Better policy comes from the living rooms and not the backrooms. As we travelled across the province during TheBig Listen, we had conversations with Albertans about their hopes and dreams for the future. It was clear that too many Albertans feel disconnected from their government and are longing to be engaged in a meaningful and authentic way.
Let’s build a citizen-centred democracy.
For years, “public engagement” in Alberta has simply been a term used by the government to sell its policies to Albertans. From power-lines to impaired driving legislation, we have seen the government make decisions without having an honest conversation with the community. As a result, creative ideas, such as building smaller gas powered generators near major cities to meet future electrical demand or increasing the number of check-stops to catch impaired drivers, never get considered.
The Alberta Party will make our democracy more citizen-centred by:
Implementing meaningful public engagement for all major government decisions before the decision is made, by using a combination of on-line and in person engagement techniques.
Opening up the budget process to actively engage citizens about how they want their government to use their tax dollars.
Eliminating the Public Affairs Bureau, the government’s public relations department.
Better government requires better MLAs.
Most Albertans wouldn’t recognize their MLA because they are usually missing in action. We believe that your MLA has a significant role in rebuilding our democracy.
Increase the number of free votes in the Legislature so that decisions better reflect what MLAs are hearing from their constituents.
Fix the MLA compensation system.
The “money for nothing” scandal has revealed that the MLA compensation system is anything but transparent. It’s virtually impossible to figure out how much your MLA gets paid because they get additional money for serving on committees or doing other work (or, in some cases, no work at all). This system is designed to hide the actual amount of compensation your MLA takes home and it has to stop.
The Alberta Party will:
Eliminate the tax-exempt portion of MLA salaries.
Implement a more transparent compensation system for MLAs and publish what each MLA actual earns on the Internet.
Create an independent committee to set MLA compensation so that MLAs get paid a fair wage for the work that they do.
Politicians have to earn back your trust.
The vast majority of people who serve in public office are decent, hardworking and honourable people. Incidents such as the recent “money for nothing” scandal and the Progressive Conservative’s “flexible” fixed election date law, have tarnished our political system.
In order to restore confidence in our political system, the Alberta Party will:
Legislate real fixed election dates in order to have a level playing field for all political parties.
Lower the donation and spending limits for political parties and candidates in order to reduce the influence donors have on our politicians.
Mandate full disclosure of donations prior to Election Day, so that citizens will know who is funding their candidates.
Improving the way our democracy works is the key to improving how government works. With a few simple changes, Alberta can become the most open and transparent government in Canada.
Watch this video overview of our democratic renewal policy by St. Albert candidate Tim Osborne:
In response to some of the recent attention paid to the issue of how MLAs conduct themselves in the legislature, the Alberta Party issued the following statement today.
EDMONTON - April 10, 2012 - The Alberta Party has a firm commitment to openness, transparency, democracy and innovation in the way our party conducts its business. With other parties starting to discuss their ideas for the behaviour of MLAs it is worth reminding everyone that the Alberta Party released guidelines for the behaviour of Alberta Party MLAs in November 2010.
Highlights from our guidelines include:
Alberta Party MLAs will be required to engage their constituents on a regular basis using a combination of on-line and traditional communication tools, including Twitter, Facebook, coffee parties and town halls.
Alberta Party MLAs will conduct themselves in a professional manner. This includes treating all other members of the legislature with politeness and respect.
Alberta Party MLAs will be free to vote their conscience on all votes except 1) an Alberta Party budget or 2) a bill that was a published part of the Alberta Party’s platform.
Alberta Party MLAs will post their voting record and reasons why they voted for or against a particular resolution on their websites.
“The role of an MLA is not to represent the party to their constituents; it is to represent their constituents to the party and the legislature.” Says Alberta Party Leader Glenn Taylor. “However, that doesn’t mean that MLAs are simply polling and voting machines. Rather, Alberta Party MLAs are to ensure that they consider their constituents views prior to casting their vote in the legislature."
During the first two weeks of this election campaign, there has been an underlying debate between the PCs and the Wildrose parties about the role of government in our society (you may have missed it given the billions of dollars of spending promises made by them). Those parties are debating about whether there should be “less government” rather than talking about how government can work. This debate is particularly important if you and your family live in rural Alberta and if you want your children to have the ability to continue to live in places like Peace River, Hanna and Lacombe.
Government has a role.
The honest truth is that many parts of rural Alberta are in trouble because businesses and jobs are disappearing. As the former Mayor of a rural community, I understand the positive role that government can play in fostering an environment where businesses and entrepreneurs can succeed.
One example of an innovative way that government can help keep our rural communities vibrant is the Rural Alberta Development Fund (RADF). I was a founding board member and past chair of the RADF, which is an organization that manages a $100 million dollar fund created by the Government of Alberta. This fund helps kick start projects that strengthen our rural communities. They produced the great video below that tells their amazing story.
Smarter government, stronger communities.
Our rural communities policy is focused on helping our rural communities to thrive and prosper. We will:
Extend the RADF program beyond its 2014 expiry date so that it can continue its works in rural Alberta.
Work with rural leaders to design and implement programs that assist young entrepreneurs based in rural communities.
Develop and implement a strategy to ensure that residents and businesses in rural communities have access to broadband Internet services.
Work with rural communities to develop and implement economic development strategies that are specifically tailored for those communities.
The Alberta Party is committed to making Alberta the best place to live, and that includes rural Alberta. The debate is not about whether government should be bigger or smaller - it’s about making the government work smarter.
In an election campaign where other parties have been busy spending your money, it’s somewhat surprising that no one is talking about Alberta’s cities. When I was Mayor of Hinton, I learned first hand about the challenges faced by our municipal governments.
Why cities matter…
Municipalities provide the services that Albertans rely on everyday, including clean drinking water, public transit, police, recreation and social services. These services affect you and your family every single day.
If we want to make Alberta the best place to live, we need to make sure that our cities are great places to live. However, our municipalities struggle to provide the services that your family needs because the system is simply broken.
Fortunately, the Alberta Party has a simple plan to fix it.
First, we need a better funding model.
Municipalities have two primary sources of revenue: property taxes and user fees. These revenues only cover operating expenses. In order to build the things that our communities need, such as roads, hockey rinks, soccer fields, transit systems and water treatment systems, municipalities rely on grants from the provincial and federal governments.
There are two problems with the grant system. First, the province imposes limitations on the types of projects a grant can be used for. This means that money may gets spent on projects that may not be at the top of a community’s priority list. Second, it’s often very difficult for a city to proceed with large projects since it doesn’t know what its future grants will be.
Lets take rapid transit as an example. New light rail transit lines (LRT) in Calgary and Edmonton will cost between $2 to $3 billion each - which is about the same as the annual operating budgets for these two cities. Thus it is impossible for either city to proceed without help from another level of government. These cities could decide to borrow the money to build those LRT lines today, but they can only do so if they know that there will be grant money in the future to pay back the debt. However, no responsible city council would do that, unless it was certain that the money will be there.
In order to improve the funding model, we will:
Gradually shift education funding from the property tax system, allowing municipalities full access to the property tax, thus increasing the amount of money available to your municipal government.
Work with municipalities to develop a predictable and stable long term funding system that allows municipalities to plan effectively.
Explore replacing the property tax with a fairer taxation system.
Second, we need better governance.
The Municipal Government Act, the law governing our cities, is badly outdated. It has a one size fits all approach to governance. In our large cities, its not uncommon for the entire city council to be debating whether or not someone can build a garage on their property. This may make sense in a tiny hamlet, but it doesn’t make any sense in Edmonton.
We have a plan to make this better. The Alberta Party will:
Create Large City Charters for Calgary and Edmonton that recognize the unique needs of Alberta’s largest cities.
Create the Premier’s Council on Local Government to determine the resources and structures that Alberta’s small and mid-sized municipalities need to provide meaningful levels of service to their communities, including the development of local government charters.
Third, we need to improve local government.
In order to help build stronger communities, the Alberta Party believes that we need stronger local governments. We will:
Implement comprehensive campaign finance reform for municipal elections, including stricter donation and spending limits and mandatory disclosure of campaign donors prior to election day.
Extend the term of elected municipal officials from three years to four years to allow municipal governments more time to plan and implement their agendas for their communities.
Establish the Innovation in Municipal Government Program, which will provide financial assistance and technical support for municipalities undertaking citizen engagement projects.
By changing the rules of the game and establishing a predictable and stable funding model, we can provide our local governments with the tools to build strong and healthy communities. Reinvesting in our municipalities is a key step in making Alberta the best place to live.
Conscience rights have become a hot issue in the Alberta election this week.
Alberta Party Leader Glenn Taylor voiced his party’s unequivocal opposition to legislating conscience rights. Glenn stated that the equality of all citizens before the law is “the normal state of being in Alberta”.
Further Glenn and the Alberta Party believe that:
“Marriage commissioners are required to provide the services without discrimination, so they should. And if a marriage commissioner objects to marrying someone on the grounds of sexual orientation, or other grounds, like interracial marriage, then they shouldn’t be a marriage commissioner.”
The Alberta Party is committed to an Alberta in which all Albertans enjoy complete and equal access to the rights, and obligations, of citizenship. All Albertans should be treated fairly and with respect by their government. This is a basic tenet of the non-ideological approach the Alberta Party strives to bring to the Legislature.
“Alberta Party MLAs are bound to represent all of their constituents” says Glenn. “We will not be involved in exclusionary politics, and at its core legislating on conscience is an exercise in exclusion.”
The Alberta Party recognizes the economic and social value of the Creative Industry and cultural communities to our province. We believe that the arts can play a major role in diversifying our economy. Social investments made in arts and culture result in spinoff economic activities.
The Alberta Party sees the Creative Industries as one of the most immediate ways to diversify the economy. In order to make the arts more viable and self-sufficient, there needs to be a proper investment strategy – just as the oil sands saw initial public investment that blossomed into a massive private industry.
By investing now in order to establish a strong foundation, Albertans will enjoy the benefits down the road.