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Mandel’s personal relationships may be clouding his objectivity: NDP

NDP calls on Mandel to ban all flavoured tobacco


EDMONTON- New Democrat candidate for Edmonton Whitemud, Dr. Bob Turner, called on Health minister Stephen Mandel to commit to a full ban on flavoured tobacco, including menthol cigarettes, despite his personal relationships with tobacco lobbyists.

“The research is there, the support from the House is there, I want to see Mandel commit to banning all flavoured cigarettes now, during these by-elections, while people are paying attention,” said Turner.

Numerous studies have shown that menthol is the flavor of tobacco most dangerous to Alberta youth. 1 in 3 youth smokers are smoking menthol cigarettes and are three times less likely to quit smoking than non-menthol smokers.

Despite this conclusive evidence, the legislation to ban flavoured tobacco, which was passed nearly a year ago, has not been proclaimed.

“All the minister has to do is sign off on it and it would be law. There is no reasonable explanation that the PCs haven’t moved forward,” said Turner.

Yet, despite the bill passing third reading almost unanimously in November 2013, the PCs have refused to sign off on it.

After the annual Health Ministers meeting in Banff, last month, Mandel refused to reveal to media where he stood on the issue, telling Canadian Press, “I don’t want to answer yes or no to things that are still up in the air and Menthol is still up in the air.”

“The only reason I can fathom that Mandel hasn’t moved forward with this important legislation is because his objectivity is being clouded by his personal relationships with tobacco lobbyists,” said Turner.

Hal Danchilla is a long-time PC strategist who currently sits on the PC party’s finance committee. He is also a donor who, 13 days after the flavoured tobacco legislation was first introduced, registered as a lobbyist for Rothmans, Benson & Hedges, which has a unique interest in seeing an exemption for menthol cigarettes under Bill 206. 

Patricia Mitsuka is currently Premier Prentice’s Principal Secretary, and formerly worked as Mandel’s Chief of Staff. In the space between those positions, she worked for Hal Danchilla’s lobbyist firm, Canadian Strategy Group.

Read our full backgrounder here.

“Mandel’s connection to the tobacco industry is more than suspicious. I see no other reason to hold back on the proclamation of the legislation, except to appease the interests of his friends,” said Turner.
 

Notley continues commitment to growth in Calgary


CALGARY- On her first visit to Calgary as New Democrat leader, Rachel Notley said that the city is a priority for the party and that New Democrats will build on the work done in these by-elections.
 
"I started my leadership campaign here and today I'm back to tell Calgarians that the New Democrats are committed to building on the work that was done by our three fantastic candidates in these by-elections," Notley said. "The candidates who are running for us here are the next generation of Calgarians - intelligent, young professionals who know that Albertans deserve better.
 
"Our values are Calgary's values - we believe in investing in services for Alberta families. We believe in building the necessary infrastructure to build a vibrant Calgary. And, for the thousands of people in Calgary who are tired of PC promises and looking for a progressive alternative to the Wildrose, the New Democrats are ready to be that alternative."
 
Notley pointed to her response to skyrocketing rents in Calgary as evidence that the concerns of Calgarians are shared by the Alberta New Democrats.
 
"We're the only party willing to take a strong, well-researched, feasible position on how to deal with rents that are no longer affordable for too many Calgarians," Notley said.
 
Notley was elected leader of the Alberta New Democrats on Saturday evening and yesterday traveled to Calgary to support the party's by-election candidates in the final week of their campaigns. 
 
Notley spent Wednesday evening knocking on doors with Calgary-Foothills candidate, Jennifer Burgess.
 
"We have three amazing candidates working very hard in Calgary to make sure people know what the New Democrats stand for. Growing this party here in Calgary is a top priority for me as leader and I'm proud of the work we've started with these great candidates. But we're not finished here yet." 
 

Statement from NDP Leader Rachel Notley on Ottawa shooting


EDMONTON - Alberta NDP Leader, Rachel Notley, released the following statement on the events that took place this morning, in Ottawa.

"I was deeply saddened and concerned to learn of the events that transpired this morning in our nation’s capital.
 
"On behalf of the Alberta New Democrats, I extend my condolences to the family and friends of the Canadian Forces reservist who was gunned down while standing guard at the National War Memorial, this morning.
 
"My thoughts are with friends and colleagues who were at Parliament Hill this morning, as well as their families who had to watch these horrifying events unfold on television.
 
"I'd like to extend my gratitude to the brave men and women who work as law enforcement officials and emergency responders, who risk their lives every day for our safety, and to the police officers who are now doing everything they can to investigate this tragedy.
 
"As we continue to watch the events unfold, our hearts are with Ottawa tonight."

Internal documents show PCs aware of private health clinic skirting the law


EDMONTON - The PC government has been turning a blind eye to private for-profit healthcare clinics that are double-billing Alberta taxpayers.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation show a pattern of evasion and inaction by government in the face of mounting evidence that the private health-care clinic has been providing two-tiered health care and double-billing in contravention of the Alberta Health Care Insurance Act.
 
"Their lack of action tells you all you need to know about where they stand on two-tiered health care. They're letting American-style health care take root in Alberta," Edmonton-Whitemud candidate Dr. Bob Turner said. "To make things worse, this government has been shirking it's responsibility to taxpayers by turning a blind eye to private, for-profit clinics like these double-billing both the public and their clients."
 
The new documents released today by the New Democrats include an e-mail chain discussing questions about the legality of Edmonton's Copeman Healthcare Clinic. Although the government offered a generic commitment to "fair and equitable access," internal e-mails reveal persistent concerns about the clinic: "there is not a clear distinction between insured and uninsured services."
 
"The government lied to the public," Turner said. "For years, they've been telling concerned Albertans that these clinics are fine, yet we now know that the federal government and senior provincial staff have been questioning the legality of these clinics. Albertans believe in public health care and they deserve a government that protects it."
 
A second document, an "Advice to Deputy Minister" briefing reveals that the province has been repeatedly warned by the federal government over private Copeman-style clinics. Despite these warnings, the province has committed to no action other than striking a taskforce.
 
"Anyone with any experience in Alberta's health care system who looks at the Copeman Clinic's billing records will see that they look fishy," Dr. Turner said. "With Stephen Mandel's record of privatizing crucial public services, he's without question not the right person to fix two-tier health care."
 

NDP calls on Mandel to attend important health debate


EDMONTON - Today, New Democrat candidate for Edmonton-Whitemud Dr. Bob Turner learned that his opponent Stephen Mandel will not be attending a critical all-candidate forum on health care.

Dr. Turner is calling on the PC appointed Health minister to attend the forum tonight, October 20th at 7:30pm, hosted by the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA) and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA).
 
"If Mandel is unwilling to address questions regarding health care today, I worry about his willingness to address the same questions in the future," said Dr. Turner. "Albertans deserve better than a Health minister unwilling to speak with them about issues pertaining to health."
 
Tonight's debate will be co-hosted by CARNA and CPSA , consisting of six questions facing Alberta's health care system, including one on the overall structure and governance of Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Alberta Health.
 
"I believe it's important for Albertans to hear from the unelected Health minister in a public forum devoted to critical questions facing health care in Alberta," said Dr. Turner. "Albertans deserve to know how the current minister would respond to issues facing these two colleges."
 
Dr. Turner is committed to attending all public debates and forums in Edmonton-Whitemud, including tonight's forum.
 
 
Details for tonight's forum:
 
What: An Edmonton-Whitemud Candidate Forum on healthcare in Alberta
When: October 20, 2014
Time: 7:30pm-9:00pm
Where: Snowvalley Chalet, Whitemud Recreation park

NDP calls on Dirks to fix space crunch in Elbow schools


CALGARY - Alberta New Democrat candidate for Calgary-Elbow, Stephanie McLean, called on unelected PC Education Minister, Gordon Dirks, to deal with overcapacity schools in Calgary Elbow.
 
"The PCs have mismanaged our school system into a state of crisis," said McLean. "Schools in Calgary-Elbow are bursting at the seams, and parents are telling us the situation has reached a point where the quality of education their children are receiving, is suffering."
 
A number of parents of students in Calgary-Elbow wrote letters to by-election candidates in Calgary-Elbow, calling for a commitment to ease the capacity issues by providing more portables.
 
According to the Calgary Board of Education's 2013-14 enrollment report, William Reid School was at 105 percent capacity - and growing. Elboya School is overcapacity, according to the same 2013-2014 enrollment report, by 130 percent. 
 
The Calgary board of Education has requested portables to ease the capacity crunch, but parents want to see confirmation from Gordon Dirks that the request will be approved and fulfilled.
 
"Parents shouldn't have to advocate for adequate classroom space. This infrastructure is a provincial responsibility. The PCs need to offer an immediate solution to this capacity crisis," said Mclean.
 
"Albertans deserve better. Parents and students in Calgary-Elbow deserve better, that is why I am calling on Mr. Dirks to listen to parents in Elbow and secure the portables they so desperately need."

Alberta New Democrats welcome Rachel Notley as new Leader


EDMONTON – Today, 3,589 members of the Alberta New Democrats chose Rachel Notley as their leader. The convention was attended by over 500 enthusiastic party members.

“I'm very excited about the future of this party – Albertans deserve better than PC arrogance and Wilrose extremism and they are turning to the New Democrats as the modern, progressive alternative,” Notley said.

Notley received 70.03% of the vote from party members on the first ballot.

“I want to thank Brian Mason for his guidance and the work that he has done to grow the party to where it is today,” said Notley. “I also want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to both David Eggen and Rod Loyola for the campaigns they ran and the committment they showed.”

Rachel Notley has served as MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona since 2008.

NDP: PCs push ahead with privatization agenda, despite risk to patients


EDMONTON - Despite serious concerns from industry experts, and mounting evidence of patient risk, the PCs are pushing ahead with their decision to privatize lab services, NDP candidate for Edmonton-Whitemud, Dr. Bob Turner, said today.
 
Sonic Healthcare Limited announced Thursday, on its website, that it has been selected to take over lab services in Alberta. The PCs awarded the Australian company a $3 billion dollar, 15 year contract.
 
In the announcement that seemed to be aimed at shareholders, Sonic Healthcare announced, it expects to generate $200 million in revenue from the AHS contract.
 
"Mandel and Prentice are not even elected, and already they are presiding over the largest privatization contract in Alberta's history,"said NDP Health critic, David Eggen.
"Not only that, but they've chosen a company that appears to prioritize profit above quality service."
 
In 2013, Sonic Healthcare admitted, it failed to notify Australian health authorities when it diagnosed a patient with legionnaire's disease - a breach of its legal obligation. 
 
"This decision to move ahead with this plan has serious implications for patient safety, the speed and delivery of lab results, workloads for healthcare workers and protocol in the event of a natural disaster, and yet the PCs are forging ahead with it." said Eggen.
 
In October 2013, the NDP released a letter, signed by 16 pathologists, concerned about the impact lab privatization would have on patient safety.
 
The letter reads, in part: "We remain extremely concerned regarding the totality of this decision and the use of public funds to support this degree of privatization."
  
"Albertans deserve a government that is willing to put their needs, first, and the PCs have proven they won't," said Turner.

PCs will break promises on building schools…again

Social Credit government built more schools in Edmonton than PCs did


Edmonton - The PCs will, yet again, plead poverty on being able to build long-overdue schools for Albertans, New Democrat Education and Infrastructure critic Deron Bilous said today in front of an empty field where a school is supposed to be built. Bilous was joined by Edmonton-Whitemud NDP candidate Dr. Bob Turner

"The PCs have promised these schools, crossing their fingers that oil prices would hold steady," Bilous said. "But their revenue has again dropped substantially from what they had projected, and that means that, yet again, they will break their promises to build these overdue schools for kids here in Edmonton."

In the PCs 2014-2015 projected budget, oil prices were predicted to sit at $95 US per barrel. Oil closed at $79.98 US per barrel last night.

According to a study published by the Bank of Montreal (BMO) last week, Alberta should anticipate a $1.2 billion shortfall in oil royalties if prices stay at or below recent levels for the remainder of the fiscal year, as they are predicted to.

"The PCs have promised billions of dollars worth of new schools to Albertans. This bump in the revenue rollercoaster means they won't have the budget to build the schools they've been promising for years," said NDP candidate for Edmonton-Whitemud, Dr. Bob Turner. "Schools in Edmonton-Whitemud continue to be overcrowded, and further delay on the Terwillegar Heights school is simply unacceptable."

To date, the PCs still have not completed the 35 schools they promised in 2011 or the 50 schools they promised in 2013.

The PCs are so far behind in building schools that according to online data from the Edmonton Public School Board, Edmonton Catholic School Board and Infrastructure Alberta, the Social Credit Party actually built more 66 more schools in Edmonton than the PCs.

"To think that the Social Credit Party had more success than the PCs in building necessary infrastructure is appalling. Our city is growing quickly, and this government continues to cross their fingers, close their eyes and hope for the best when it comes to building for the future of our communities," said Turner.

"If the PCs continue to depend on the volatility of natural resource revenue to build schools, Albertans can expect students to remain in make-shift classrooms," said Bilous.

The New Democrats continue to call for the PCs to create a steady, predictable source of funding for public services by reversing tax cuts to extremely wealthy Albertans and corporations.

Mandel money needs to stay out of provincial politics


EDMONTON - Today, New Democrat candidate Dr. Bob Turner said Stephen Mandel needs to set the record straight on his position regarding election donation laws.

Mandel is on record saying changes made in 2010 to the Local Authorities Election Act are "patronizing" because they imposed new limits on campaign contributions.

In response to changes that put caps on large donations, the former mayor and unelected health minister had this to say:

"It's offensive, it's degrading and it absolutely infuriates me, and when I talk to the minister I will give him a blast...I think it's stupid...I can't believe the audacity of this government."  -Edmonton Journal, February 18, 2010

"The unelected health minister has shown Albertans repeatedly that he has a blatant disregard for the province's election donation laws," said Dr. Bob Turner. "In light of the illegal donations he accepted from the Mazankowski, Mandel needs to tell us why he is on the record saying the province's donation laws are 'ridiculous'."

Patricia Misutka, Mandel's former Chief of Staff and Premier Prentice's Principal Secretary, said in 2010 that campaign contribution caps were unnecessary.

In 2012, the PCs were subject to investigation when it was revealed that they accepted a $430,000 donation from Daryl Katz, who has close ties to Stephen Mandel.

"Prentice and Mandel have close ties to the PCs' big corporate donors, and they're taking advice from the same people who think politics is about money, not people," said Dr. Bob Turner. "Albertans deserve politicians who will abide by the rules and who want the process to be more open and transparent. The people of Edmonton Whitemud deserve an MLA who understands that big money doesn't need a bigger role in politics."

An Alberta New Democrat government would lower Alberta's contribution limit and ban all corporate and union donations.
 
 

Time to start thinking like owners


CALGARY - NDP candidate for Calgary-West, Brian Malkinson, says a report released last week by the Alberta Federation of Labour shows that when it comes to natural resources it's time for Alberta to start thinking like owners again.

The report, "Upgrading our Future: The Economics of In-Province Upgrading", written by, Ed Osterwold, senior partner with the UK-based Competition Economists Group (CEG), shows that in-province upgrading, refining and petrochemical manufacturing is a highly profitable potential in Alberta.
 
"Alberta has a proud history of thinking like owners and getting the most for our resources," said Malkinson. "But due to bad management by the PCs, former Premier Peter Lougheed's vision for an industry that belonged to Albertans has all but disappeared down the pipeline."
 
The report also shows that the average wages associated with this potential increase in upgrading and refining would be among the highest in Canada.
 
"The Prentice PCs are content to rip and ship the most valuable product, and some of the highest paying jobs in Canada," said Malkinson. "Albertans deserve a government that will put their interests first."
 
A copy of the complete "In-Province Upgrading" CEG report can be found here.

Health care negotiations derailed by new minister’s negligence


EDMONTON - New Democrat candidate, Dr. Bob Turner, says unelected Health minister, Stephen Mandel, must immediately find a way to resume fair negotiations for Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) and Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA), two of Alberta's largest health care unions.
 
Last week, Alberta Health Services (AHS) informed the two unions that AHS could not discuss wages or other monetary items, leaving 60,000 health practitioners uncertain about their future contracts.
 
"These health professionals deserve better than a health minister who can't manage to negotiate a fair contract with them," said Dr. Turner. "Not only does this unelected, unqualified minister have no health credentials, but his lack of control over this current round of negotiations clearly shows he lacks the necessary management skills as well."
 
AUPE and HSAA was set to resume talks with AHS last week. The unions had been planning to begin exchancing monetary proposals last week, but without prior notice AHS said they would not be offering their opening proposals.
 
"This is unacceptable in a province whose health care system is said to be on the brink of 'collapse'," said Dr. Turner. "What this unelected minister needs to do right now is give AHS an immediate mandate to resume negotiations, and provide confidence to health care professionals and Albertans who will be adversely affected by this negligence." 
 
"Albertans deserve better than a health minister and government that puts electioneering ahead health care."
 

NDP call on on Premier to support inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women


CALGARY- Today, Alberta New Democrat candidate Jennifer Burgess demanded that Jim Prentice reverse his position and join the call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
 
"Our new premier's failure to support a national inquiry is a failure to every aboriginal woman and girl in Alberta," said Burgess. "It is unacceptable and New Democrats are standing alongside first nations and demanding meaningful action from this PC government, which includes joining the call for a national inquiry."
 
Prentice recently said that he does not think an inquiry is needed, putting him at odds with several premiers across the country, including Saskatchewan's Brad Wall, Ontario's Kathleen Wynne, and Manitoba's Greg Selinger, who have all called for an inquiry.
 
'While other premiers are standing up to Stephen Harper and demanding a national public inquiry, Prentice just echoes Harper's weak excuses," said Burgess. "Albertans deserve better than a premier who refuses to stand up to Harper and demand justice for indigenous women and girls."
 
Burgess was joined by community activists Chantel Chagnon and Walter MacDonald White Bear, who continue to bring light to the importance of a national inquiry.

Alberta NDP host rally for a new hospital in Southwest Edmonton


EDMONTON- Over one hundred people joined the Alberta NDP outside the Misericordia Community Hospital today, to rally for a new hospital to be built in Southwest Edmonton. 

"The infrastructure at the Misericordia is crumbling. The building is chronically over-capacity. Edmonton health care workers deserve a higher quality workplace, and patients deserve to feel comfortable and safe," said NDP Leader Brian Mason.

The turnout for the rally included NDP Leader Brian Mason, NDP MLAs, members of unions who work in the Misericrodia, citizens who live in the area and NDP candidate for Edmonton-Whitemud, Dr. Bob Turner.

The crowd chanted "New Mis Now," a call for a new hospital to be built in Edmonton.

"This is unacceptable for a public health care facility. We have the best health care workers in the country and those workers deserve to work in a facility where they feel comfortable, safe and appreciated," said NDP candidate for Edmonton-Whitemud, Dr. Bob Turner.

The Misericordia regularly overheats, making it uncomfortable for patients and staff. In December 2013, documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request show the Cardiac Unit reached 33 degrees. Management and staff were breaking down in tears over their discomfort.

The New Democrats have previously released FOIP documents that show the call systems in the Misericordia are often broken, and patients cannot communicate with nursing staff. There are areas of the hospital where staff must wear protective equipment to enter, due to mold level.

The documents also show a hole in a delivery room floor was left, growing, for 4 years, filling with blood and fluid regularly, and causing an infection hazard.

"Albertans deserve accessible quality health care and the current government is falling short," said Health Science Association of Alberta VP, Mike Parker. "Southwest Edmonton needs a new hospital, not a band-aid solution to a long-term problem. Edmonton is growing every day. Employees and patients deserve a commitment from this government to build a new facility, now."

"This is a critical time for health care in Alberta. Albertans deserve the security of knowing that if they or their loved ones become ill, there is a nearby facility that can care for them. Albertans deserve better than crumbling hospitals," said Turner.

The Alberta NDP have launched a petition to build a new Misericordia Hospital, which can be signed at NewMisNow.ca

Modulars are ready and waiting; PCs need to act now: Bilous



 
EDMONTON – New Democrat Infrastructure and Education critic Deron Bilous said the PCs' announcement today of a long-term education infrastructure plan doesn’t deal with the immediate needs of schools and students.

The Alberta New Democrats have learned 45 modular classrooms are still outside the warehouse waiting to be delivered to crowded schools.

“The Premier announced a long term plan today to build schools in Alberta. Of course we need a long term plan, but we also need an immediate plan to deal with the hundreds of students who are learning in make-shift classrooms like libraries, closets and offices,” said Bilous.

Modus Structures was one of two companies contacted to build modular classrooms for Alberta schools. In an interview with Metro News in September Chief Executive Cal Harvey, said:

“We have fulfilled our contract and have turned all of those classrooms over to Alberta Infrastructure... The vast majority of the classrooms we built were delivered by the end of June, as per our contract”
However, according to Modus Structures, as of today, 45 units are still sitting in the construction yard waiting to be picked up.

“I have tried to get to the bottom of this, but Alberta Infrastructure is playing the blame game,” said Bilous
Alberta Infrastructure told the New Democrats that it is the responsibility of individual school boards to pick up the modulars.

“At the end of the day, education infrastructure is a provincial responsibility.  The PCs have dropped the ball by not taking the steps to have these modulars delivered to the schools that need them. Albertans don’t need more finger-pointing – they want to see action now.

"Alberta families deserve to know the crunch in our schools will be resolved."

Latest Auditor General report shows PCs’ lack of planning for Albertans’ future: Mason


EDMONTON – The latest findings of Alberta’s Auditor General report shows that the PC government is still coming up short across the board, said NDP Leader Brian Mason today.
 
From long-term care to protecting our environment and collecting royalties, the PCs are consistently incapable of providing for the needs of Albertans.
 
“When the government fails to take action on long-term care, and fails to properly monitor this province’s biggest revenue source, they are failing Albertans.”
 
Mason said he was extremely disappointed that the Auditor General did no actual site-visits to Alberta health care facilities as he prepared his report on facility conditions and understaffing.  In 2005, then Auditor General Fred Dunn conducted a first-hand study of the situation in long term care facilities.  Given the disturbing practices he uncovered, it is well past time an equally in-depth review is conducted.  Reviews at the system level are insufficient to protect vulnerable citizens.
 
“He needs to get out of his office and into some of these nursing homes to see conditions for himself,” Mason said. “Many seniors are still suffering due to understaffing and neglect.”
 
When it comes to royalties, Mason said he is deeply concerned. 
“Not only does Alberta have amongst the lowest royalties in the world, but our own government is unable to correctly estimate what our resource revenue is worth.”  The Auditor General found instances of overstated royalty revenue by $32 million and net income by $42 million, and understated liabilities by $23 million (page 126).
 
“Incorrectly estimating revenues and liabilities by tens of millions of dollars directly impacts our ability to plan and budget for the services that Albertans need.  Frankly, this is an embarrassment and a costly one,” said Mason.

AG report reveals PCs can’t be trusted to effectively monitor our air, land and water


EDMONTON – Reacting to the latest Alberta Auditor General report, Alberta New Democrat Environment Critic Rachel Notley said, “the report on the joint oil sand monitoring program shows that Conservative governments on a federal and provincial level are failing Albertans when it comes to protecting out air, land and water around the oil sands.”
 
In February 2012, the governments of Alberta and Canada committed to implementing a scientifically rigorous, comprehensive, and transparent environmental monitoring program for the oil sands.
 
“Today’s Auditor General’s report concludes that two years later, the PCs are failing on key elements of their so-called world class monitoring program,” Notley said.
 
 “Not only did the first annual report fail to surface until 15 months after the end of the first year, it was also incomplete, contained inaccurate data, and did not specifically speak to whether there had been substantive movement toward the stated goals of the project.”
 
The PCs claim that their monitoring system can help to restore Alberta’s black eye – caused by years of Conservative neglect with respect to our environment. What this report shows, once again, is that PC rhetoric is not backed up by concrete action.”
 
“Until we fix our environmental monitoring, our industry’s sustainability will continue to be undermined by our environmental record.”

Health care on brink of “catastrophic collapse”, Albertans deserve so much better: Dr. Bob Turner


EDMONTON- New Democrat Candidate for Edmonton-Whitemud, Dr. Bob Turner, said that the alarming op-ed circulated to Alberta media yesterday and printed in this morning's Calgary Herald clearly shows that Albertans need to use this by-election to send the right message to the PCs on health care and vote against the unqualified, unelected Health Minister Stephen Mandel.

Dr. Paul Parks, the official spokesperson for the Section of Emergency Medicine of the Alberta Medical Association, writes that Alberta's health care system on the brink of catastrophic collapse: "The Alberta government is accountable for the ongoing failure to plan for adequate capacity." He goes on to say that the "The Alberta government promised Albertans that they fully understood and would address these issues repeatedly over the last four years. Unfortunately, they simply have not done so."

Parks views these by-elections as an opportunity to send the PCs a message on health care, saying "The health care system is in very real jeopardy and Albertans have a unique opportunity to be involved in one of the most important "job interviews" facing our province."

"This situation is very serious, and immediate, meaningful action needs to be taken. Albertans deserve better than more broken promises and platitudes masked as a real plan. They deserve the security of knowing that this frightening situation is being dealt with quickly, thoroughly and with expertise," said Turner.

On Sunday, Stephen Mandel claimed to have a plan ready for health care, focusing on long-term care and emergency medicine. Turner said Mandel's plan is news to front-line heath care professionals.

"The medical professionals I know and trust certainly haven't heard about Mandel's 'plan' for health care," said Turner. "Mandel and the PCs haven't talked with doctors at the AMA, they haven't consulted with front-line workers in Emergency Medical Services, and they certainly haven't listened to the health professionals who work at the dilapidated Misericordia hospital."

"In the last provincial election, the New Democrats released a plan to immediately build and staff 1,500 more public long-term care spaces in Alberta to deal with seniors in the province waiting for long-term care in hospitals," said New Democrat leader Brian Mason. "The PCs promised to build 1,000 spaces a year and they have completely failed Albertans. Albertans deserve better than more broken promises - they deserve a health care system that works."

The Alberta New Democrats have a plan to immediately re-invest in public health care to provide more long-term care, affordable home care, and better front-line services.

On Thursday, Mason and Turner will hold a rally outside the Misericordia, calling on the PCs to immediately commit to building a new southwest Edmonton hospital.

More upgrading needs to happen at home to build Alberta’s economy: Mason


 
EDMONTONA new report commissioned by the Alberta Federation of Labour bolsters the Alberta’s NDP stance that upgrading in Alberta is economically viable and would create long-term jobs for Albertans.
 
“The New Democrats believe that Albertans need to think like owners of our natural resource wealth,” Mason said. “But this PC government continues to stump for pipelines without first ensuring that we create the conditions for long-term prosperity in Alberta.”
 
The report shows that the Keystone XL pipeline will create thousands of jobs in the US, but only 35 permanent jobs for Canadians. Northern Gateway would only create 228 permanent jobs here, with hundreds of thousands going to China.
 
“As we’ve been saying for years – and now this report shows – it makes sense to upgrade at home in Alberta. It will create jobs, it will diversify our economy and it will ensure that Albertans receive the full value of the resources that we own together.”

NDP and Dr. Darren Lund Call on PCs and Wildrose to Support Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta School


CALGARY- Today at Central Memorial High School, where students are able to support each other through gay-straight alliances, NDP Calgary-Foothills candidate Jennifer Burgess and NDP Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley called on the PCs and Wildrose to support concrete measures aimed at reducing bullying and making LGBTQ students feel safer in Alberta schools.

Burgess and Notley were joined by Dr. Darren Lund, whose work on diversity and human rights in education led to the first gay-straight alliance in Alberta.

"Alberta's students deserve better than being blocked by the PCs and Wildrose from forming clubs that promote safer schools," said Burgess. "These clubs are proven to deter bullying and promote positive community. PC and Wildrose foot-dragging on support for them is inexcusable."

Burgess and Notley have proposed two measures to support LGBTQ students in Alberta:
1) Introduce legislation allowing 'gay-straight alliance clubs' at all schools where students request them.
2) Amend the Human Rights Code to reverse changes made by the PCs in 2010, which makes teachers who discuss sexuality and sexual orientation in the classroom the potential subjects of human rights complaints.
In April 2014, PC and Wildrose MLAs opposed a motion to support the establishment of gay-straight alliances in Alberta schools.

"Alberta is a modern and diverse province," said Notley. "The PC and Wildrose opposition to simple measures that would help support LGBTQ students shows just how out of step they are with Albertans."

Studies have shown that gay-straight alliances substantially reduce bullying and make schools safer for LGBTQ students. Visible support networks are one of the biggest determinants in addressing the discrimination faced by students every day.

"I've been fortunate to have worked for decades to support diversity and human rights in Alberta's classrooms, and I know that Alberta's students would benefit from these proposed measures," said Dr. Darren Lund.

"These measures to support diversity and promote safe communities are exactly the kind of steps Alberta's kids need and deserve. I can see no reason, other than politics, why they wouldn't be supported in our schools." 

"While Jim Prentice tries desperately to turn the corner on his party's past scandals, his hand-picked candidate here in Calgary-Elbow, Gordon Dirks, was until very recently the leader of a church promoting views that discriminate against gay and lesbian Albertans in their official book of principles," said Burgess. "Meanwhile, the Wildrose's disturbing track record on this issue speaks for itself."

"A clear majority of Albertans are accepting and supportive of LGBTQ people, both in our society and in our schools," said Notley. "It's time they had a government that demonstrates those same values."

Burgess and Notley said that an NDP government would do everything in its power to support LGBTQ rights and make Alberta schools safe for all students. 
 

Meet the new PC management, same as the old management


CALGARY - In Toronto on October 8th, the PC-tied consulting firm, Navigator, will be hosting an event called "Alberta is under New Management". The event doubt on Premier Jim Prentice's effort to distance himself from former Premier Redford given her ties with the same firm.

"Meet the new PC management; it's the same as the old management," said NDP candidate for Calgary Foothills Jennifer Burgess. "Albertans deserve better than the same old cynical rebrand by the same old consulting companies working for the same old PC government."

In 2012 during Alison Redford's successful bid to become leader, Navigator's Executive Chairman Jaime Watt was a key advisor, and one of the "PC 10" who had daily strategy calls with Alison Redford during her campaign. Navigator is now claiming they have "key insights on what to expect from the new Prentice government."

CBC Edmonton revealed today that Jason Hatcher, another consultant with Navigator, has been added to an amended Lobbyist Registry as a consultant on behalf of Navigator for Advanced Education, Culture, Procurement Solicitor General, Energy, Environment, and Economic Development.

"Albertans deserve better than the same PC insiders pulling the strings of their new leader and the Government of Alberta," said Burgess. "Jim Prentice is just like Alison Redford: he wants to 'clean up' government just as soon as he's paved the way for his own insiders to have easy access to lobbying."

"An NDP government would end sweetheart contracts and backroom access for all insiders," said Burgess. "The legislature is for Albertans, not strategists based in Toronto who think they can dictate what we can "expect" from our government."

New Democrats launch by-election campaigns


EDMONTON – Today, Brian Mason and the New Democrats launched by-election campaigns in four constituencies calling on Albertans not to just send the PCs a message with their vote, but to send the right message – that the PCs must address a dire shortage of schools, crumbling hospitals and a serious shortage of long-term care spaces for Alberta seniors.

“By-elections are about sending a message to the government – a message about where we want the province to go,” Mason said. “In this campaign, vote New Democrat to tell the PCs that just because they've managed to beat back the flames of scandal, that doesn't mean they've put out the real fire, which is their failure to address the needs of this growing province.

“In these by-elections, Albertans can vote for a strong, committed candidate in each of these four ridings to send the PCs the right message – a message that fixing the scandals isn't enough. A message that this government needs to do more.”

The New Democrats have candidates lined up in three of the by-election constituencies:
• Dr. Bob Turner- Edmonton Whitemud
• Stephanie McLean- Calgary Elbow
• Jennifer Burgess- Calgary Foothills
• Brian Malkinson- Calgary West

“When the PCs won the election in 2012, they promised to aggressively build and modernize schools. Communities across Calgary and Edmonton are still dealing with overcrowded and poorly maintained schools because of that broken promise. The Misericordia Hospital has been allowed to crumble under the PCs' watch. This government deserves a failing grade on public health care, public education, equality, seniors care and infrastructure. Albertans can tell them that by voting for a New Democrat candidate in these by-elections.”

Dr. Bob Turner to run for the Alberta New Democrats in Edmonton Whitemud


EDMONTON – Today, Brian Mason announced that Dr. Bob Turner, a doctor at Edmonton's Cross Cancer Institute, is seeking the nomination for the Alberta New Democrats in Edmonton Whitemud. He will run against Stephen Mandel, the PCs' unelected Health Minister.

“I'm thrilled to announce that Bob Turner, a well-respected health care professional, is putting his name forward to run for the New Democrats in Edmonton Whitemud in the upcoming byelection,” Mason said. “Bob's record, his knowledge, and his passion for health care and for Alberta makes him the clear choice for voters in Edmonton Whitemud, especially when compared to the record of an unelected PC insider Health Minister, Stephen Mandel.”

Dr. Turner identified three key issues that are key concerns for him which motivated him to run for the New Democrats in Edmonton Whitemud:
• A replacement for the Misericordia hospital. The Alberta New Democrats launched a petition in August calling for a new hospital in southwest Edmonton to replace the Misericordia. Turner is also concerned with ambulance wait times in southwest Edmonton.
• overcrowded schools in the constituency. Promised schools not built.
• long-term care for seniors, particularly with the government's slow response to installing sprinklers in long-term care facilities, an issue the New Democrats first raised in January.

“Edmonton Whitemud is a prosperous place. Proud, hard-working Albertans live here,” Turner said. “But 43 years of PC governments haven't served us well. When choosing health care, we choose between an overcrowded University Hospital and a crumbling Misericordia. Our kids have longer bus rides every year, because this PC government has failed to build enough schools for our growing community. Our seniors are living in facilities without sprinklers and often can't even get access to affordable long-term care.

“This PC government has ignored the basic needs of the residents of Edmonton Whitemud. They have failed Albertans and failed the voters here.”

Turner said that he looks forward to meeting voters throughout Edmonton Whitemud in the coming weeks.

Statement from NDP Health Critic David Eggen on HSAA EMS Survey Report


 
EDMONTON – Alberta’s New Democrat Health Critic, David Eggen, released the following statement in response to the HSAA EMS Survey Report, released today:
 
“It’s time for the PCs to take meaningful action. This report shows years of neglect to funding public health infrastructure and hasty centralization have had a negative effect on the operation of our emergency health care system and the morale of EMS employees.
 
“This report gives front line workers, who may be afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs, a voice and that voice is saying that the quality of care Albertans are receiving is suffering.
 
“EMS workers reported a drastic decline in satisfaction at work, and ability to perform their jobs since AHS took over EMS services in Alberta. They also pointed to dispatch centralization as the cause of increased response times for emergency calls.
 
“Stephen Mandel has a hard decision to make now. He was quick to support centralization as Edmonton’s mayor. Now he needs to take a step back and decide if centralization is the right decision for Alberta moving forward.
 
“The New Democrats are calling on Mandel to halt further centralization of dispatch services until a review can be conducted on the impact it’s had on response times so far, and what the plan looks like now that a number of communities have convinced the PCs to let them continue to operate their own dispatch services.
 
“The health of Albertans shouldn’t be put on hold while we wait for the PCs to try to rebrand their government. Emergency health care should be a priority and the serious concerns that have been raised in this report need to be dealt with immediately.”

Statement from NDP Leader Brian Mason on Prentice’s plan for an Accountability Act


EDMONTON Alberta’s NDP Leader, Brian Mason released the following statement in regard to Premier Prentice’s plan to introduce a new Accountability Act:
 
“Mr. Prentice has demonstrated a tremendous grasp of the obvious over this past week and today is no exception as the Premier acknowledged that Albertans no longer trust the PCs to put their interests first. 
 
“Conveniently, the Premier announced today that government employees would only be based on merit going forward, a week after appointing Jay Hill, his friend, campaign co-chair and former lobbyist to the newly created position of senior representative for Alberta, in Canada.
 
“Mr. Prentice also appointed former colleague and MP, Rob Merrifield to a senior representative position in the U.S. and created a job for campaign supporter and former cabinet minister, Doug Horner as Senior Advisor to the Premier on Internal Trade and Federal and Provincial Relations
 
“Alberta’s NDP has been calling on this government to years to stop appointing PC insiders and awarding sole source contracts. This is another example of Prentice following the opposition’s agenda; however we will hold our applause until we see the details of  this legislation.”  

Statements from Alberta New Democrat Leader Brian Mason on Rosh Hashanah


Alberta New Democrat Leader Brian Mason issued the following statement today to mark Rosh Hashanah:

“At sundown tonight, members of the Jewish faith in Alberta will observe their new year, Rosh Hashanah.

“As families and friends gather to celebrate this Holy Day, Alberta’s New Democrats offer our best wishes in this time of reflection and renewal.

“Rosh Hashanah also gives all Albertans the opportunity to consider the myriad of ways Jewish people have contributed to this province’s heritage, culture and legacy.

“Shanah tovah!”

It’s time for real action on access to health care for Albertans: NDP


EDMONTON New Democrat Health critic David Eggen said today that Premier Jim Prentice’s plan for yet another study of rural health care shows that the PCs are failing to deliver on health care for Albertans.
 
“This government has been in power for 43 years – are they seriously trying to tell us that they don’t have a plan to fix the declining quality of health care that people in rural Alberta receive?” said Eggen.
 
“We don’t need another study to tell us that this government’s consistent failure to invest wisely in public health care is creating problems for Albertans across the province. Inadequate access to long-term care, not enough family doctors, closures of health care facilities, and the PCs’ broken promise on Family Care Clinics are all problems created by this government. These issues won’t be solved with cynical announcements that are designed to make Prentice look like he’s saving the day, while in reality the government continually fails to take action.”
 
Alberta Health Services originally launched a rural health care framework study in 2010, which was then updated in 2012. Since then, the government was supposed to be continuously assessing community needs and doing consultations.
 
“Jim Prentice and his new unelected minister are offering no change to Albertans. They continue to fail Albertans on the issues that matter, like reliable, high-quality public health care and education.”
 

Alberta NDP call on Prentice to take action on Justice Minister


EDMONTON – Alberta New Democrat Leader Brian Mason called on Premier Jim Prentice today, to create an immediate and public timeline for a solution to the Legal Aid funding crisis in Alberta.
 
He also called on Prentice to demand a retraction and apology from Justice Minister and Solicitor General, Jonathan Denis for comments he made to the media over the weekend on the issue.
 
“Mr. Denis’ comments to the media this weekend show an insufficient understanding of the need for the Solicitor General to remain neutral and cast unfounded doubt on the integrity of lawyers who work in the Legal Aid System,” said Mason.
 
Mason’s call comes following a letter from the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association and the Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association sent to Jim Prentice calling for Denis’ resignation, after the organizations say his actions “show a lack of impartiality.”
 
In a letter to Prentice, Mason wrote:
 
 “Administration of justice is a provincial responsibility and the Ministers’ comments have repeatedly attempted to shift the blame to the federal government for the funding crisis. Moreover, his comments to the media this weekend show an insufficient understanding of the need for the Solicitor General to not only be neutral but to be seem to be neutral on matters relating to the administration of justice.”
 
Mason has called on the Prentice to take immediate action to adequately fund legal aid and provide a timeline for Minister Denis to address the issue.

Prentice implements opposition agenda, continues to break PC promises: Mason


 
EDMONTON – Alberta New Democrat Leader Brian Mason said that Jim Prentice has spent his entire first week as Premier attempting to correct the mistakes of the PC party and government.
 
“Jim Prentice has basically implemented the positions, not only of the New Democrats, but also of other opposition parties,” Mason said. “But he has yet to show Albertans what it is that he wants to do for this province—aside from yet another cynical rebrand attempt.”
 
However, Mason said that a few of Prentice’s decisions have begun to offer glimpses to Albertans on critical issues, like delivery of primary health care and education infrastructure.
 
“The unelected Health Minister forecast the cancellation of Family Care Clinics—a major promise from this government when they were last elected. The PCs’ broken promises will obviously continue under a Jim Prentice government.
 
“In the coming months, it will be important for Albertans to remember that PC promises always fly at election time, only to be completely forgotten once the ballots have been counted.”

Statement from NDP Health Critic David Eggen on the halt of the Michener Centre closure


EDMONTON – Alberta’s New Democrats Health Critic, David Eggen released the following statement on the news that Michener Centre will remain open:
 
“On behalf of Alberta’s New Democrats, I want to congratulate the residents of Michener Centre and everyone who stood beside them throughout this long period of uncertainty – most especially their families. The news that the facility will remain open is a welcome and hard-fought victory.
 
“The residents and their families have been put through unnecessary stress by this callous PC government and the impacts the transition has already had on residents and their families are not reversed by the announcement.”

Prorogation kills bills 9 & 10

NDP calls for Prentice to put pension reform to rest


EDMONTON –Alberta’s New Democrats are celebrating their successful fight against bills 9 and 10, after the proposed legislation pension reform legislation was terminated Wednesday.

“The government thought it could push this damaging legislation through under the noses of hard-working Albertans. The New Democrats joined public employees and their unions in standing up for our seniors and public service employees and we’re proud to say we’ve been successful,” said Alberta NDP Leader, Brian Mason.

The proposed pension reform legislation was finally put to rest Wednesday, when Premier Jim Prentice announced the fall session of the legislature would be prorogued, effectively wiping out any legislation that hasn't yet passed." 

“We fought hard in the Legislature and forced the PCs to pull the bills and take them to committee. Then we fought hard in committee all summer to make sure Albertans were heard. We forced the PCs to consider the devastating effects their self-serving agenda would have on regular, hard-working Albertans,” said Mason.

“Prentice’s mandate letter to Finance Minister, Robin Campbell, is concerning. In it, he lists “addressing the competitiveness of the public sector pension plans and ensure they are sustainable,” as a focus. Alberta’s New Democrats are calling on Prentice to end the PCs’ misguided approach to pension reform once and for all.

“We’re so proud to have worked together with public sector employees and their unions to protect pension fairness. Together, we’ve succeeded in getting these damaging bills off the table. Alberta’s NDP is doing everything it can to institute a respectful relationship with Alberta’s seniors and our public service,” said Mason.

The New Democrats continue to work to expand pension coverage for those who don’t have it, and to protect those who do.

Indigenous communities deserve meaningful consultation: NDP


EDMONTON – New Democrat Aboriginal Relations critic, Deron Bilous released the following statement after the Alberta Assembly of Treaty Chiefs passed a resolution calling for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, and urging Jim Prentice to reconsider his position on it:
 
“Mr. Prentice has barely taken the oath as Minister of Aboriginal Relations and already he’s disrespecting Alberta’s chiefs by publicly stating that an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women is unnecessary.
 
“As Premier he has a mandate to build respectful relationships with Indigenous communities. Instead of jumping to his own conclusions about what is needed and what isn’t, Mr. Prentice needs to sit down with stakeholders and participate in meaningful consultation.
 
“It’s time to fix Alberta’s track record on consultation and communication with Indigenous peoples and the inquiry is a great place to start but Mr. Prentice continues to show that he won't bring any change to Alberta.”

PC culture of entitlement continues


EDMONTON – New Democrat MLA Deron Bilous said that Jim Prentice is yet again showing that he doesn't represent change by appointing his campaign co-chair to a plum government position.
 
“Actions speak louder than words, and welcoming one of his buddies into the PC Old Boys' Club is one of Mr. Prentice's first actions as Premier,” said Bilous.
 
On the heels of Jim Prentice’s promise to end entitlement in the PC government, the premier has announced his long-time friend and co-chair of his leadership campaign, Jay Hill, will be Alberta’s Senior Representative in Saskatchewan, British Columbia, the North and the North West Partnership.
 
“This appointment smells like an insider favour to me. Prentice seems to be clearing out Redford’s friends and replacing them with his own,” Bilous said. "This just goes to a show that Prentice’s PC re-branding is smoke and mirrors. We’re seeing the same culture of entitlement under Prentice that we’ve seen from the PCs all along."
 
In August, the NDP released information about Jay Hill and his contravention of the Conflict of Interest Act in 2011.

Dirks can’t be trusted to protect the rights of LGBTQ students: NDP


 
EDMONTON- Alberta’s New Democrats are calling Premier Prentice’s appointment of Gordon Dirks to Education Minister inappropriate.
 
“Gordon Dirks has close ties to an organization that believes same-sex relationships are an offence to God. How can he be counted on to protect the rights of Alberta’s LGBTQ students?” said NDP Education Critic, Deron Bilous.
 
Despite the growing issue of bullying in Alberta schools, the PCs and the Wildrose have opposed gay-straight alliances.
 
Leadership candidate, Ric McIver was forced to publicly apologize for his association with a different organization that condemns the LGBTQ community earlier this year. Now the Premier has appointed a man to one of the most important cabinet positions who seems to represents similar values.
 
“Dirks’ history raises real questions about how policy will be crafted around inclusion, gay straight alliances and bullying in general,” said Bilous. “Prentice is attempting to cater to the social conservative views of many Wildrose supporters.”
                                                     
Dirks was recently a pastor at Centre Street Church in Calgary, where their Theological Principles and Ministry Practises include the following statements:

  • “God intends marriage to be a monogamous, life-long union between a male and a female who are each living in the physical gender in which they were born.” (pg 18)
  • “God is dishonoured by: sexual obsession, intimate physical expression of sexuality outside of marriage and sexual activity between persons of the same sex...” (pg 19)

“Prentice has made foolish mistake on his first day on the job and should rescind his appointment of Gordon Dirks as Education Minister,” said Bilous.

The original version of this release incorrectly attributed a quote from Street Church to Centre Street Church. We apologize for any inconvenience.

New cabinet comes at the expense of experience and credibility: NDP


EDMONTON – NDP Leader Brian Mason released the following statement following the naming of Jim Prentice’s cabinet:
 
“It’s his first day on the job, and Premier Prentice has named a cabinet destined for inner conflict, and rife with ministers who have a history of failing Albertans.
 
“The premier has tried to give the Tories a fresh coat of paint but it’s come at the expense of credibility and experience.
 
“Prentice has appointed two unelected cabinet ministers to very important Portfolios, Stephen Mandel to Health and Gordon Dirks to Education. Without a seat in the legislature these ministers have no mandate from Albertans, and no accountability for their performance.
 
“Some more competent MLAs were passed over because of their close association with Redford. Instead, Prentice has appointed inexperienced, weak ministers, who were just as closely tied to Redford, though not as publicly involved in PC scandals.
 
“Diana McQueen, a rural MLA has been named as minister of Municipal Affairs. It’s hard to see how big city concerns will be addressed by her.
 
“We're at a very sensitive time in labour relations in the province of Alberta after countless, sustained attacks on the rights of their members. It is concerning that Prentice would appoint Ric McIver to this portfolio, a man whose history suggests he does not respect the public sector and hardworking Albertans.
 
“Stephen Khan is Minister of Service Alberta despite his poor history working in the Advanced Education portfolio and being fired from his cabinet role by Alison Redford.
 
“And although Prentice has committed to an accountable and transparent leadership he’s appointed McIver and Drysdale, two men at the heart of the Skypalace fiasco."

PCs push through publication ban regulations without deliberation


EDMONTON – The PCs pushed through regulations that effectively reinstate a publication ban on personal information of children who die in care, Thursday afternoon.
                                    
The Standing Committee on Families and Communities was set to review draft regulations that would govern how families and government could seek a publication ban in the event that a child in care dies, during its meeting Thursday.
 
"Without amendment, the regulations as drafted by the Minister would allow for ex parte applications to the courts to impose a publication ban, on an accelerated basis without the typical checks and balances afforded by Queen’s Bench judges,” said Notley. “Typical notice requirements are eliminated and the ability for families to appeal the order is also limited.”
 
Ministry officials advised committee members that they would be most likely to apply for the ban where the child who died was in their custody (ie.  a foster child, temporary or permanent) or where a sibling of the child was in their custody. Those guidelines alone, cover the vast majority of cases.
 
Several submitters raised concerns with the new regulations and argued that clear and greater limits on when the government would rely on this strategy were necessary.  A variety of mechanisms to achieve this limit were proposed.
 
However, in response to Notley’s request that the committee review each recommendation on a systematic basis, PC Committee Chair Cathy Olsen alleged it was not the task of the committee to review the regulations in detail and cut off discussion about the submissions provided  by stakeholders.
 
"These are expert opinions that were submitted to help shape the regulations to best suit Alberta families and this committee is so arrogant that it won't even take the time to review the submissions and deliberate on the necessary changes," said Notley. .
 
"When the PCs first came under scrutiny for this, they promised they would do better. They promised they would be transparent about the deaths of children in care but yesterday they took a major step backward. Transparency has been lost through the arrogance and entitlement which still governs PC government conduct,” said Notley.
 
Notley will file a minority report on the issue.
 

NDP Leader Brian Mason thanks Premier Hancock for his service


EDMONTON – NDP Leader Brian Mason has released the following statement thanking Premier Hancock for his service to Albertans:

“I want to thank Premier Hancock for his personal dedication to the Government of Alberta and to Albertans over the last 6 months. The Office of the Premier demands a great deal of time and commitment and certainly Dave has fulfilled his role admirably.
 
“Moreover, throughout his entire career Dave has been a deeply dedicated and competent representative for the people of Edmonton-Whitemud and all Albertans.  Over the years, he’s served nearly every cabinet portfolio – a testament to his skill and character.  In these especially tumultuous times for the PCs, Dave’s reputation for almost never getting in trouble has served him well. 
 
“Mr. Hancock has proudly served Alberta for many years and as he announces his departure from politics today, I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavours.  He will be missed.
 
“Politics is especially challenging for families and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Janet, Ian, Janice and Janine for sharing Dave with Albertans.”


 

Federal NDP join Provincial New Democrats in fight for access to justice in Alberta


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Federal NDP Justice critic, Françoise Boivin joins Alberta NDP Justice critic, Rachel Notley in calling for urgent attention to the growing crisis in access to justice across the country.

 

EDMONTON – Today, Alberta NDP Justice critic, Rachel Notley, was joined by federal NDP Justice critic, Françoise Boivin, in calling for urgent attention to the growing crisis in access to justice across the country. Notley repeated the need for an immediate commitment to adequate legal aid funding from the government.
 
“In Alberta, we are faced with a provincial government that flagrantly disrespects the constitutional rights of its citizens and ignores its constitutional responsibility for the administration of justice,” said Notley. “By refusing to adequately fund legal aid, Jonathan Denis and the PCs have created a crisis so severe that even the most vulnerable Albertans no longer qualify for assistance.”
 
“I have been carefully watching the alarming situation in Alberta and I share my colleague’s concerns about the erosion of legal aid as a crucial service,” said Boivin.
 
Both critics highlighted the importance of legal aid funding to the functioning of the justice system. By reducing delays, mistrials, appeals, mistakes and additional time for court staff and judges associated with self-represented litigants, legal aid has been found to generate a substantial return on investment in the UK, Texas and Australia. Alberta's Auditor General has agreed to look into the impacts of the chronic underfunding of legal aid, following Notley's request in June, based on the cost savings in other jurisdictions.
 
“We need to start treating access to the courts and to legal advice and representation as the vital public service that it is, just like healthcare or education,” said Notley. “There is a growing body of case law and research that supports this approach.”
  
Studies in other jurisdictions show that encountering legal problems or difficulties in accessing one’s rights without adequate support can lead to increased illness, both mental and physical, lost jobs, homelessness and risk to children’s wellbeing. “An inability to access justice can create and compound problems and costs to society, just like inadequate access to healthcare or education,” said Boivin.
 
Both critics say that it is time to view access to justice as an equally important right and social service in Canada.
 
 
A backgrounder on legal aid is available here.

 

Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason speaks to federal NDP caucus in Edmonton


Read the text of Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason's speech to the Federal NDP caucus below.


Brian Mason's speech to Federal NDP by Alberta NDP

Auditor General’s report echoes NDP’s call for an integrated, accessible health care system


EDMONTON – The Auditor General’s report released today shows that the PCs are still falling short when it comes to chronic disease management  in Alberta, despite the New Democrats repeated calls for a more integrated, collaborative care system.
 
“This report reiterates the issues this government has been ignoring for years. The number of Albertans suffering with a chronic disease is increasing all the times. It’s time for the PCs to acknowledge that they are not doing enough,” said NDP Health Critic, David Eggen.
 
The report released today highlights concerns that there are no checks and balances in place to ensure Albertans receive the care they need and deserve. “It’s yet another example of ongoing chaos and lack of accountable leadership between Alberta Health and AHS, which ultimately affects quality of care for all Albertans,” said Eggen.
 
“There is an overarching need for purposeful, province-wide action to manage the growing burden of chronic disease. New actions must be dramatic. Small, incremental improvements could be overwhelmed by rising chronic disease numbers,” said the Auditor General.
The key findings of the Auditor General’s report point to three concerns Alberta’s New Democrats have been voicing for years:

  1. Access to primary care and continuity of care: Albertans deserve access to a family doctor who knows their history and can track and assess their health needs. Evidence shows that patients who see the same physician have better outcomes and use fewer resources
  2. Better coordination of health services and information sharing: Chronic disease is best managed when a variety of health care professionals work together. Albertans need better integration of nurses, therapists, dieticians, pharmacists and other health professionals in order for our system to work effectively.
  3. Improved data gathering, analysis and evaluation of Alberta Health and AHS programs: There is currently a lack of data collection, reporting and accountability amongst health care providers. There is no system in place to determine the demand for Chronic Disease Management or the effectiveness of available care.
“The Minister of Health needs to make chronic disease management a priority. It’s time to sit down and define expectations and responsibilities for service providers and then diligently track the results,” said Eggen.

Polling in 1st in Edmonton and strong leadership fundraising shows Alberta New Democrats’ momentum


SEPTEMBER 5th, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

EDMONTON - At the same time as yet another public opinion poll shows Alberta's New Democrats leading in Edmonton, the party released its August fundraising report for its Leadership candidates.
 
"The recent polls and these fundraising results are perfect examples of our momentum" said New Democrat Provincial Secretary Brian Stokes, "Albertans aren't buying the same old story of PC entitlement and scandal. More and more are turning to the New Democrats as the party that shares their values and that offers the real alternative to the conservative parties."

The details of total contributions and contributions over $100 can be found on the party's website by following this link.

Details on the Leadership2014 contest in general can be found at albertandp.ca/leadership2014.

-30-

NDP calls for PCs to end the use of Supports Intensity Scale


EDMONTON—Alberta’s New Democrats are calling for the government to end the use of the Supports Intensity Scale (SIS), calling the system unfair and broken.

The scale is an assessment tool that the Ministry of Human Services claims helps them to determine the amounts of funding persons with developmental disabilities receive. It came to be relied upon when the government first cut $45 million from PDD funding in 2013.

The New Democrats released documents today obtained through a Freedom of Information application, showing hundreds of SIS assessments are being sent for reassessment and an overwhelming 85% of reassessments are being overturned as inadequate.

“Thousands of PDD families, individuals and service providers are left struggling to navigate the system when their supports are slashed based on a faulty measurement. Instead of helping these Albertans, this PC government is adding layers upon layers of stress and confusion in order to avoid accountability,” said Notley.

Marie Renaud, director of the Lo-Se-Ca Foundation, a service provider for persons with developmental disabilities, estimates 40% of the assessments done for Lo-Se-Ca clients are inaccurate.

“Some were so inaccurate I actually questioned whether the assessor even met the person” Renaud said.  “In May of 2013 I sent a list of assessments that we believe were incorrect to the Ministry and asked for reassessments. To date, not one of those has been reassessed.”

The FOIP documents show that as of June 2014 nearly 2000 re-assessments or reviews have been requested across the province.
 
A backgrounder on SIS is available here.
 

Statement from NDP Leader Brian Mason on Labour Day


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

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


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

NDP calls on the PCs to eliminate mandatory public school fees


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Deaths prompt renewed calls for PCs to review decision


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

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

Internal branding report shows AHS a political smokescreen

Alberta New Democrats call for PCs to abolish AHS


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

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

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

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

 

REALITY CHECK: Jim Prentice and the company he keeps


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

NDP challenges Tory leadership candidates to commit to public inquiry


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

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


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

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


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

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



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

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


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

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

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

NDP MLA Deron Bilous on Alison Redford’s resignation


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

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

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

NDP leads charge for a new hospital in Southwest Edmonton


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

NDP calls for HQCA board member John Vogelzang to resign


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

NDP applauds the protection of the Castle Special Place

South Saskatchewan Regional Plan disappointing


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

NDP calls for responsible review of Alberta’s Justice system


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

New Democrats call for immediate review of breast cancer care


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

 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDITOR GENERAL REPORT SHOWS GOVERNMENT STILL FAILING ON ACCOUNTABILITY


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

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


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

STATEMENT FROM NDP HEALTH CRITIC ON FLOODING AT MISERICORDIA HOSPITAL


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

INCREASED FUNDING FOR CHILD AND YOUTH ADVOCATE INSUFFICIENT: NDP


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

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

 

STATEMENT FROM NDP LEADER BRIAN MASON ON CANADA DAY


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

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

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

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

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

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

PC GOVERNMENT LOST ON BUILDING SCHOOLS: BILOUS


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

CONSULTATIONS SHOW ALBERTANS’ DESIRE TO KILL PENSION BILLS


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

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

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

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

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

STATEMENT FROM NDP LEADER BRIAN MASON ON ANNIVERSARY OF ALBERTA FLOODS


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

LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY HURTING PATIENTS: EGGEN


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

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

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


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

INDUSTRY INSIDERS SETTING THE AGENDA ON FRACKING REGULATIONS: NOTLEY


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

 

Concerns Around Draft Play Based Regulation (PBR)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

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


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

NDP CALLS ON PROVINCE TO STOP SELLING MORE CARIBOU HABITAT


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NDP CALLS ON PRIVACY COMMISSIONER TO EXPAND SCOPE OF INVESTIGATION


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

 

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

NDP CALLS FOR PCs TO HALT MICHENER CLOSURE


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

 

PC GOVERNMENT ENDANGERING MICHENER RESIDENTS: EGGEN



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

MASON APPLAUDS INVESTIGATION INTO GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE OF FOIP PROCESS


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

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

PCs FALLING BEHIND ON HOSPITAL REVIEWS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE NOT ENOUGH FOR ALBERTA FAMILIES: NOTLEY


Alberta minimum wage


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

MASON COMMENTS ON “POWER TO CHANGE” CLEAN ENERGY REPORT


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHNSON TO BLAME FOR CALGARY BOARD OF EDUCATION FEE HIKE


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

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

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

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

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

NEW REPORT BY PARKLAND INSTITUTE SHOWS UNION PARTICIPATION BENEFITS ALL ALBERTANS


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

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

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

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

PCs’ DEREGULATED ELECTRICITY SYSTEM A “MESS”: MASON


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

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

PROVINCE MUST HALT SALE OF CARIBOU HABITAT: NOTLEY


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

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

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

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

FULL INSPECTION OF EDMONTON GENERAL NEEDED IMMEDIATELY: EGGEN


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

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

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

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

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

The documents are available here.

TORIES IGNORING SENIORS IN LONG-TERM CARE IN KILLAM


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

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

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

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

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

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