Alberta is facing many challenges. But together we can make this municipal election about the public interest and a better future for all our communities. That’s because Alberta’s future depends on coming together to build a vision for all of us.
This election, we are demanding better. We can build cities and communities where nobody is left behind.
This summer, we decided to engage directly in Alberta’s municipal election. We launched our campaign with a simple goal: to put the public interest on the agenda. Because we believe that if we’re going to come back stronger than before, our cities and communities need to focus on what matters: our people and building a better future for all Albertans.
This is a critical moment. We need the right focus.
Alberta and its communities are at their best when we build together. We need to get back to a vision and a plan where everyone has better access to what they need to succeed so we can build a better future for all.
For us, this means demanding better. Better from our services, the way we build, how we tackle the big problems, and how we keep our elections democratic.
These are our priorities:
- Services: Protecting and Strengthening Public Services
- Mobility: Equitable city Building, Public Transit & Fare-Free Transit
- Housing: Inclusive Cites for All & Ending Homelessness in Alberta
- Transparency: Making Sure Albertans, not Dark Money, Decide Elections
Together, we can put the public interest on the agenda.
On Monday, April 19, the federal government announced a historic investment into child care, proposing to spend an additional $30 billion over the next 5 years, with the goal of establishing a nation-wide $10 per day child care system.
This is wonderful news and long overdue. Child care costs can be one the the largest household expenses - sometimes the same cost as mortgage or rent. Access to high-quality, accessible, and affordable child care is a proven method for lowering the rates at which children experience poverty and reducing barriers for women. This investment is a gamechanger for working families all over the country.
The Kenney government, however, has failed children and families by undercutting our public services, and the child care sector specifically. They continue to maintain the significant cuts they’ve made to the child care sector over the past two years. In addition to ending massively successful pilots like the $25-a-day child care program, the Kenney government has cut grants like the Benefit Contribution Grant and the Staff Attraction Incentive which help operators hire and retain highly-trained staff. The result is that the largely woman-dominated profession and the families who rely on child care are worse off than before.
The federal government’s commitment offers a once in a generation opportunity for us here in Alberta, but the work is far from done. All of us must organize to win a reversal to the cuts and the government's corporatist agenda. We need to stand together and demand the provincial government match the federal investment. We need to dream big and fight together for the ultimate goal of universally-accessible, fully publicly-funded and publicly-delivered child care for every working family in Alberta.
We need your help! Will you join us in the fight for $10-a-day child care?
We want to hear from you! Send us a video about what $10-a-day child care would mean for your family!
- Take a short (10 - 15 second) video on your cell phone filling in 1 - 2 sentences after "$10-a-day child care would mean...."
- Take it in landscape mode with good light in front of you
Our new Executive Director Brad Lafortune tried a couple of times to submit a video.
His first attempt had some issues:
❌ Too close
❌ Too long
❌ In portrait mode
❌ Too rambling and quiet
After extensive consultation with our communications officer, his second try was much more successful!
Here's what he did better:
✔ Great lighting (in front of him)
✔ Good framing of face and shoulders
✔ 1 - 2 sentences; directly to the point!
✔ In landscape mode
✔ Good speaking volume
Great job Brad!
Email Laura at [email protected] to submit your video!
Together, we can create a nation-wide $10-a-day child care system!
The Alberta government has launched a review of facility-based continuing care in the province. Its main mechanism for public input is a survey, conducted by accounting firm MNP. The survey itself is deeply flawed and reveals some disturbing directions the government is considering, including a significant privatization agenda across many areas of seniors’ care. The result, if these directions are embraced, will be much higher out-of-pocket costs for seniors and their families, and a system where quality care will depend even more on someone’s ability to pay, rather than their care needs.
We are encouraging Albertans to fill out the government survey and also to contact the Minister of Health’s office to express the concerns you have with the direction they’re considering. There are five main ways we see that the government could strengthen the continuing care system for all Albertans, and we hope these points can help guide the input you send to them:
- Get profits out of seniors’ care.
- Build a seniors’ care system that is easy to access and navigate.
- Legislate staff-to-patient ratios to ensure quality care. Working conditions for staff are care conditions for patients.
- Develop a system that cares for everyone, based on need, and not ability to pay. We need fewer out-of-pocket costs, not more.
- Legislate a Seniors’ Advocate position that is arms length from the government and whose focus is on reporting to the public on the state of the seniors’ care system.
Post-secondary education is a cornerstone of Alberta.
While our Universities, Colleges and Technical Institutes have suffered under these extraordinary circumstances, faculty, staff, and students have risen to the challenge of managing the pandemic. There is no doubt about the crucial contributions post-secondary institutions make for Albertans every day.
But Alberta's post-secondary system is under unprecedented threat. Even in the pre-pandemic period, the provincial government set its sights on attacking the sector across the province. It has cut millions from the sector’s operating budget over the last two years. This has meant thousands of layoffs, more pressure with fewer staff, and a lower quality of education for students at a time when their tuition is increasing rapidly each year. Students are struggling with skyrocketing tuition costs.
Now with the pandemic, our entire system is stretched thin. Professors and instructors are working under extreme pressure in offering support to students while shifting under emergency conditions to online delivery. And this is happening in the context of support staff losing their jobs.
It has never been more clear that the working conditions of faculty and staff are the learning conditions of students.
We need to work together like never before to push for our world-class post-secondary education system to be funded like the essential public service it is. Not only for our economy today, but for the economy of the future.
Authorized by Public Interest Alberta (780 420 0471)
If even one kid living in poverty is too many, what is 164,000 children?
In Alberta, 1 in 6 children live below the poverty line. This is unconscionable in such a wealthy country and province -- ending child poverty is a moral obligation for all of us.
The research shows us without a doubt that allowing any child to live in poverty has ripple effects. When children grow up in poverty, it affects their mental health, educational attainment, employment, and housing throughout their lives, and they are more likely to remain in low-income status as adults.
Investing in ending child poverty now means better outcomes for everyone. Childhood poverty leads to less healthy adults with more serious health and social problems. This means greater stress on our health care and social support systems. Investing in prevention now means we avoid those downstream costs and we build healthier communities. These impacts benefit all of us, regardless of our economic status.
One key intervention in child poverty is affordable, accessible, and high-quality child care and early learning. Child care is one of the biggest household expenses, up to two-thirds of a low-income family’s monthly income. Access to high-quality, universally-accessible, and affordable child care is a proven method for lowering child poverty and is an especially profound intervention for single mothers, who are among the most affected by poverty. Studies show that children in places with universal access to child care have better physical health, developmental, and psychological conditions by age six.
We can’t leave children trapped in life-long cycles of poverty. We must act now, especially during the pandemic when even more people are struggling. We have a moral obligation to end child poverty in our province, and the result would be a more healthy and compassionate society for all of us.
Will you join the fight to end child poverty?
Over 160,000 or 1 in 6 children experience the all-encompassing effects of childhood poverty in Alberta – a staggering statistic which has been made even more dire by the dramatic economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. This report highlights the communities most affected by systemic poverty and lack of access to support services such as Indigenous communities, immigrants and refugees, and families in rural environments. It details the effects of poverty on the development of children, including issues affecting mental health, educational attainment, employment, and housing throughout their lives up to adulthood.
Watch our webinar
In the news
Toronto Star, reposted by Yahoo News
PROTECT PUBLIC EDUCATION FROM THE MARKET AGENDA: Respond to the Alberta government’s “choice in education” survey
The government asked Albertans for input on plans for legislation to “protect and enhance education choice within Alberta’s education system.”
“Choice” is a powerful concept. We all want to make our own choices and be in control of our own lives. But the rhetoric of “choice” as it relates to our public services conceals an ulterior motive under its façade of empowerment – one of privatization and removing public funding in favour of private and individualized programs, which erode our ability to collectively provide universal access to high-quality education for all children.
After all, when the government is seeking to enshrine the “right to choose” for students to go to exclusive private schools where the tuition for one child can be more than some people earn in a year, all while the province provides those private schools 70% of the funding it does to the public system, whose “choice” are they prioritizing? It is certainly not the “choices” of working families who don’t get the right to access high-quality education for their children at their nearby neighbourhood school because of increasingly underfunded classrooms.
Instead, we need to reject the purposefully vague but appealing term “choice” and recognize it for what it really is: a “market agenda” with an underpinning free market ideology of increasing competition, system fragmentation, and out-of-pocket costs for education, which instead should be a universal public good, focused on children and their needs.
Promoting this market agenda in education weakens the public system through slowly transferring components of this essential public service into private hands. This ideology has become a rationale for a range of policies and programs that have had the effects of strengthening private alternatives that use public funds to compete with public education, and have further undermined public education by diverting scarce public dollars away from our public, separate, and francophone schools. And within our public schools, this market agenda also appears in the form of some specialty programs with very high fees and exclusive criteria, effectively creating private schools within the public system.
The Alberta public should be highly skeptical of these competition and market-based directions and should see them for what they really are – using public funding to promote private and wealthy interests at the expense of quality public education that should be accessible to all Alberta families.
In responding to this survey, we need to recognize that the government purposefully slanted the questionnaire to give them the answers that they wanted. Their goal is to further the market agenda of privatization and to further weaken and fragment our public educational system. We need to go in a very different direction if we want to genuinely improve the ability of our schools to meet the educational needs of all children in these complex and challenging times.
The actions needed:
- Advise your MLA and the Minister of Education of your concerns.
- Encourage others to take advantage of this opportunity to strengthen public education and resist further efforts that would undermine it.
- Stay in touch with us for developments as we continue to defend public education against the market agenda.
In this backgrounder, we will explore four ways that the market agenda is undermining public education and driving fragmentation, competition, and increased out-of-pocket costs in our education system, rather than strengthening a high-quality universal public system: charter schools, private schools, home schooling, and some alternative programs within public schools.
Charter schools are the most egregious form of the market agenda in Alberta education, as they are in essence private schools masquerading as public schools.
Alberta is the only province in Canada to have established the divisive American model of charter schools; they were started here 1994 as an “experiment,” and were limited to fifteen in number. The original justification was that they would focus on alternative approaches that could provide insights to public systems, which simply has not happened. The UCP government has now taken the cap off, and we face the threat of an unlimited expansion of this highly problematic approach.
The key concern is that charter schools are fully funded by public dollars, and yet are allowed to function essentially as private schools – they can choose (and reject) students, and are not subject to the crucial accountability and control elements of democratically-elected school boards. They are free to serve private interests, with full public dollars.
There is simply no good reason for charter schools to exist in Alberta. Rather than expanding this privatizing direction, we should terminate the experiment with charter schools, and give the much-needed funding to our public systems.
Private schools in Alberta are funded by public dollars at the highest level in Canada (at 70% of the base funding given to public systems.) This funding amounted to $286 million in 2018-19.
Provinces such as Ontario give no funding at all to private schools (and private schools in Ontario are clearly thriving without public funding, with nearly one thousand private schools operating there).
This funding also goes to Alberta’s most elite private schools, some of which charge as much as $20,000 per student annually. Why are public dollars going to subsidize these schools, particularly when our public school systems are increasingly starved of funding?
These private schools are able to select and reject students, and are not subject to the accountability measures, oversight, and directions from democratically-elected school boards. Parents have the right to send their children to private schools – but they do not have a corresponding right to have that decision paid for from the public purse.
Rather than expand supports for private schools, the Alberta government should phase out all funding for private schools, and should re-direct the funds to our public systems to better meet the needs of all children. This redirection of funds should include providing in public schools the high levels of support to children with special needs that the current system often forces them to access through private schools.
Public support for home schooling is another area of concern in the discussion around the fragmentation of public dollars into individualized programs in accordance with the market agenda.
While parents may have a right to opt out of public education under some conditions, that is not an unconditional right - children have a right to an education as well, and that right must be protected. And once again, if one opts out of public education in this manner, that should definitely not imply a right to having the public foot the bill.
Instead of expanding support for home schooling, the government should phase out all funding for home schooling and reassign that funding to public systems, and should strengthen the protections for a comprehensive and effective education for children who are home schooled.
Instead of expanding alternative programs within public school systems, the government should re-examine them in the light of the principles of free and equitable public education, to ensure they are not based on the market agenda and do not increase barriers to full participation.
More specifically, public education is to be free, accessible to and accepting of all, focused on developing the full potential of all children, and democratically accountable (in Alberta, through elected school boards). In that light, has a proliferation of alternative programs and schools within some public systems had the effect of undermining some of these key principles?
Some public schools with specialized programs come with high school fees, which means that they are only accessible to those who can afford them. Is this consistent with the principles of public education? In trying to meet these needs within public systems, are we not in reality offering a form of private schools acting as public schools? And if so, why not simply have them become private schools?
Moreover, these specialized programs have many of the features of a back-door voucher system, long favoured by conservative forces in the United States, despite fierce resistance by public education advocates.
When students can be excluded by imposing entrance requirements, charging substantial fees, or not providing transportation, then such programs are not operating in accordance with the values of public education. Rather, they are operating as private schools within the public system, and such exclusivity simply does not belong in a public school.
We need to urge the government to reject the mantra of the market agenda and competition in our education system and concentrate instead on directions that will genuinely make a positive difference in our classrooms and in our ability to meet the complex needs of an increasingly diverse population in Alberta’s schools.
The tired, ideological, market approach of fostering competition and privatization is simply inappropriate to educating children. The result will be yet more undermining of public education and more inequities in children’s education and achievement.
A genuinely effective approach will instead:
- enhance supports for the work that our teachers and support staff do with children in our schools
- present policies to foster more equity, accessibility, effectiveness and democratic accountability
- deal directly with the problem of large class sizes and the increasingly complex needs of children in those classrooms
- require a commitment by government to substantially increase (rather than freeze and cut) funding to our public school systems to help them develop the full potential of all of our children, and to better fulfill the promise of public education.
I want to stay in touch with Public Interest Alberta and their allies to defend public education from the market agenda.
2019 Alberta Low Wage Data
Public Interest Alberta obtained the following information from Statistics Canada’s monthly Labour Force Survey. It indicates the average number of employed Albertans in each category for the year ending June 30, 2019.
The total number of employed Albertans in this period was 1,960,400. The Alberta government usually increases the minimum wage each year on October 1, but this year it is being frozen at $15 per hour, except for youth, who can now be paid $2 per hour less.
Nearly a quarter million minimum wage workers in Alberta can legally have their wages frozen this year, missing a key opportunity to boost the economy by putting more money in the pockets of the province’s lowest wage workers.
- 245,300 employed Albertans earn the current minimum wage of $15 per hour or less (12.5%).
- 277,500 earn less than $16 per hour (14.2%).
The majority of the lowest wage workers are women.
- 151,000 workers earning the minimum wage of $15 per hour or less are women (61.6%).
- 173,400 workers earning less than $16.00 per hour are women (70.7%).
More than three-quarters of workers earning minimum wage are 20 years of age or older.
- 185,200 are 20 years of age or older (75.5%).
- 121,900 are between 20 and 44 years old (49.7%).
- 53,200 are between 45 and 64 years old (21.7%).
- 10,100 are 65 years of age or older (4.1%).
Regional Fact Sheets
- Athabasca - Grande Prairie - Peace River
- Medicine Hat
- Red Deer
- Wood Buffalo - Cold Lake
Public Interest Alberta in the News
Minimum wage freeze to affect Albertans 'already struggling': report by Diego Romero, CTV News Edmonton
Medicine Hat continues to have most low-wage earners in Alberta, Medicine Hat News
Previous Low Wage Data
In the lead up to the 2019 provincial election, issues related to the province’s economy have been the highest priority for both of the major political parties and have therefore dominated media coverage and the overall public conversation. However, as our Executive Director Joel French wrote in a blog post, "If the goal is to move Alberta forward, not backward, then public services need to be at the heart of the campaign."
Albertans value their public services, and they need to be strengthened. Services like health care, early learning and child care, care for Alberta's seniors, the public education system, and our post secondary system are vital to a thriving and healthy society.
We interviewed activists and advocates from across the province to learn more about the issues, and to hear the concerns of citizens of our province.
On January 16th, 2019, Public Interest Alberta held a press conference at Jasper Place Child Care & Family Resource Centre to release the summary of our 2018 Child Care Survey, which focused on studying the outcomes of the government's $25-a-day child care pilot program. The results are clear: the program is a success. We need universal child care so families are fully supported in the care and development of their children.
What are key issues in health care affecting seniors this upcoming election? Public Interest Alberta and Friends of Medicare held a citizens' forum in Red Deer to talk about critical issues facing Albertan seniors and their families like the need for universal pharmaceutical coverage, expanded capacity and staffing in our hospitals, and major improvements in our seniors' care system. Our government must invest in improvements to care for our province's system because Alberta Seniors Deserve Better.
Classroom conditions are the central issue for K-12 education in Alberta’s election. Voters need to hold political parties to a high standard, demanding that they take action to reduce class sizes and increase classroom supports. Public Interest Alberta recently held a citizens’ forum in Edmonton at the Alberta Teachers' Association to address these important issues.
Post-secondary education is the answer to many of Alberta’s challenges, including our transition to a more stable and diversified economy. To meet those challenges, we need a stronger system that is higher quality, more affordable, and more accessible. Public Interest Alberta recently interviewed students, faculty, and staff at the University of Alberta to get their thoughts on how to address those issues.
The event had three moderated panels with discussion on the need for a universal pharmacare program, expanded capacity and staffing in our hospitals, and major improvements to the state of long-term care for Alberta's seniors.
The event was extremely well-attended, with over 100 citizens listening to experts and advocates from across the province, and voicing their concerns and calls to action.
Public Interest Alberta in the News
by Sean McIntosh, Red Deer Advocate
Robin Grant, Red Deer Express
by Lana Michelin, Red Deer Advocate