Between soaring inflation, ballooning costs of basic necessities, and stagnant wages (all while corporations rake in record profits), it feels impossible for working people in Alberta to catch a break. It seems like every day, we're faced with more devastating news that life is getting harder, more unaffordable, and more precarious.
The UCP has refused to act in the best interests of the public. They've made a bad situation worse with mass layoffs, cuts and privatization of our public services, all while gifting tax breaks to their friends in the corporate elite.
And now, Danielle Smith has been sworn in as Premier, opening the door for even more chaos and uncertainty. From shilling for Big Tobacco, to climate change denialism, homophobia, COVID misinformation, and threats to provoke a constitutional crisis, if Smith's track record is any indication of our future, we're in for one hell of a bumpy ride.
Simply put, Alberta is in crisis. But there is a better way.
To build a life here, working families need stability, opportunity, and a good standard of living. That means making life more affordable. It means making sure we have public health care that is there when we need it, good homes for all, and quality education so the next generation can reach their full potential. It also means making the rich pay their fair share and strengthening rights for workers.
We need to work together to protect our province. We need to expand our imagination past the status quo and demand a just future for all. We need to work together for a better way for Alberta.
We need you to be a part of the better way. Will you join us for an emergency town hall?
To join one of our town halls, please select a location closest to you for more information and to RSVP:
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!
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.
Public Interest Alberta teamed up with Friends of Medicare to produce a series of four videos to kick off the campaign Alberta Seniors Deserve Better in advance of the 2019 provincial election. The campaign, with ads directed and written by Abdul Mailk, highlights the issues facing seniors in the continuing care system, and encourages Albertans to sign a petition to call on all of Alberta’s political parties to make strengthening seniors’ care a top priority in the 2019 provincial election.
The campaign tackles four main issue areas facing Alberta’s seniors in the current continuing care system: high out-of-pocket costs shouldered by seniors and their families for essentials like medications and personal items, the complexity of the referral system that makes accessing care confusing and difficult, the lack of legislation to mandate staff-to-patient ratios in seniors’ care, and finally, the profit motivation that comes with corporations providing much of our seniors’ care.
Alberta’s seniors have worked hard their entire lives to contribute to our province and deserve to live in dignity with high quality care. “This should be an election issue,” said Carol Wodak, a senior and member of the Public Interest Alberta Seniors’ Task Force at the March 5 video premiere. She added, “Caring for our vulnerable seniors now, caring for ourselves when we reach that point, ought to be a priority. Much more than saving any money, which in fact doesn't save us money in the end.”
Join us in calling on all of Alberta’s political parties to make strengthening seniors’ care a top priority in the 2019 provincial election. All parties must prioritize the public services that are so important to the health and well-being of Albertans — especially our seniors. Alberta seniors deserve better.
Learn more and take action at ABSeniors.ca