Someone asked me the other day whether supporting more local processing of beef and other food products would be wise public policy. What would that do the cost of food for consumers, especially those who can barely make ends meet, she wondered.
The massive recall of beef from XL Foods in southern Alberta, a plant that processes one-third of all the beef produced in Canada, and the resulting fallout – illness and damage to Alberta’s reputation as a beef producer – illustrates precisely why it would be wise to shift the balance in this province back to a system that includes smaller processors.
At our September 22nd annual general meeting in Calgary it was clear that for many, the appetite for a fresher take on Alberta politics was not satisfied by the April 23rd election. Over 120 people came out to talk about the future of the Alberta Party, and to have a say in how we move forward.
In keeping with our desire for more transparency in public life, we released the results of an internal survey about our future. The results showed that just over 67% of respondents want to remain as a political party in order to provide electors with a strong, viable choice in Alberta politics. The other one-third was split between those believing we have already achieved our goal of changing the political conversation and those who believe we would have more influence by becoming a political think tank.
Building a citizen’s movement into a successful political party is a long journey, and last night the Alberta Party brought a close to the first chapter of our story. Two years ago we didn’t exist as a provincial organization, and last night 38 Albertans completed their first campaigns as Alberta Party candidates.
In our first election we set out to do two things. First, we worked to introduce ourselves and our vision for a prosperous, sustainable, transparent and engaged government to as many Albertans as possible. Second, we wanted to run a positive, constructive and forward-looking campaign. We have accomplished both goals.
While not winning a seat is disappointing we are extremely proud that over 17,000 Albertans cast their ballots for our candidates.
Many thousands more were introduced to the Party, and we have a much higher profile than we did before the writ was dropped. We are building for the future, and the past month has seen us taking significant steps toward the general election in 2016. The challenge of building a successful grassroots organization into a provincial contender doesn’t get any smaller, but we have laid a solid foundation for the future. We will continue to work hard and model the change we wish to see in Alberta.
I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to all of our candidates and volunteers, and my appreciation to all the Albertans of every political stripe who worked and voted in this election. Our province is richer for your engagement.
Two years ago, a group of citizens set out to build a different kind of political party. Built from a massive citizen engagement process called The Big Listen, weengaged Albertans about their hopes, challenges and dreams. We set out to build a party that was more open and transparent.
Alberta has tremendous potential and we believe that this can be the best place to live. Our platform, which is designed to unlock Alberta’s potential, is built around 5 core ideas:
First, we believe its time to reimagine our democracy. We believe that policy should be developed through meaningful citizen engagement.
Second, we must respect our students. This requires stable, predictable, long term funding for our education system.
Third, we must rethink healthcare. We must shift the system from treatment to prevention. We must appoint an independent health auditor to make the system more transparent.
Fourth, we must reinvigorate our economy. We will make it easier to start and grow a business. We will ensure that smart regulation fosters growth and protects our environment.
Finally, we will reinvest in our communities. Our municipalities need stable and predictable funding to deliver the services that your family needs.
As we enter into the final few days of the campaign, it has been disappointing that the environment has not emerged as a major issue. In order to make Alberta the best place to live, our citizens need a government that understands that strong environmental stewardship and a strong economy are complementary - rather than competing - objectives. We believe that protecting and enhancing our environment is critical in our quest to make Alberta the best place to live.
Climate change is real. Ignoring it won’t make it go away.
The Alberta Party acknowledges that climate change is a real issue, and that Alberta has an obligation to act responsibly. While some environmentalists target the oilsands, virtually everyone ignores the fact that the vast majority of Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions arise from coal-powered generation plants. We will:
Gradually shift electrical generation away from coal powered generation to distributed generation systems powered by natural gas, wind, solar and co-generation systems.
Require that emission standards for coal-fired plants match those of natural gas plants after a reasonable phase in period.
Encourage and implement policies that facilitate the commercial viability of natural gas vehicles.
Implement a regulatory framework and incentives that reduce per capita electrical consumption.
Work with stakeholders to implement a strategy that requires electrical generation to meet international greenhouse gas emission targets by 2024.
Work with stakeholders to incorporate a gradually increasing price on carbon.
Identify and protect green spaces, which are Alberta’s natural carbon sinks.
We need to treat water like a precious resource.
Water is a finite resource that requires prudent management. With a growing population, increasing industrial demands and climate change, there will be tremendous pressure placed on our limited water resources. We will:
Identify, establish and increase the inventory of protected wetlands.
Establish a “no net loss” policy with respect to the protection of wetlands.
Work with industry to reduce the industrial use of fresh water and promote water conservation solutions.
Create incentives for industry and households to substantially reduce water consumption.
Develop water management plans for all major watersheds.
By working with all stakeholders, we can develop and implement effective policies that protect our environment and our prosperity for future generations.
All of our hard work is starting to pay off and the Alberta Party's message is spreading faster than ever. Please use the social media buttons below this post to share our Environment message with your friends and family.
Today’s seniors are engaged in their communities like never before, yet too often their voices are ignored when it comes to shaping government policy.
The Alberta Party believes that we can improve the quality of life for our seniors by:
Providing quality public home care that recognizes the full range of services that seniors need in order to stay in their own homes as they age.
Ensuring quality, affordable long-term care facilities are available which allow couples to stay together.
Imposing a moratorium on converting long-term care facilities into assisted living facilities until a comprehensive seniors’ housing plan has been developed and implemented.
Creating advisory councils in all seniors care facilities.
Appointing an Independent Seniors Advocate that reports directly to the Legislature.
Our seniors need dependable healthcare.
Over the last decade, our healthcare system underwent a massive restructuring to form Alberta Health Services under the management of the “super-board”. Even though our doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers are clear that the last thing Alberta needs is another major structural change to the health system, the other parties are proposing major changes that won’t improve patient care. The Alberta Party has made practical suggestions to improve our health system without plunging the system back into chaos.
We believe that Alberta can be the best place to live for our seniors. We just need to make it happen.
All of our hard work is starting to pay off and the Alberta Party's message is spreading faster than ever. Please use the buttons below to share this post with your contacts on Facebook, Twitter and Google +.
Everyone understands that education is the key to having a successful and fulfilling career. In today’s ever-changing world, our citizens must have the skills to adapt in a constantly evolving workplace. Sadly, Alberta has the dubious distinction of having the worst high school completion rate in Canada and the lowest participation rate for post-secondary education. We believe that we must do better.
Let’s focus on the tough problems.
The government has ignored the difficult issues in our education system for too long. The Alberta Party will:
Develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to increase Alberta’s high school completion rate to the best in Canada within ten years.
Make all-day kindergarten available to families in all school districts.
Support programs that help children living in poverty to receive a healthy meal at school.
Restore funding for special programs that assist children with learning difficulties.
Remove the age limit for funding for adults who wish to obtain their high school diploma.
Work with First Nation communities and the federal government to develop and implement a strategy to significantly increase the high school completion rate among First Nation communities within ten years.
Establish a comprehensive framework for coordinating government services and programs that have an impact on early childhood development.
Let's make the school the hub of the community.
Schools are stronger when the community is involved with the school and the school is involved with the community. The Alberta Party will:
Establish mechanisms that facilitate public participation in the decisions concerning their local schools.
Encourage and facilitate the ability of municipalities, school boards and community groups to share resources in the construction and operation of new schools.
Provide operational funding that will facilitate the use of school facilities outside of school hours by the community.
Make it easier to get a post secondary education.
There are a number of reasons why so many young people decide not to obtain an education at one of Alberta’s excellent trade schools, colleges, technical institutes and universities. Although there are plenty of jobs when the economy is booming, under-educated workers are usually the first to become unemployed when boom turns to bust. We will:
Review the student finance system to reduce the financial barriers that deter Albertans from pursuing a post-secondary education.
Implement a tax credit to offset a portion of the housing costs incurred by post-secondary students and their families.
Expand industry-based job training and apprenticeship programs to address shortages of trained workers in specific industries.
Ensure that the student finance system can accommodate the unique needs of mature students.
We believe that Albertans can be the best educated people in the world. We need to ensure that education receives stable and predictable funding so that every student has the opportunity to reach his or her potential.
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."
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.