact:

Brad Lafortune, Communications Office: 780-446-2375 or Bradley.Lafortune@assembly.ab.ca

PC BUDGET HURTS YOUNG ALBERTANS, KINDERGARTEN THROUGH DOCTORATE: NDP


EDMONTON – As students from kindergarten to graduate school head back to classes today, the Alberta New Democrats said that they will face increasing barriers to receiving a high-quality education as a result of PC budget cuts.

“Our public schools are losing literally hundreds of staff because of PC broken promises to Alberta families,” said New Democrat Education critic Deron Bilous. “Across the province this will mean fewer opportunities for our kids to take part in extra-curricular activities that teach them valuable skills. Students with special needs won’t receive the attention they need in larger, under-staffed classes. Parents, students and staff need to stand up against these changes—they need to demand that this PC government invest in our kids, instead of seeing them as an expendable line item in their budget.”

“Higher fees, less accessibility, bigger classes, fewer programs, lay-offs—these are just the beginning of the drastic cuts to Alberta’s colleges and universities,” said New Democrat Advanced Education critic Rachel Notley. “Albertans shouldn’t have to wonder whether their kids will be able to access post-secondary—but that’s the legacy of this government’s broken promises to families across the province.”

Notley and Bilous said budget cuts have thus far cost over a thousand jobs across the province, from educational assistants to maintenance staff to university professors.  The job losses will take hundreds of millions of dollars out of Alberta’s economy.

Alberta’s New Democrats have called for an end to mandatory school fees, for the province to fund voluntary full-day kindergarten, for a comprehensive approach to ensuring that university is affordable and accessible, and for stable, predictable funding for education from kindergarten right through to graduate studies.

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For more information, contact:
Adrienne King, Director of Communications and Research: 780-916-3937 or adrienne.king@assembly.ab.ca

REDFORD NEEDS TO WALK THE WALK THIS CALGARY PRIDE: NDP


CALGARY – New Democrat Deputy Leader Rachel Notley called on Premier Alison Redford to repeal legislation that discriminates against LGBTQ Albertans, in advance of her participation in Sunday’s Calgary Pride Parade.

“Redford can’t just walk in the parade—she needs to walk the walk when it comes to fairness for LGBTQ Albertans,” said Notley. “Redford’s government continues to discriminate and endanger Alberta’s LGBTQ community by stifling open and honest discussions about sexuality and diversity in our classrooms.”

The PC government refused to include references to the Alberta Human Rights Code or to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Education Act this fall—meaning that there is no language in the law that governs our schools that protects LGBTQ youth from discrimination. Moreover, the government continues to ignore the NDP’s calls to repeal Section 11 of Bill 44, which silences teachers on issues related to the LGBTQ community.

“This Premier obviously can’t be trusted to stand up for Albertans in the LGBTQ community,” said Notley. “Her government continues to uphold discriminatory legislation that leaves us further behind when it comes to educating our kids about fairness, diversity and sexuality.”

Notley will take part in Calgary Pride on Sunday, alongside NDP supporters and volunteers.

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For more information, please contact:
Adrienne King, Director of Communications and Research: 780-916-3937 or adrienne.king@assembly.ab.ca

GOVERNMENT SHOULD INTRODUCE AMENDED MINI-BUDGET IN FALL SESSION: MASON


EDMONTON – New Democrat leader Brian Mason called on the government to introduce a mini-budget in the coming fall session, reversing major cuts to colleges and universities, to Albertans with disabilities and to seniors’ services. Mason also argued that the government needs to stabilize Alberta’s revenue base.

“This PC government needs to stop their short-sighted budgeting based on volatile natural resource revenue,” said Mason. “We can stabilize this province’s income so that we can start taking care of families in this province. With our improved financial situation, this government has no excuse not to take action to reverse the drastic cuts delivered in last year’s budget.”

With a projected $212 million in extra revenue, based on Quarter 1, the government could easily reverse some of the most severe cuts without impacting the overall fiscal situation of the province. By looking at raising royalties and reversing some of former premier Ralph Klein’s cuts to taxes for corporations and wealthy Albertans, the province could put itself in an overall positive situation.

“Budgets come down to priorities,” said Mason. “This government is cheating the families of this province by refusing to put high-quality public health care and education ahead of tax cuts and royalty breaks for their wealthy friends.”

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For more information, please contact:
Adrienne King, Director of Communications and Research: 780-916-3937 or adrienne.king@assembly.ab.ca

NOTLEY, DUNCAN CALL FOR ALL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT TO PROPERLY FUND FIRST NATIONS CHILDREN IN CARE


EDMONTON – Following last week’s release of the fatality report into the tragic and avoidable death of Baby K, and on the day that hearings at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal into discrimination against Indigenous children on reserves resumes, Alberta New Democrat Human Services critic Rachel Notley and Official Opposition Western Economic Diversification critic Linda Duncan are calling on the provincial and federal governments to reverse the funding inequality plaguing on-reserve child services.

“The PCs continue to shrug their shoulders and shirk their responsibilities to First Nations children in care—Albertans simply can’t trust them to take action when it’s obviously necessary,” said Notley. “They’ve known about the funding disparity for Aboriginal children for years. Allowing this disparity to persist is more than just unfair—it’s unjust.”

In 2008, the federal Auditor General found that the Government of Alberta was aware that provincial standards were not being met on-reserve due to a lack of funding (pg. 15) and that a new funding formula implemented in 2007 “does not address the inequities we have noted under the current formula” (pg. 23). In 2011, the Auditor General also found that the Government of Canada still has no way of ensuring on-reserve services are comparable to those off-reserve (pgs. 23-24).

According to Duncan, “The Government of Canada has reported a doubling of funding support over the past decade yet fails to mention the fact that First Nations child and welfare services remain significantly underfunded compared to provincial counterparts. It is hard to say which is worse, the fact that aboriginal children continue to be put at risk because of funding shortfalls or that the government persists in denying this inequity. I’ve been advised that Federal documents disclosed under order of the Tribunal have revealed that the Federal Government has been well aware of the implications of the funding disparity.”

“The provincial government’s own report—commissioned three months after Baby K’s tragic death— recommended increased capacity for DFNAs, the formal adoption of Jordan’s principle, and better accreditation for on-reserve child services,” said Notley. “The PCs can’t just keep talking about fixing this problem—they need to do the right thing and fix it. It’s past time for the federal and the provincial Conservative governments to work together to end this discrimination.”

The policies of Alberta’s NDP Opposition are outlined in our Indigenous Peoples Policy Book. The Official Opposition New Democrats have been a constant voice for action on the inequitable access to education, social services and employment opportunities experienced by Indigenous peoples.

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For Rachel Notley, contact:
Adrienne King, Director of Communications and Research: 780-916-3937 or adrienne.king@assembly.ab.ca

For Linda Duncan, contact:
Aditya Rao, Constituency Assistant: 780-782-5686 or linda.duncan.c1b@parl.gc.ca

PCs FAIL ALBERTANS ON FLOOD MITIGATION: BILOUS


EDMONTON – New Democrat Municipal Affairs critic Deron Bilous released documents Tuesday showing the PC government’s failure to apply for federal funding for flood mitigation in 2012.

“All of the western provinces except for Alberta got millions of dollars of funding from this program,” said Bilous. “But this PC government appears to have failed to even apply for funding that could have helped prevent the destruction of this summer’s floods.”

Documents from a federal Access to Information request show that British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba received funding from a flood mitigation program that sees costs split 50-50 between provinces and the federal government. Alberta does not appear on the list, although the list of projects that received funding was “released in its entirety.”

Damage to High River was particularly extreme, in part because the government refused to fund a $10 million project to raise river embankments near the town in 2009, a project which might have received funding had the government applied for funding from the federal government in 2012.

“Failing to apply for this funding is yet another incompetent, penny-wise, pound foolish decision on the part of this PC government,” said Bilous. “Did this government simply fail to apply for this funding? Or did they not undertake any major flood mitigation projects? This government obviously can’t be trusted to work hard or even to pay enough attention to protect the families of this province.”

The Access to Information documents are available here.

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For more information, please contact:
Adrienne King, Director of Communications and Research: 780-916-3937 or adrienne.king@assembly.ab.ca

REPORT INADEQUATE, RAISES MORE QUESTIONS

NDP RENEWS CALL FOR AUDITOR GENERAL INVESTIGATION OF PIPELINE SAFETY


EDMONTON – New Democrat Environment critic Rachel Notley responded to the release of the government-controlled pipeline safety review, saying the report is inadequate and renewing the NDP’s call for a transparent, comprehensive review of pipeline safety by the Auditor General of Alberta.

Notley noted that because this report was government-controlled, it is short on unbiased analysis. Nonetheless, she said that the report confirmed an absence of standards in Alberta around pipeline safety at water crossings and pipeline safety inspection frequency. In recommending additional resources at the regulator, the reviewers suggest that there is not enough staff to ensure that Alberta’s land and water is protected.

“The huge gap in the report is its failure to evaluate how well the regulator enforces its own regulations,” said Notley. “They can have all they want on paper, but if it’s never properly enforced, it’s meaningless to Albertans when they wake up to find a pool of oil in their backyard.  Alison Redford’s government cannot be trusted to stand up for the health and safety of Alberta families when it comes to their friends and funders in the energy industry.”

Notley also said the report is undermined by its authors’ failure to consult with Albertans other than pipeline operators and the regulator.

“We know that there are very serious, systemic issues facing pipeline integrity in Canada, as outlined in both the federal and the Saskatchewan auditor general reports,” said Notley.

Notley noted that she would be writing to the Auditor General, asking him, once again, to engage in a comprehensive review of pipeline safety, including the quality of enforcement in Alberta.

 

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For more information, please contact:
Adrienne King, Director of Communications and Research: 780-916-3937 or adrienne.king@assembly.ab.ca

UofA FACING UNPRECEDENTED CUTBACKS FROM PC BUDGET CUTS: NOTLEY


EDMONTON – Today in a memo written to UofA faculty and staff from the desk of the President of the UofA, New Democrat Advanced Education critic Rachel Notley learned that the UofA has confirmed that it will need to close more programs, reduce course offerings, accept fewer students, and further reduce staffing numbers in an attempt to balance the university budget by April 1, 2015. Notley said the memo represents the clearest evidence to date that the Redford government cuts will hurt Alberta’s students.

“The PCs are absolutely decimating the quality of education at the University of Alberta, and its reputation and legacy by extension—unlike Lukaszuk’s ‘hiccup’ these cuts will have negative impacts for years to come,” said Notley. “This government simply cannot be trusted to deliver on its promises, and it can’t be trusted to face up to its responsibility for the devastating situation our university is up against.”

The President of the UofA, Indira Samarasekera, clearly outlines the source of the financial woes now felt at the University: “Given the direction the Board has now received from the ministry, we must take decisive action....” Samarasekera’s memo also indicates that programs unique to the UofA will be lost, and that deserving students will be turned away from the University.

“The Redford government’s short-sighted cuts to post-secondary education are clearly to blame for the current chaos on campus,” said Notley. “This government is forcing the UofA to close unique programs and turn away deserving students from going to school.” 

“These cuts will negatively impact students, their families, faculty and staff,” said Notley. “It’s time the Premier takes responsibility for the consequences of her broken promise to Albertans.”

A copy of Samarasekera’s memo to the UofA faculty and staff can be found here.

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For more information, please contact:

Brad Lafortune, Communications Officer: 780-446-2375 or Bradley.Lafortune@assembly.ab.ca

EGGEN RESPONDS TO REPORT OF PREFERENTIAL ACCESS INQUIRY


EDMONTON – Today, New Democrat Health critic David Eggen said that the report of the queue-jumping inquiry shows, once again, the dangers of privatization in Alberta’s health care system and suggested that more would have come to light had the PCs allowed the inquiry to call more witnesses, as the commissioner requested.

“All Albertans believe that they should have access to high-quality health care when they need it regardless of their income,” said Eggen. “The fast-tracking for wealthy clients from these boutique private health clinics show the impact of two-tier health care, and confirm that you can’t trust this government to stand up for public health care.  Now is the time to strengthen the laws that are supposed to ensure that our public health care system is fair for everyone.”

The commissioner of the Preferential Access Inquiry asked for more time to complete his investigation in early 2013 as revelations about private clinics began to mount, but the government refused to give him the extension to call more witnesses.

“This secretive PC government realized that they couldn’t let this inquiry continue without damaging information coming to light, and so they shut it down,” said Eggen. “Giving this inquiry the time that it requested might have brought further information to light about how this government’s privatization-by-stealth is damaging the quality of care that all Albertans receive.

“As New Democrats we’ll continue to fight for the strengthening of Alberta’s health system,” said Eggen.  “There’s no reason that in a province as rich as Alberta that we should have long waitlists for essential services. Our system should be well-funded and strengthened so that we can ensure that all Albertans know that they are getting access to the care that they need.”

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For more information, please contact:
Adrienne King, Director of Communications and Research: 780-916-3937 or adrienne.king@assembly.ab.ca

STATEMENT FROM NOTLEY ON FARM WORKERS DAY


EDMONTON – Today, New Democrat Human Services critic Rachel Notley called once again on the government to extend workplace health and safety regulations to Alberta’s farm workers.

“We continue to see far too many fatalities on our farms as a result of this PC government’s refusal to take action and this Premier’s broken promises,” said Notley. “Alberta is the only province in Canada that doesn’t provide this most basic level of protection to the people who do this important work.”

When running for the PC leadership in 2011, Alison Redford promised to extend protection to farm workers.  Two years into her role as Premier, her promise has still not been kept.

“We can’t trust this government to keep their promises, and we can’t trust them to stand up for ordinary Alberta families,” said Notley. “The longer this broken promise premier waits to take action, the more that we endanger farm workers.  It’s long past the time to take action.”

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For more information, please contact:

Brad Lafortune, Communications Officer: 780-446-2375 or Bradley.Lafortune@assembly.ab.ca

RELEASED DOCUMENTS SHOW GOVERNMENT WAFFLING ON PROTECTION FOR CASTLE AREA: NDP


LETHBRIDGE, AB – Today, New Democrat MLA and Tourism, Parks and Recreation critic, David Eggen released documents showing the PC government’s shifting position on the Castle area. In response to the documents, Eggen called on the PC government to ensure the as-yet unreleased draft of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan contains Wildland Provincial Park designation for the Castle Crown wilderness area.

“These secret government documents show the PC government’s waning interest in protecting the Castle Crown wilderness area,” said Eggen. “In 2005, the PCs said they would pursue the potential for a Wildland Provincial Park in the Castle, but now over eight years later, the PCs are telling us to wait even longer for a decision.

“This is another example of the secretive, stalling tactics of this PC government,” said Eggen.

Documents show that in 2005, then-Minister Gar Mar wrote that the creation of the Andy Russell Wildland Provincial Park in the Castle area would be a fitting tribute in the region. However, records show that since 2007 the PC government has had no plan to ever pursue a protective designation in the region.

“We cannot trust the PCs to deliver protection for the Castle,” said Eggen. “There is overwhelming public support, yet the PCs continue to defer to an unreleased plan.

“Until such time that the PCs release their plan for the area, the Alberta New Democrats are going to stand alongside Albertans in advocating for a Wildland Provincial Park.”

The released documents are available here.

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For more information, please contact:

Brad Lafortune, Communications Officer: 780-446-2375 or Bradley.Lafortune@assembly.ab.ca

MORE CUTS, BROKEN PROMISES COMING IN HEALTH CARE: MASON


EDMONTON – NDP Leader Brian Mason said the release of the Alberta Health Services (AHS) business and health plan shows that Albertans deserve more information about how their health care dollars are spent and called again for the government to abolish AHS.

“Based on the scanty financial information available in this document, it’s obvious that AHS simply isn’t transparent enough,” said Mason.  “Obviously there will be spending cuts and broken promises in this year’s financial plan, but there’s not enough information to understand how those cuts will affect the Albertans’ health care.  My grocery list is more detailed than the financial statements of the provincial health care authority that spends almost $13 billion a year.”

There are just 13 budget lines describing the spending of AHS, meaning that the average line in the budget accounts for just under a billion dollars of health care spending.

“Albertans were told that creating AHS would reduce administrative costs, but that hasn’t happened,” said Mason.  “All that has happened is that they have decreased access to crucial information about their health care.  A step in the right direction for improving transparency and improving our health care system would be to abolish Alberta Health Services.”

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DOCUMENTS CONFIRM PC PLAN TO MAKE DRASTIC CUTS TO ALBERTANS WITH DISABILTIES


EDMONTON – New Democrat Human Services critic Rachel Notley released a document showing that PC funding cuts to PDD are much broader than the previously claimed cuts to community access.  Documents appear to show that nearly 1,400 PDD clients could lose all funding.  There are concerns that some PDD clients receiving residential care will be forced into independent living.

“We’ve been talking to organization after organization, and they’re all saying that the Albertans they work with are being reassessed as low-needs without warning or justification,” said Notley.  “One client’s psychiatric assessment stated that the individual couldn’t be alone for longer than 15 minutes.  However, the Ministry then decided that this individual required no staff support.  They’ve told the service provider that this severely disabled individual is able to live alone, despite all evidence to the contrary.”

Despite promises to the contrary, the PCs are relying on the supports intensity scale (SIS) to assess funding for Albertans accessing services in PDD.  Thousands of PDD clients are being reassessed to a lower level of funding and supports and nearly 1,400 individuals are being moved out of the system.  One service provider has submitted appeals on behalf of 70% of their clients and has heard nothing back from the Ministry.

“This government continues to callously break their promises to support vulnerable Albertans,” said Notley.  “If planned cuts are implemented on July 1, the health and safety of Albertans with disabilities and their caregivers will be endangered.  The government must rethink these cuts.”

The Alberta New Democrats launched a petition against the cuts and will continue to push the government to reverse the cuts.

 

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EGGEN CALLS FOR IMPROVEMENTS TO CHIEF ELECTORAL OFFICE AS CANDIDATE SEARCH BEGINS


EDMONTON – New Democrat MLA David Eggen called for significant improvements to the Chief Electoral Office in Alberta after the first meeting of the committee responsible for recommending a new Chief Electoral Officer.

“Whoever we appoint to this position needs to be a strong advocate for transparency and democracy,” said Eggen.  “There have simply been too many patronage appointments to this position, meaning that we end up with a Chief Electoral Officer that just doesn’t seem to care about improving voter turnout or providing transparency on illegal donations.”

During the meeting, Eggen spoke about the need to improve voter turnout and called on the committee to include a focus on improving access for post-secondary students, cultural and linguistic minorities and homeless and low-income Albertans.

“In 2009, the New Democrats opposed the appointment of our previous Chief Electoral Officer to this position,” said Eggen.  “We felt that he just wasn’t committed to the principles that are absolutely essential to improving the functioning of Alberta’s democracy.  I hope that we can strike a different balance this time around.”

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ALBERTA’S SCHOOLS BEGIN TO LOSE TEACHERS

23 teachers in Wild Rose School Division just the start


EDMONTON – New Democrat Education critic David Eggen said Thursday that the news that the Wild Rose School Division will cut 23 teachers is just the beginning of a trend that will continue as school boards begin to deal with the ramifications of the PCs’ broken promises budget.

“Every school board across the province will be facing these kinds of decisions,” said Eggen.  “When you’re getting more students, when school supplies and resources cost more but you’re not getting any more money, it’s ultimately the kids in these schools that lose.  Our schools were promised stable, predictable funding increases just over a year ago.  And now here we are, laying-off teachers.”

The Wild Rose School Division operates twenty schools in communities in the western part of the province, including Rocky Mountain House, Drayton Valley, Caroline, Leslieville, Condor and Breton.

Across the province, school boards will start making major decisions about how to allocate their resources based on the 2013 budget within the next month.  Many school boards have already indicated that teacher lay-offs will be part of their new reality.  With new students expected to enter the system in September, these lay-offs will mean larger class sizes and less support for children with special needs.

“The New Democrats will be paying close attention as the effects of the PCs’ broken promises make themselves known around the province,” said Eggen.  “It’s important that we not forget that this government’s refusal to provide adequate, stable and predictable funding for education will hurt the quality of education the students in our province receive.”

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STATEMENT FROM DERON BILOUS ON BILL 22


EDMONTON—In response to the growing number of objections from First Nations to Bill 22, Alberta NDP Aboriginal Relations critic Deron Bilous made the following statement:

“We are calling for the PC government to immediately rescind this Bill and conduct meaningful consultations with First Nations. The relationship between the Government and First Nations must begin with the recognition that First Nations are partners with the Government – not subordinate to it.

“Notification is not consultation. The more that this PC government insists that this is the case, the more strained the relationship becomes with First Nations. This PC government’s handling of Bill 22 is paternalistic and will further damage a crucial relationship that depends upon the honour of the Crown.

“Only by rescinding Bill 22 and engaging in meaningful consultation can the Government fulfill their obligations to First Nations.”

 

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PC CUTS TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING TARGET VULNERABLE ALBERTANS: NDP


EDMONTON Alberta New Democrat Municipal Affairs critic Deron Bilous said Friday that a $6.6 million cut to direct rent supplements mean that Edmonton residents seeking affordable housing will have decreased access.

“In the absence of any rent control to protect Albertans from outrageous rents, these supplements provide some support,” said Bilous.  “In the midst of endless broken promises to vulnerable Albertans—broken promises to end child poverty and cuts to services that might allow the government to start addressing these issues—this is yet another broken promise.”

The direct rent supplement, provided in Edmonton by Capital Region Housing, provides a maximum annual subsidy of $550.  Support for the program was cut 11% in the 2013-14 provincial budget, from $59 million to $52 million.

An e-mail from Capital Region Housing staff says that “Currently, no new subsidies are being offered out. We are unsure for how long this will continue as it is based on government funding.”

“We need action to address child poverty, homelessness and all poverty in this province,” said Bilous. “But along with a slew of cuts to programs that might help the PCs keep their promise to end child poverty in five years, cutting this program means that many vulnerable Albertans will struggle to pay their bills, and to put food on the table for themselves and their children.”

 Click here to read the e-mail from Capital Region Housing.

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MASON: PREMIER BREAKS PROMISE TO ALBERTA SENIORS

Letter shows Premier promised to retain Alberta Seniors Drug Benefit


EDMONTON – Today, Alberta New Democrat leader Brian Mason released a signed letter from the Premier, promising not to make changes to the Alberta Seniors Drug Benefit, which received a $180 million cut in Budget 2013.

“Letters like this confirm that Alison Redford is the broken promises Premier,” said Mason.  “You can’t trust this Premier to keep her promises or to protect the interests of ordinary Albertans.  This budget is full of broken promises to Alberta’s families, and this massive cut to the seniors drug benefit is just another example.”

The letter from Redford promises to “retain the current program, and goes on to state that, “Elderly Albertans devoted their lives to building this province, and income-based supports . . . are a poor repayment for their efforts.”  But the new PC pharmacare plan is an income-based plan, meaning that seniors whose income exceeds an undisclosed amount will no longer receive coverage.

Last week, the New Democrats drew attention to the fact that the PCs have yet to release the income cut-offs for their pharmacare plan, meaning that many seniors are wondering if they will lose their drug coverage in the coming months.

“Keeping her word is something that this Premier can’t be trusted to do,” said Mason.  “But to break a promise that means that many seniors will be left without the drug coverage they depend on is simply callous.”

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STATEMENT BY NDP ENVIRONMENT CRITIC ON EARTH DAY


Earth Day has become a yearly, internationally-recognized day to celebrate the planet and to reflect on how we should treat the environment.

This is also our opportunity to reflect on other issues, such as water, as Canada's drinking water is becoming a scarce resource. On any given day in Canada, 1,700 communities are facing boil water advisories and many of our sources of fresh water are not being renewed as quickly as they are being used. Immediate action needs to be taken to ensure that our water is available for generations to come.

Alberta is uniquely positioned to lead the world in environmentally-friendly practices and technology: we can use the unequaled prosperity that our fossil fuels have given us to change the way we do business. We can stimulate our economy and create good jobs by developing a robust, renewable energy industry and by promoting energy conservation. However, if this government continues to pay lip service to the environment while subsidizing large oil corporations through untested and dangerous carbon capture technology, our reputation, our economy, our environment and our children will all suffer.

Alberta is now Canada’s biggest greenhouse gas polluter, and our provincial and federal governments are doing nothing to change this. As Alberta grows rich, our planet grows poor.

Canada is a great, rich country, but we must act now to protect our resources and ensure a sustainable future for ourselves, and for future generations.

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CUT TO TRIAGE AT CROSS CANCER ENDANGERING ALBERTANS: NDP


EDMONTON – Today in Question Period, New Democrat MLA Deron Bilous called on the government to reverse a cut made at the Cross Cancer that endangers cancer patients in Alberta.

“This is a broken promise to sick Albertans. This PC government promised improved access to primary care and promised they wouldn’t cut frontline services,” said Bilous. “It’s hard to believe that the government can stand behind a cut that saves so little money and could cost sick Albertans and their families so much in terms of their health.”

The Cross Cancer triage nurse provides specialized advice to cancer patients and had access to an oncologist. The cut of the evening triage shift at the Cross Cancer could place immuno-compromised cancer patients in crowded Emergency Rooms with other sick Albertans.

“I’m calling on this government to immediately reverse this cut,” said Bilous. “There is absolutely no way that sick Albertans should suffer because of this government’s broken promises.”

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For more information, please contact: Adrienne King, Director of Communications and Research: 780-916-3937 or adrienne.king@assembly.ab.ca

STATEMENT FROM NDP LEADER BRIAN MASON ON HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY


EDMONTON - Today, Jewish Albertans will observe Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day.

This day was first designated in 1953 to honour those who perished in the Holocaust. Now, 68 years later, the Holocaust remains forever etched into our collective memory, urging us to honour our solemn promise: “never again.”

Let us take this opportunity to renew our commitment to the eradication of racial hatred and intolerance, in Alberta and around the world. And let us vow never again to remain silent in the face of injustice.

 

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NOTLEY STATEMENT ON HEALTH CARE PREFERENTIAL ACCESS INQUIRY


EDMONTON—Following final submissions for the Preferential Access Inquiry, New Democrat Deputy Leader Rachel Notley issued the following statement:

“This should not have been the final day of the hearing.  The Commissioner made it very clear that he wanted more time and wanted to call more witnesses. Instead the government gave him more time to write his report, but blocked his ability gather more evidence.  Sadly, all this does is underscore the fact that this inquiry was really just a political exercise for this government. 

“When Justice Vertes began to uncover information that might actually have led to something, the government put a stop to it.  Much of the evidence suggests that there is queue-jumping within our system and that much of that queue-jumping is a direct result of this government’s decision to welcome private clinics, allowing wealthy Albertans to have access to faster care.  That is the piece of information that this PC government doesn’t want Albertans to know.

“The Alberta New Democrats believe, like regular Albertans, that health care should be fair for all, regardless of their income.  What this inquiry has shown is that this government’s policy of encouraging privatization and allowing these exclusive clinics in our system affects the quality of care for everyone.  I only wish that the government had given the Commissioner the time he needed to get to the bottom of that issue.”

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For more information, please contact:

Adrienne King, Director of Communications and Research: 780-916-3937 or adrienne.king@assembly.ab.ca

STATEMENT FROM MASON ON PASSING OF FORMER PREMIER RALPH KLEIN


EDMONTON— New Democrat leader Brian Mason released the following statement on the passing of former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein:
 
I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the Klein family and most especially to Mrs. Klein.  I served for six years with Ralph and remember him as a tough competitor on the other side of the aisle.

"Premier Klein undoubtedly made a major contribution to our province.  The far-reaching political changes brought by Ralph Klein transformed the politics of the province and their effects will continue to be felt for decades.  His folksy charm made him well-loved by many Albertans."
 
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For more information contact:
Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator, 780-916-3937 or Adrienne.King@assembly.ab.ca

THE PC BITUMEN BUNGLE CONTINUES

CANCELLATION OF VOYAGEUR UPGRADER A FAILURE OF PC ENERGY POLICY


EDMONTON— New Democrat leader Brian Mason says that the cancellation of the Voyageur upgrader is further evidence that the PC government’s energy policy isn’t in the best interests of ordinary Alberta families.

 

“This PC government has been pursuing an energy strategy based primarily on pipelines to export unprocessed bitumen instead of creating jobs for Albertans by upgrading our resources here,” said Mason. “This is an $11.6 billion project which would have created thousands of long-term, well-paid jobs for families in this province.

 

“We need a new strategy to upgrade bitumen here. Sending our product to market without first upgrading it here means losing out on value for the resources all Albertans own.”

 

The 200,000 barrel/day upgrader would have created as many as 1,500 permanent jobs, and as many as 15,000 people years of work during construction.

 

“Before the government moved to support the Keystone pipeline as heavily as they have done, there were also a number of upgrading projects approved for the Heartland area,” said Mason.  “Albertans need a government that’s standing up to create long-term prosperity here in the province, not PC strip-and-ship, boom-and-bust mentality.”

 

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For more information contact:

Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator, 780-916-3937 or Adrienne.King@assembly.ab.ca

NDP CALLS FOR PREMIER TO REVERSE POST-SECONDARY CUTS

U of A BOARD MEMBERS “DEEPLY CONCERNED”


EDMONTON – NDP Enterprise and Advanced Education critic Rachel Notley is calling upon Premier Alison Redford to reconsider the PC government’s budget cuts and end its heavy-handed approach to Alberta’s post-secondary institutions.

 

“The Premier has broken her promises to students and the Minister is trying to bully universities to adopt this PC government’s narrow agenda,” said Notley. “Now, the University of Alberta is also telling the Premier that these cuts are completely unacceptable.”

 

On Monday, public members of the U of A’s Board of Governors said they are “deeply concerned” about the impact the PC government’s budget will have on the university. In an open letter, they write about the “detrimental effect” of the cuts and conclude that the university “will be set back many years.”

 

The PC government quietly delivered mandate letters to post-secondary institutions on Friday evening, just as the Legislature began a two-week break. The Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education was also out of the country when the budget cuts were announced.

 

“The PCs can try to avoid the Legislature, but they can’t avoid the consequences of their decisions,” said Notley. “For the sake of students and the reputations of our post-secondary institutions, the Premier needs to reign in her Minister and reconsider these devastating cuts,” said Notley.

 

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For more information, please contact:

Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator: 780-916-3937 or Adrienne.King@assembly.ab.ca

CUTS TO CHILD-CARE GRANTS HURT KIDS: NOTLEY


EDMONTON - New Democrat Human Services critic said Monday that the cancellation of a quality enhancement grant for child care will hurt children  throughout the province.

"Grants like this - small, annual grants - help childcare providers improve the quality of their programs," said Notley. "Cutting these grants is not investing in families and communities, like the Premier promised. This is harming the level of care provided to our families in our communities."

The Quality Funding grant was launched in 2003 to encourage smaller operators to accreditate.  It provided funding for smaller day homes to enhance their equipment and programming.

"High quality childcare is one of the most effective ways to eliminate poverty. Sacrificing quality childcare in order to protect low taxes for Alberta's most wealthy, is one of the most effective ways to grow poverty. The Redford conservatives made the wrong choice here and broke yet another promise to today's Alberta families in the process."

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STATEMENT FROM NDP LEADER BRIAN MASON ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION


Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and I ask all Albertans to join with New Democrats as we reflect on the progress we have made towards eradicating all forms of discrimination in Alberta.

On this day in 1960, 69 peaceful demonstrators were killed by police in Sharpeville, South Africa, and six years later, in 1966, the United Nations’ General Assembly declared March 21 the International day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and called upon the international community to commit to reducing racism, prejudice and racial injustice around the world.

Here in Alberta, in 2013, we can take pride in how far we’ve come in the fight against racial discrimination. We live in a vibrant multicultural province where people of all races have the opportunity to succeed and thrive.

However, we must also acknowledge that many in our society still face systemic barriers which make it harder for them to succeed. For example, our First Nations communities still face higher levels of unemployment, lower rates of high-school graduation, and significantly lower average incomes than the Alberta average.

We can and must do better. We must recognize that the best path to eliminating racial discrimination is through reducing systemic inequalities, and working to build a fairer and more inclusive province. Alberta’s New Democrats are firmly committed to that goal, and will continue to fight every day for an Alberta free of discrimination.

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For more information, please contact:

Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator: 780-916-3937 or Adrienne.King@assembly.ab.ca

SENIORS NEED TO KNOW

BROKEN PROMISES FROM ALISON REDFORD


Alison Redford has broken her promises to Alberta’s seniors.  She promised to “protect seniors and improve their quality of life” but has, instead, introduced a budget that will cost seniors at least $200 million dollars a year.  Moreover, this dramatic cut will be borne primarily by disabled low income seniors and seniors with chronic health problems.  In short, Alison Redford is asking some of Alberta’s most vulnerable citizens to pay the cost of keeping royalties and taxes low for big corporations and the wealthiest Albertans.
 
What’s at Risk?

Alberta Seniors Drug Benefits – This $550 million program ensures that the majority of seniors’ drug costs are paid by the government. Seniors pay a maximum dispensing fee of $25 for each prescription they receive.
But in the 2013-14 budget, the PCs plan to reduce the costs of seniors’ drug benefits by at least $180 million dollars, eliminating the universality of the drug program so that only low income seniors will receive the benefitThey claim that the actual income cut-off has not yet been established but given that they are able to predict a $180 million dollar savings, Alberta’s NDP Opposition suspects they’re simply hiding the number until the Legislature has been adjourned.   The seniors who will pay for this change are those who use prescription drugs the most.  In short, the sicker you are, the more you will pay.

Alberta Seniors School Property Tax Assistance Grants – This program is what remains from the Klein cuts in the 1990s when the exemption for seniors to pay property tax was eliminated.  In its stead, the Klein government eventually created a rebate program that assists seniors, regardless of income, with the cost of paying their school property taxes. Seniors receive a rebate for the difference between the education tax amount this year and a base year, which for most seniors is 2004. In short, the province pays for any increases in the education portion of seniors’ property taxes. This program provides roughly $20 million per year to seniors across the province. 
But in this spring’s budget, the Redford Conservatives will cut the School Property Tax Assistant Grant by two-thirds this year and eliminate it completely by 2014.  This is a tax increase on Alberta’s seniors – and another broken promise by Alison Redford and her Conservative government.
 
Alberta Seniors Benefit – This program provides monthly benefits to low-income seniors and supplements federal benefits such as Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplement, and the GST credit.  The ability of a senior to receive this grant is dependent on their overall income.  Currently 152,000 low-income seniors in Alberta receive this benefit.

The Redford Conservatives  are making changes to the eligibility requirements for the Seniors Benefit and will no longer exempt  certain disability payments when calculating qualifying incomes.  This means that seniors who receive either a CPP disability payment or a WCB disability payment will have that money clawed back from the seniors benefit or be precluded from receiving the benefit at all if their income, when these sources are included, is above the eligibility threshold.  In addition, seniors who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents but have resided in Canada for less than 10 years will now be ineligible for benefits. This creates a new class of elderly Canadian citizens who have been arbitrarily declared ineligible for income support. The government expects that roughly 9,000 seniors will have their benefits reduced or eliminated as a result of these changes.  In short, if you have a disability or are a relatively recent Canadian, you will have your income cut by hundreds of dollars every month.
 
Alberta’s New Democrat Opposition is committed to standing up with seniors against these PC cuts.  Contact us at nd@assembly.ab.ca to let us know what you think!

It’s time to fight back!

STATEMENT FROM DAVID EGGEN ON AIMCo APPOINTMENT


EDMONTON— In response to the re-appointment of Daryl Katz to the Alberta Investment Management Corporation, Alberta New Democrat Finance critic David Eggen released the following statement:

“Mr. Katz is a Tory insider, a huge financial backer of the governing party and a man with significant financial interests in our province’s coffers.  And this is who the government decides to re-appoint to manage the pension funds of ordinary Albertans?  Considering that Mr. Katz’s $430,000 donation is currently under investigation by the Chief Electoral Officer, I don’t think that he should be benefitting financially in any way from any decision made by this government.”

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For more information contact:

Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator, 780-916-3937 or Adrienne.King@assembly.ab.ca

REDFORD WRONG ON KEYSTONE: MASON


EDMONTON— In question period today, New Democrat Leader Brian Mason said that the Keystone XL pipeline is a “job-killer” for Alberta.

 “Albertans need a government that stands up for their prosperity and their future, not a government that wants to sell their jobs down the pipeline,” said Mason.

In one of Mason’s questions, he included a quotation from former Premier Peter Lougheed on the Keystone XL pipeline, where he said: “We should be refining the bitumen in Alberta and we should make it public policy in the province.  That would be a better thing to do than merely send the raw bitumen down the pipeline and they refine it in Texas that means thousands of new jobs in Texas.”—Peter Lougheed, CBC, September 13, 2011.

In response, Premier Redford said the quote reflected the Government of Alberta’s views.

“If Alison Redford thinks that Premier Lougheed’s comments represent the views of her government, she has a rather loose grip on reality,” said Mason.


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For more information contact:

Olenka Toroshenko, Communications Assistant, 780-935-9242 or Olenka.Toroshenko@assembly.ab.ca

STATEMENT FROM SENIORS CRITIC NOTLEY ON CLOSURE OF MICHENER CENTRE


EDMONTON— Following an announcement closing Michener Centre, a facility in Red Deer that houses seniors and persons with disabilities, New Democrat Seniors critic Rachel Notley released the following statement:

“Alison Redford has repeatedly promised that she would protect vulnerable Albertans.  The residents of Michener Centre are among the most vulnerable, and the Redford government has broken their promise to protect them.  The budget released last week was obviously going to have huge impacts on seniors and Albertans with disabilities, but we’re seeing them faster than I anticipated.  Instead of providing adequate funding to protect seniors and vulnerable Albertans, this government is throwing them and their families into chaos. 

“Seniors facilities in Red Deer have already been threatened by this government’s policy—the Aspen Ridge facility announced in January that they were closing around 50 publicly-funded spaces that housed seniors with dementia.  And with nearly 1,500 seniors on the waiting list for long-term care, there’s absolutely no way the system has the capacity for these medically-fragile seniors.”

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For more information, please contact:

Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator: 780-916-3937 or Adrienne.King@assembly.ab.ca

 

EGGEN: NO BROKEN PROMISES TO ALBERTA’S PRIVATE SCHOOLS


EDMONTON— New Democrat Education critic David Eggen said Friday that, although the PCs’ broken promise budget contains no funding for full-day kindergarten in public schools, there is an increase of 11.6% for private kindergarten.

“This is the kind of budget that will have devastating impacts on our schools and our kids’ education,” said Eggen.  “So how can the government justify giving more funding to private full-day kindergarten when we’re not even funding the basics in our public schools?”

Yesterday’s budget contained major hits for public schools, including the elimination of the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement and a major hit to the bottom line of the department, which will likely cost the jobs of hundreds of teachers.

“The PCs have repeatedly promised to introduce full-day kindergarten into Alberta schools,” said Eggen.  “Now, instead of providing it to all Alberta families, the PCs are giving it to those who can afford to pay.”

Alberta’s New Democrats would provide stable, predictable funding for Alberta schools and introduce voluntary full-day kindergarten.

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For more information, please contact:

Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator: 780-916-3937 or Adrienne.King@assembly.ab.ca

SECRETIVE BUDGET CAN’T HIDE THE PAIN FOR ALBERTA FAMILIES

PCs BREAK PROMISES IN BUDGET 2013


EDMONTON –New Democrat leader Brian Mason called today’s budget a broken promise budget.  The government has broken its promises to vulnerable Alberta families, teachers, students, post-secondaries and public servants.  The government has written a budget that is almost impossible for Albertans to understand, is hiding an operational deficit with capital borrowing.

“This is the broken promises budget.  There are too many cuts to mention to services that vulnerable Albertans depend upon along with serious cuts to our schools, colleges and universities,” said Mason.  “The government has given a growing province a shrinking budget.”

The PC budget contains significant cuts to Culture, Advanced Education, Education and Human Services.  The budget does not contain any funding to increase wages for the public-sector.  Programs designed to improve Alberta’s schools, to build safe communities and to lift children out of poverty have disappeared from the budget.

“We’ve been saying for months that this budget will contain broken promises that hurt Alberta’s families,” said Mason.  “Today we see the cuts that mean that our schools will suffer, the most vulnerable Albertans will struggle to keep their heads about water, our communities won’t be as safe and our post-secondary students will bear the brunt of major cuts to Advanced Education.”

Alberta’s New Democrats are committed to working hard on behalf of today’s Alberta families, to protect their schools and their communities.

A backgrounder detailing the Top 10 broken PC is attached.

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For more information, please contact:

Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator: 780-916-3937 or Adrienne.King@assembly.ab.ca

 

 

STATEMENT FROM NDP LEADER BRIAN MASON ON REVERSAL OF ONE-BATH POLICY FOR SENIORS


EDMONTON, AB – After the provincial government announced a reversal to the one bath a week policy for seniors in long-term care, New Democrat leader Brian Mason released the following statement:

“The sad reality is that making this announcement on the first day of the spring session makes it appear that the government is playing politics with the health and quality-of-life of our seniors.  Instead of waiting months for the beginning of the spring session, this PC government should have taken immediate action.  But, as we’ve seen over and over again in the past months, this government can’t be trusted to stand up to protect seniors.

“The other sad reality is that until the government cares enough to ensure that sustainable funding is in place for staffing levels at Alberta seniors’ care facilities, the government can’t guarantee the level of care seniors need.  Strong, consistent funding needs to be there to improve the quality of care our seniors receive.  Staff at many of these facilities are already stretched much too thin, and an improved policy can’t cover for adequate staff.”

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For more information, please contact:

Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator: 780-916-3937 or Adrienne.King@assembly.ab.ca

STATEMENT BY NDP LEADER BRIAN MASON ON HQCA REPORT


EDMONTON-- Today NDP Leader Brian Mason made the following statement on the release of the Health Quality Council of Alberta report on ground ambulance services:

“The fact that the Health Quality Council couldn’t even answer the questions put to it, because of the failure to track key information on the performance of the system, is a testament to the incompetence of the Alberta government.

“Tracking response times is fundamental to the effective operation of emergency services.  Recommendation number 3 which calls for the ‘AHS articulate a vision and plan for the EMS delivery system...’ is a tactful way of saying that the province needs to start from scratch.

“All in all, the report is a damning indictment of this PC government’s continued lack of leadership and competence.”

 

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For more information, please contact:

Olenka Toroshenko, Communications Assistant: 780-935-9242 or Olenka.Toroshenko@assembly.ab.ca

STATEMENT FROM NDP EDUCATION CRITIC ON MINISTER’S OFFER


EDMONTON – In response to the Education Minister’s offer to the province’s teachers, the NDP’s education critic, David Eggen, issued the following statement:

“It was extremely unfortunate to see the Education Minister target our education system with his bullying.  Our schools and our kids are simply too important for intimidation.

“The PCs promised stable, predictable funding for education.  The fact that this Minister won’t offer a fair deal for Alberta’s education system is an obvious consequence of breaking their promise.  Many school boards are already running substantial deficits and, going into the budget, teachers needed real assurances that the PCs’ solution for their broken promises wasn’t to increase their workloads.  But instead they were offered less than what they were offered in November, with no concrete steps to address any of their workload concerns.”

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For more information, please contact:

Adrienne King, Communications Officer: 780-916-3937 or Adrienne.King@assembly.ab.ca

TIME FOR A PUBLIC AUDIT OF ALBERTA’S PIPELINES: NDP


EDMONTON – New Democrat Environment critic said that the response from the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) to the 2011 Plains Midstream spill indicates major problems with the way pipeline infrastructure is administered in Alberta.

“This was a major spill, and the response from the ERCB, two years later, is a slap on the wrist,” said Notley.  “The government should be doing much more to protect Albertans from these sorts of incidents.”

The Plains Midstream spill was among the largest in Canadian history.  The report suggests that the company’s maintenance, leak detection and emergency response procedures were inadequate.

“The PCs’ should make their internal report on pipeline integrity public immediately and ask the Auditor General to conduct a thorough public report on the integrity of Alberta’s pipelines,” said Notley.

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For more information, please contact:

Adrienne King, Communications Officer: 780-916-3937 or Adrienne.King@assembly.ab.ca

OVERDUE WATER POLICY CONVERSATION MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: NDP


MEDICINE HAT, AB – After attending one of the province’s first and widely-trumpeted water policy consultations, (“Our Water, Our Future”), held Tuesday night in Medicine Hat, NDP Environment critic Rachel Notley says that transparent public input on key water use issues such as water markets and water conservation will not be addressed in these meetings. 

“For years the government promised meaningful consultation on the future of water management in Alberta.  A half hour ‘conversation’ on how to re-allocate one of our most vital resources within the current system doesn’t cut it, especially when the status quo will increase water sales in Alberta without first establishing the priority of public and ecological interests,” said Notley.

Participants were only given a half-hour to discuss water management issues.  They were directed to discuss solutions according to a very limited set of guided topics of ‘conversation.’  The public meetings in the evening were preceded by invitation-only stakeholder sessions held earlier in the day.  These invitation-only sessions were dominated by industry representatives and current license-holders that benefit from the status quo of water management and allocation.

“This event was part of a well-managed public relations exercise intended to arrive at predetermined conclusions rather than a focused effort at involving the public in devising significant, honest solutions to Alberta’s natural resource challenge,” said Notley.  “Five years after the government acknowledged the importance of water to all Albertans, this is the best they can do?  The Redford Tories have taken dithering to a whole new level.  And while we wait the problem grows.”

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For more information, please contact:

Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator: 780-916-3937 or Adrienne.King@assembly.ab.ca

PC BROKEN PROMISES THE WRITING ON THE WALL IN FISCAL UPDATE


MEDICINE HAT, AB – Alberta New Democrat leader Brian Mason and Finance critic David Eggen said the ballooning deficit in the 3rd quarter fiscal update from the PC government today should have Albertans expecting service cuts and broken promises.

“The PCs created this mess by cutting taxes and royalties for corporations and wealthy Albertans, and now they’ll break promises to Alberta families to try to clean it up,” said Mason.  “You can’t trust this PC government to stand up for strong public health care, education or for vulnerable Albertans.”

When the Conservatives released their budget a few weeks before the election was called, Mason said they were saving the suffering for after the election.  Before the election, they projected a deficit of $868 million. The 3rd quarter fiscal update now projects a $3.5 to $4 billion deficit.  There have already been a number of cuts by stealth throughout the budget year ($600 million in secret in-year cuts).  The New Democrats expect significant cuts in the next budget year.

“The PCs are obviously planning to balance the budget on the backs of Alberta families—patients, students and workers,” said Mason.  “The announcement of wage freezes today should be the writing on the wall for Albertans to expect service cuts in the next budget year.”

“It’s pretty basic math: you can’t have balanced budgets, low revenue and continue to deliver on the services that Albertans need,” said Finance critic David Eggen.  “The Finance Minister is obviously signalling that they intend to break their promises and cut services.  It’s time to give Albertans a fair share instead of giving wealthy Albertans and corporations a free ride.”

Alberta’s New Democrats are calling for the government to increase revenue and balance the budget by making corporations and the wealthiest Albertans pay their fair share and getting a fair share of natural resource revenue from royalties.

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For more information, please contact:

Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator: 780-916-3937 or Adrienne.King@assembly.ab.ca

MASON: CLOSING TRANSITION UNIT MORE COST-CUTTING IN HEALTH CARE


EDMONTON – Alberta New Democrat leader Brian Mason said that the final decision to close the transition unit at the Royal Alexandra Hospital is just a cut to health care in anticipation of the provincial budget.

“Alberta Health Services is claiming that they’re closing this unit because it was always meant to be temporary and because they’ve increased capacity in long-term care,” said Mason.  “Both explanations are just blatantly false.  The total number of long-term care spaces in this province has actually decreased, the 30 beds in the transition unit are full and there are still nearly 1,400 Albertans waiting for care.  These numbers just don’t add up.”

In 2011, an Alberta Health Services backgrounder said the “The Transition Unit provides a specific care model focused on patients who no longer need acute care, but who are not yet ready for discharge to another setting.”

“It’s pretty apparent that this is a cost-cutting measure in anticipation of broken promises from this PC government,” said Mason.

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For more information, please contact:

Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator: 780-916-3937 or adrienne.king@assembly.ab.ca

FOUR-DAY SCHOOL WEEK WOULD MAKE STUDENTS, WORKERS PAY FOR PC NEGLECT: NDP


EDMONTON – Alberta New Democrat Education critic David Eggen says a proposed four-day school week in Fort McMurray is just another sign that the PCs continue to underfund public education in Alberta.

“Fort McMurray is a flashpoint for the effects of underfunding and the neglect of public education by this PC government,” said Eggen. “Students and school employees are being forced to compensate for the government’s broken promises and mismanagement. That’s simply unacceptable.”

The Fort McMurray Public School District is proposing to reduce their school week to just four-days per week to cope with a projected deficit of $4.4 million. Eggen attended the school board’s final public consultation meeting on Monday, where parents expressed their opposition to the plans. A similar proposal was rejected by the district in 2011.

A four-day week would not just hurt students and parents. Educational Assistants could lose up to 20 per cent of their wages and become ineligible for the Local Authorities Pension Plan.

“The PCs have been neglecting public education and these ballooning school board deficits are only one of the consequences,” said Eggen. “This proposal would offload the cost of keeping schools open from the provincial government onto parents who would have to pay for extra childcare.  Families and workers continue to pay the price for this government’s broken promises.”

Eggen was in Fort McMurray on Monday to participate in a province-wide pre-budget consultation by Alberta’s New Democrat MLAs. The tour continues in Red Deer on Wednesday.

 

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For more information, please contact:

Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator: 780-916-3937 or adrienne.king@assembly.ab.ca

MASON SAYS AUDITOR GENERAL’S REPORT SHOWS PC MISMANAGEMENT


EDMONTON – Brian Mason said that the Auditor General’s report, released today, shows that the Tories still don’t know how to manage Alberta’s money.

“The Auditor General said that the rules surrounding fiscal reporting in a number of areas still aren’t strict enough,” said Mason. “The Office of the Public Trustee seems to completely lack oversight of the finances of vulnerable Albertans, the government’s own financial accountability legislation doesn’t even tell us how much information they need to give to Albertans about the state of the province’s finances. And, executives at AHS haven’t put into place adequate controls to ensure that expense abuses, such as those in the Allaudin Merali case, don’t reoccur.”

In nearly all of the audits, the Auditor General pointed to insufficient controls on spending. That included problems with financial reporting from many of Alberta’s post-secondary institutions and a potential problem in the government’s own fiscal updates.

“This government likes to duck from accountability for the way that it’s managed the province’s money, whether that’s blaming the differential for their deficit, or blaming nurses and doctors for health care costs,” said Mason. “This report shows, yet again, that the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the PCs. They need to be more accountable to Albertans about the way that they spend our money.”

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For more information, please contact:

Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator: 780-916-3937 or adrienne.king@assembly.ab.ca

FULL-DAY KINDERGARTEN ANOTHER PC PROMISE ON THE CHOPPING-BLOCK


EDMONTON – Alison Redford must keep her promise to provide funding and support for full-day kindergarten in Alberta, said New Democrat Education critic David Eggen.

“When Alison Redford was running for the leadership of the PCs, she promised to introduce full-day kindergarten within a year of her election,” said Eggen.  “It’s been well over a year, and now it seems that the Premier has absolutely no intention of keeping that promise.  I am very concerned that the Alberta School Boards Association has been told not to expect funding for this program.”

When asked about the government’s plan to implement full-day kindergarten by Eggen in the legislature in the fall, the Education Minister provided no details, but had said elsewhere that province-wide implementation of full-day kindergarten “might be ready” for 2014.

“School boards have already been told not to expect the stable funding the PCs promised during the election,” said Eggen.  “This is a bleak picture of the cuts we’re expecting from this Conservative government.  But instead of having a rational conversation about how to fund the public services that we need, this government is breaking its promises, trying desperately to hide the revenue problem that they created.”

Alberta’s New Democrats believe that wealthy Albertans and corporations should pay their fair share so that services like health care and education can rely on stable, adequate funding.

Eggen will be meeting with the Calgary Board of Education and ATA Local 38 in Calgary Thursday to discuss these troubling developments.

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For more information, please contact:
Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator: 780-916-3937

WAIT-TIMES FOR AISH APPLICATIONS HURT THE VULNERABLE: NOTLEY


EDMONTON – Today, NDP Human Services critic Rachel Notley released documents received in a Freedom of Information (FOIP) request that detail significant increases in processing times for Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) applications.

“I’ve been hearing from people that they’re waiting longer than ever before to get their applications processed,” said Notley.  “AISH is absolutely essential for many vulnerable Albertans and they can’t afford to wait four months to find out whether they’ll receive it.”

In September and October of 2012, applicants waited an average of over 15 weeks from when their final documents are submitted to have their applications processed, a 50% increase over the previous year.  In some regions, applicants are waiting up to 23 weeks, up from 14 in 2011.  Since increasing the amount received by AISH recipients, the government has not yet devoted adequate resources to ensuring applications are processed in a timely fashion.

The stress on individuals trying to access AISH is intensified by the Ministry of Human Services’ refusal to discuss casework files with opposition MLAs attempting to provide support and advocacy to constituents who are in the system.

“This government must devote resources to ensure that these wait-times are kept to an appropriate level,” said Notley.  “This is a promise kept on the books and broken in practice.  These Albertans are being kept waiting far too long.”

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For more information, please contact:
Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator: 780-916-3937

PC GOVERNMENT SHOULD APOLOGIZE FOR MISLEADING ALBERTANS ON ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING: NDP


EDMONTON – Following the release of a federally-funded research report which confirms that oilsands development is polluting water in the oilsands region, the Alberta New Democrat Environment critic Rachel Notley says the PCs should apologize for misleading Albertans about the environmental impact of industrial development.

“Less than two years ago this government was still claiming that any pollution found in the area was natural. But it’s obvious now that the government’s oilsands monitoring programs failed miserably to detect these toxins in our water systems,” Notley said.  “The first step in regaining Albertan’s trust in future monitoring programs is for the government to apologize for its past failure to protect Albertans and the environment.”

Existing oilsands monitoring programs such as RAMP have been completely discredited by recent scientific reports. In October, the government announced a new monitoring agency that could take up to five years to implement. The PCs also passed Bill 2 this fall, creating a single-desk energy regulator. These changes all suggest a trend towards less transparency in environmental monitoring in Alberta.

“Because of Bill 2, we’ll soon have one organization with the conflicting mandates of increasing development while holding companies responsible for cleaning up their mess.  Albertans need trust in their monitoring programs now more than ever,” Notley said.
    
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For more information contact:
Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator: 780-916-3937 or Adrienne.King@assembly.ab.ca

MASON RESPONDS TO ETHICS COMMISSIONER INVESTIGATION OF REDFORD IN TOBACCO CASE


EDMONTON – In response to Ethics Commissioner Neil Wilkinson’s decision to investigate Redford for her role in awarding of a major lawsuit to her ex-husband’s firm, New Democrat leader Brian Mason said that he is hopeful that the investigation will be thorough.

“I was pleased to receive a letter from the Ethics Commissioner informing me that he will be investigating the Premier on this issue,” said Mason.  “While the Premier repeatedly claimed that she wasn’t involved in the decision, all of the evidence suggests otherwise.  Albertans need an independent investigation to have confidence that this government is acting in their interests, and not in the interests of Tory insiders.”

Mason said that the New Democrats will cooperate fully with Wilkinson’s investigation.
    
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For more information contact:
Adrienne King, Communications Coordinator: 780-916-3937 or Adrienne.King@assembly.ab.ca

STATEMENT BY NDP LEADER BRIAN MASON ON THE HOLIDAYS


EDMONTON – This is a special time for everyone in Alberta – a time to reflect on the past year of achievements and successes, a time to be thankful for the gifts we have received, and a time to look ahead and plan for the future and the coming New Year.
 
As Christians come together to mark the birth of Jesus Christ, I extend my sincere wishes to them.
 
And as different faiths and cultures celebrate some of their high holidays at this time, I also extend my best to them.
 
Merry Christmas!
Happy Holidays!
Happy New Year!
 
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