Media releases | February 08, 2005

EDMONTON—When Albertans tune in tonight after their dinner to hear Premier Klein's fireside chat about the future of Alberta, most people will be looking for something with substance rather than the usual fluffy sweet promises that come each year.

"Premier Klein failed to articulate his policy on many pressing public interest issues during the recent election, so now people expect to see this government actually has a real plan," says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta.

Public Interest Alberta is pleased that Premier Klein says this government is going to make post-secondary education a priority. How serious this commitment is will be measured by examining if the government has a comprehensive plan to address the issues of affordability, quality and access.

"Putting money into an endowment fund and making more one-time financial support for students should be applauded, but lets not pretend that this will address the systemic issues facing our post-secondary system," says Moore-Kilgannon.

"After years of under-funding post-secondary education, this government has driven the cost of tuition up (since 1993, 183% increase for Universities and 250% increase for colleges and technical institutes), has limited access for qualified students and has reduced the quality of education.

"Public Interest Alberta is also pleased to hear that Premier Klein will finally announce an increase to Alberta's minimum wage. Alberta currently has the lowest minimum wage in the country and the government has not increased it since 1999."  Government MLAs have their salaries increased each year according to the average weekly earnings index for Alberta as recorded by Statistics Canada, yet low income workers are forced to live in poverty year after year," says Bill Moore-Kilgannon.

"Many Albertans who are struggling to make ends meet want to hear that the Premier has a real plan and is committed to reduce the growing gap between rich and poor. Now that would be a "just dessert" for Alberta on its 100th birthday.

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