13th Annual Conference - Our Public Services: Protecting and Revitalizing in Uncertain Times

13th Annual Conference


With a provincial election on the horizon, conversations about the oil industry and the economy dominate political discourse and the media in Alberta. As important as economic issues are, political parties have lost the focus on public services, that are so important to the health and well-being of Albertans.

The progressive movement has made vital gains such as the newly introduced $15 minimum wage, $25-a-day child care, and the carbon tax. However, these programs are under threat by belt-tightening conservatives who are planning massive cuts and privatization of public services to balance the budget, rather than focusing on common sense solutions like fair taxation. This is why now more than ever we need to shift the public conversation and take action to protect and revitalize our public services, creating the conditions for greater fairness, justice, and equality for all Albertans.

Public Interest Alberta’s 13th Annual Advocacy Conference will explore these topics and more. Join activists and advocates from across the province in Edmonton April 4 and 5 to pursue bold directions toward a better Alberta for all.


Please register below for the full conference in Edmonton, April 4 - 5.

Join Public Interest Alberta or renew your membership to access discounted conference registration rates.

If you only wish to attend the keynote in Calgary, April 3, click here

If you only wish to attend the keynote in Edmonton, April 4, click here.

Full bios for each speaker available here.



Conference Schedule



Thursday April 4, 2019


1:30pm                    Registration


2:00pm                    Welcome & Introductory Remarks


                                Workshop: Reducing Poverty and

                                Reversing Wealth Inequality


Sandra Ngo is currently the Research Coordinator for the Edmonton Social Planning Council where she uses data and research storytelling and advocating for those struggling with poverty. This was the next step after being a key player in designing food security programming that serves immigrant, refugee, and asylum seeking families as part of the ENRICH project at the University of Alberta. She has a background in food markets, economics, and nutrition, and is co-Chair of the Edmonton Food Council.





After receiving her M.Sc. in Health Promotion from the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health, Sarah Barber worked as an evaluation consultant with the Public Health Agency of Canada and later, as an independent evaluation consultant. With over 16 years of experience in evaluation framework design, tool development, qualitative and quantitative data collection and analyses and evaluation capacity building within government and in the community, Sarah approaches evaluation with a ‘nothing about us without us’ lens. Sarah has been a co-instructor for graduate level courses in evaluation.


Nevena Ivanovic is the Public Policy Coordinator at the Women's Centre of Calgary, where she works to bring a gender lens and women’s experiences to policy discussions. Nevena researches and advocates for social policies that address the unique way women are affected by, and are vulnerable to, poverty and economic insecurity. Over the years, Nevena has also worked to support and empower women in politics, build the capacity of other gender equality advocates, and influence public policies so that they reflect women’s needs and experiences.





Nicki Dublenko has been honored to work with the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Alberta over the past few years to work toward a future of well educated and recognized early childhood educators in Alberta. She graduated from the University of Alberta with a Master’s of Education in Early Learning in 2013 and is currently enrolled in the flex Early Learning and Care PhD program at the University of Toronto. Nicki serves as the Executive Director for Child Development Dayhomes, Edmonton and Fort McMurray, and is a member of the Alberta Early Learning and Care Leaders Caucus, a member of the End Poverty Edmonton Council for Early Learning and Care and the program advisory for the MacEwan ELCC program and has served on many boards and committees including the Alberta Family Child Care Association and the Success by Six Council of Partners. She believes in a strong professional association for early childhood educators and value the professionals working with young children for the very important work we all do.


5:00pm                    Break (no dinner provided) 


6:30pm                    Registration 


7:00pm                    Welcome & Introductory Remarks


7:05pm                    Keynote Address - "Becoming Builders:

                                 proactive advocacy for the public good"


Trish Hennessy is the executive director of Upstream. She was the founding director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' (CCPA) Ontario office, which focuses on income inequality, decent work, and the role of government from a provincial and municipal perspective. She co-founded and directed the CCPA's national project examining income inequality in Canada. She also co-founded the Ontario Living Wage Network. She is the creator of the former Framed In Canada resource and is the former author of Hennessy’s Index. Trish is a former newspaper journalist, originally from Saskatchewan (RIP Moose Jaw Times Herald). She lives in Toronto. She has a B.A. Sociology from Queen's University, B.S.W. from Carleton University, and M.A. in Sociology from OISE/University of Toronto.


8:30pm                    Reception & Cash Bar 



Friday April 5, 2019


8:30am                    Registration


9:00am                    Welcome & Conference Overview


9:10am                     Privatization and Austerity:

                                  Lessons from the UK


Professor Allyson Pollock is director of the Institute of Health & Society at Newcastle University. A public health physician, she is a leading authority on the fundamental principles of universal health systems, marketisation and public private partnerships, and international trade law and health. Her current research is around access to medicines, pharmaceutical regulation, and public health; and child and sports injury. Her book NHS plc: the privatisation of our health care was published by Verso, and she is currently working on a book An Anthem for the NHS.


10:20am                  Break 


10:30am                  Just Transition and a Green New Deal

                                 for Canada


Emma Jackson is a settler on Treaty 6 territory where she’s a co-founder and organizer with Climate Justice Edmonton and a national field organizer with 350 Canada. Born on unceded Algonquin Anishinabe territory in Ottawa, ON, she grew up in the Canadian labour movement and first got involved in organizing through fossil fuel divestment at Mount Allison University. She recently completed her MA in Sociology on migrant caregivers’ experiences of the Fort McMurray wildfire and is now organizing full-time in hopes of bringing a transformative Green New Deal to Canada.


Ty is a Nehiyâw from Oniticikiskiponihk and Anishinaabe from Muskowekan. He is Eagle Clan. Ty is a poet, who can frequently be found at Indigenous Poets Society and Breathe in Poetry. He believes that Indigenous freedom from Canadian authoritarian rule is possible through art, community and direct action. As an Indigenous hunter, Ty has an intimate connection with the land, understanding how important it is to protect water, land, and life.


Stephen Buhler is a 28 year old journeyman machinist and an activist with Climate Justice Edmonton. He completed his journeyman ticket from NAIT in 2013. Always aware that change will be on the horizon for the oil and gas sector, which he has been working in for over 10 years, he has moved from the sidelines to join activists and help lift up the voices of working people in the climate movement. He believes that working in the oil sector does not have to mean a full embrace of a high carbon economy, and that a shift to a low carbon economy can still provide good stable jobs for all working people. 


Ricardo Acuña is the Executive Director of the Parkland Institute, Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta – a position he has held since 2002. Previous to that he worked for nine years as Projects Coordinator for Change for Children Association, an Alberta-based international development organization working in Latin America. He has a degree in Political Science and History from the University of Alberta, and has over 20 years experience as a volunteer, staffer and consultant for various non-government and non-profit organizations around the province. He has spoken extensively and written on energy policy, democracy, privatization, and the Alberta economy, and is a regular media commentator on public policy issues.


12:00pm                  Lunch (provided)


1:00pm                    Performance


Award-winning Poet Laureate Ahmed Ali, better known as Knowmadic, is a multi disciplinary artist, community organizer, public speaker and youth worker who has dedicated his time to enabling and empowering diverse communities around the world. Knowmadic is co-founder and current artistic director of Edmonton’s only spoken word collective: Breath In Poetry. He is passionate about the arts, education and emphasizes the importance of equitable representation on all levels of government.


1:20pm                    Bold Ideas for Expanding Our Public Services


Alvin Finkel is author, co-author, or co-editor of 13 history books including Compassion: A Global History of Social Policy, Working People in Alberta: A History, The Social Credit Phenomenon in Alberta, the two-volume History of the Canadian Peoples now in their seventh editions, The Chamberlain-Hitler Collusion, and Social Policy and Practice in Canada: A History. He is president of the Alberta Labour History Institute, professor emeritus of History at Athabasca University and half the writing team of the Facebook blog, Change Alberta. His work appears frequently in Alberta Views. A long-time president of the Canadian Committee on Labour History, he remains part of the editorial team of Labour/Le Travail, for which he served as book review editor for 11 years.


Michael Janz lives to promote education, literacy and community. He is in his third term on the Board of Trustees and has previously served as Edmonton Public School Board Chair and Vice-Chair. Michael is passionate about the importance of public education and is an advocate for life-long learning.

In November 2012, Michael was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for community service and was selected as one of Avenue Magazine “Top 40 Under 40.” In 2016, Michael was voted Vue Weekly’s Edmonton’s Best School Trustee. He lives in Southwest Edmonton and on Valentine’s Day 2017, became a new father to his son, Miles.



2:20pm                    Break


2:30pm                    Workshops


4:00pm                    The Past and Future of Fighting for

                                 Strong Public Services


Heather Smith is President of the United Nurses of Alberta, which represents more than 30,000 Registered Nurses, Registered Psychiatric Nurses and allied workers. She is a prominent advocate for Canada’s universal public health care system and a national pharmacare program.

Elected as UNA president in 1988, she has served in that role ever since. She received the Spirit of Tommy Douglas Award in 2007 for her commitment to the dreams of the late Saskatchewan premier and creator of Canadian medicare.

Smith came to Alberta in 1976 after training in Ottawa. While working as an RN in Edmonton in 1980, Smith became active in the union. She was elected as a local president in 1983 and has served on every UNA negotiating committee since 1984. She has played an important role in the Canadian Federation of Nurses’ Unions since UNA joined that organization in 1999.


Elisabeth Ballermann was acclaimed as the Secretary-Treasurer of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) at its June 2016 Convention.

She has been a labour activist most of her working life.

From 1995 to 2016, Ballermann was President of Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA), the NUPGE Component that represents over 24,000 health professionals in more than 200 occupations. In 2003, under her leadership, her home union, HSAA, joined NUPGE and the House of Labour, and has become a highly respected participant in Alberta’s labour and progressive communities.

In addition to fulfilling the mandate of advocating for excellent wages, benefits, workplace safety, general working conditions and work-life balance for union members, she has been a staunch advocate for social justice and the public health system.

Her work has been recognized with several awards, including the Alberta Centennial Medal, the Alberta Federation of Labour’s International Women’s Day Award (2008) and May Day Solidarity (2016) Award, and the 2016 PIA Public Interest Award. She also served on Alberta's Premier's Advisory Committee on the Economy from October 2015 to December 2017.


5:00pm                    Closing Remarks



April 04, 2019 at 1:00pm - April 05, 2019
Chateau Louis
11727 Kingsway NW
Edmonton, AB T5G 3A1
Google map and directions
Monica · · 780-420-0471

Will you come?

$240.00 Non-member Pricing: Full Conference
Conference April 4th & 5th in Edmonton (includes keynote)
$200.00 Member Pricing: Full Conference
Conference April 4th & 5th in Edmonton (includes keynote)