We, the signatories to this letter, are organizations from civil society, labour, and senior citizens representing hundreds of thousands Albertans speaking out against Bill 70: COVID Related Measures Act.
This legislation will unjustly provide a liability shield for health services facilities—including continuing care operators who are facing lawsuits over illness or death due to exposure to COVID-19. This bill would prevent families from being able to seek answers and hold care homes responsible for negligence of their loved ones.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, 64 percent of Alberta’s COVID-19 deaths occurred in care facilities, and we have seen the deaths of six front-line workers. After decades of escalating privatization, declining staff-to-patient ratios, and a chronically underpaid and stretched-thin workforce, our continuing care system has been rendered unable to contend with the deadly toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. The continuing care system in Alberta and across the country has long been in crisis and seniors continue to suffer physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Bill 70 will make a dire situation even worse. Grieving families facing the preventable loss of their loved ones have a right to seek justice. It is vital that governments act in the public interest to protect vulnerable seniors, rather than the monetary interests of the private, for-profit continuing care industry and their shareholders.
Furthermore, the legislation will apply retroactively to March 1, 2020—prior to when Alberta enacted emergency public health measures. Any existing lawsuits that do not meet the new standard for gross negligence could potentially be thrown out, even if they met the standards that existed at the time they started their legal actions. The bottom line is that this bill would make it harder for those who are seeking justice on behalf of those who have been harmed as a result of COVID-19 in long-term care and retirement homes.
The retroactive nature of this legislation has been discussed during debate of this bill and government MLAs have obfuscated this fact, despite that it is clearly indicated in section 9 that the Bill will come into effect on March 1st, 2020. While existing lawsuits will be able to continue if this bill is passed, they will have a higher burden of proof and will make accessing justice more difficult. Alberta seniors and their families cannot have any trust that this government will act in the best interests of seniors.
In January, Alberta’s lobbyist registry shows that the government was lobbied by representatives for the private continuing care industry, seeking legal protections against the potential financial impact of COVID-19 related lawsuits from residents and families. The subsequent legislation, Bill 70, primarily benefits private, for-profit continuing care companies, and in no way serves the public interest, or the interest of those Albertans who tragically died potentially preventable deaths in a system more focused on profit than on the lives of the most vulnerable in our society.
Despite the disproportionate impact that this pandemic has had, we have seen no legislation to protect residents. We, the undersigned, have been loud and clear about what changes are urgently needed to protect people living in care homes, and to make sure they have the care they need. The COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate toll on seniors should serve as a grim lesson to our governments that systemic change to our continuing care system is long overdue. If our governments fail to take this opportunity to finally remedy a system that has been in crisis for decades, they will be allowing for these lives to have been lost in vain. This legislation serves to restrict the rights of Albertans based on age and disability. It is simply discriminatory.
This legislation must not pass – for the sake of Alberta seniors and their families.
Each and every resident of Alberta’s continuing care facilities is a vital and integral part of our communities and families. Seniors deserve so much more than to be treated as commodities to be profited from, and families deserve answers and the peace of mind to know that every step has been taken to keep their loved ones safe throughout this pandemic. To do anything less reveals the ugly heart of ageism and a callous lack of care for the life and dignity of Alberta seniors. Alberta seniors deserve better.
Alberta Arts Action
Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL)
Alberta Federation of Union Retirees (AFUR)
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE)
Canadian Labour Congress - Alberta Region
Central Alberta Council on Aging (CACA )
Congress of Union Retirees of Canada - Calgary Area Council
Congress of Union Retirees of Canada - Edmonton Area Council
Council of Canadians - Medicine Hat Chapter
Council of Canadians - NW Region
Edmonton District Labour Council
Eyes Forward Alberta
Friends of Medicare (FOM)
Friends of Medicare - Calgary Chapter
Friends of Medicare - Lethbridge Chapter
Friends of Medicare - Palliser Chapter
Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA)
Non-Academic Staff Association (NASA)
Public Interest Alberta (PIA)
Red Deer Labour Council
Seniors’ Action and Liaison Team (SALT)
United Nurses of Alberta (UNA)
Whitemud Citizens for Public Health
Add your voice to this open letter speaking out against this discriminatory legislation!
In May 2019, the government of Alberta struck a Blue Ribbon Panel to review Alberta’s finances and recommend a plan to balance the budget -- only looking at the expenditure side of the equation. The panel released their report on September 3 and it is disastrous for the public services that all Albertans need and rely on.
Like Ralph Klein before them, government officials are repeating the talking point “Alberta has a spending problem” to justify making extreme cuts to public services and infrastructure.
The truth is, Alberta has a revenue problem. Due to decades of insufficient taxation and overreliance on resource revenues, there is a shortfall of up to $14.1 billion dollars annually in the province, which could be easily solved with the tax system of any other province.
The panel is recommending cuts of over 14% in all areas of government spending over the next four years when we consider population growth and inflation.
Public services need to be strengthened, not cut, especially in times of economic uncertainty and precarity. Albertans deserve to know if they get sick, they’ll get high-quality medical care and that their children will have the opportunity to develop their full potential in classrooms that are a reasonable size and have appropriate resources and supports. Alberta parents need access to high-quality, affordable, and accessible child care. We won’t give up the fight for our public services.
As printed in the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald
The Government of Alberta has introduced a discriminatory minimum wage for youth.
On October 1, 2018, the minimum wage in Alberta went up to $15 per hour. Over 300,000 people in our province got a raise - that's 1 in 6 working Albertans.
The effects of the $15 minimum wage were immediately apparent. It was a positive step forward for building a strong economy for all Albertans, and contributed to the child poverty rate decreasing by half over the last two years.
But now, the provincial government is discriminating against youth--a demographic of workers who can't express their opinion at the ballot box--by cutting their minimum wage from $15 to $13 per hour.
This policy divides working people by providing an incentive for businesses to avoid hiring adult low wage workers, who tend to be already-struggling young adults, women, and people of colour.
A discriminatory differential minimum wage is wrong.
Join us to demand equal pay for equal work. Sign the petition today.
I call on the Government of Alberta to eliminate the differential minimum wage for youth, ensuring Alberta's workers are treated equally regardless of age.
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.
On January 16th, 2019, Public Interest Alberta held a press conference at Jasper Place Child Care & Family Resource Centre to release the summary of their 2018 Child Care Survey.
In addition to overall conditions in the child care sector, the survey sought to gain insights into the impact of of the Government of Alberta’s Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) Centres pilot program, also known as the $25-a-day program. The results are clear: the pilot program is a success. While the child care sector continues to face challenges such as long wait lists, the ELCC program significantly reduces those barriers to high-quality child care. Through public funding, the ELCC centres are better equipped to support children with complex needs, and are able to hire and retain better-trained staff.
The continuation and expansion of the ELCC program should be a cornerstone of government priorities for strong public services.
Public Interest Alberta in the News
by Carly Robinson, CityNews
by Regan Hasegawa, CTV News Edmonton
by Dylan Short, Calgary Sun
2018 Alberta Low Wage Report
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, 2018. The total number of employed Albertans in this period was 1,913,200. The minimum wage will increase from $13.60 per hour to $15.00 per hour on October 1, 2018.
More than 300,000 Alberta workers will receive a raise on October 1st because of the minimum wage increase.
- 302,300 employed Albertans earn less than the incoming minimum wage of $15 per hour (15.8%).
- 359,100 earn less than $16 per hour (18.8%).
- 159,500 earn the current minimum wage of $13.60 per hour (8.3%).
More than 60 percent of workers receiving a minimum wage raise are women.
- 189,400 workers earning less than the incoming minimum wage of $15 per hour are women (62.7%).
- 100,100 workers earning the current minimum wage of $13.60 per hour are women (62.8%).
- 223,200 workers earning less than $16.00 per hour are women (62.2%).
More than three-quarters of workers receiving a minimum wage raise are 20 years of age or older.
- 233,300 are 20 years of age or older (77.2%).
o 163,300 are between 20 and 44 years old (54.0%).
o 59,300 are between 45 and 64 years old (19.6%).
o 10,700 are 65 years of age or older (3.5%).
Read our media release showing what the data means for Albertans working in the province.
Regional Fact Sheets
- Athabasca - Grande Prairie - Peace River
- Medicine Hat
- Red Deer
- Wood Buffalo - Cold Lake
Public Interest Alberta in the news
Minimum wage debate Segment on Alberta Primetime (CTV Two)
300,000 Albertans to benefit from minimum wage boost Interview on The Ryan Jespersen Show (630 CHED)
Minimum wage increase to benefit Red Deer workers by Susan Zielinski, Red Deer Advocate
300,000 Albertans will be getting a raise next month by Daily Hive Calgary
One in six working Albertans can expect a raise when minimum wage goes up Oct. 1, advocacy group estimates by Hamdi Issawi, Star Metro Edmonton
Thousands of Red Deerians to receive minimum wage increase by Troy Gillard, rdnewsNOW
Pending minimum wage hike will boost local economy: PIA by Tim Kalinowski, Lethbridge Herald
Chamber joins poverty-reduction group in opposition to minimum wage increase by Collin Gallant, Medicine Hat News (Low Wage Report mentioned)
Group takes issue with minimum wage approach by Collin Gallant, Medicine Hat News
Better wages won't fix poverty: Thrive by Collin Gallant, Medicine Hat News (Low Wage Report mentioned)
Minimum Wage Increases in Alberta by Ania Werbeniuk, Lexology
Who's driving the Thrive bus? Letter to the Editor, Medicine Hat News
Minimum wage increase will have major pain by Dayla Lahring, St. Albert Gazette (Low Wage Report mentioned)
25% of workforce gets raise by Collin Gallant, Medicine Hat News
A guide to Alberta's new $15 minimum wage and what it will mean for the economy by Kieran Leavitt & Brennan Doherty, Star Metro Edmonton
Alberta's minimum-wage workers tell us what $15 an hour really means for their bottom line by Hamdi Issawi & Brennan Doherty, StarMetro Edmonton
What does the increase in minimum wage mean for you? Alberta at Noon (CBC Radio)
Goes too far or about darn time, Alberta minimum wage hike continues to divide by David Bell, CBC News
$15 minimum wage increase met with mixed reception from public by Evan J. Pretzer, The Stony Plain Reporter
Minimum wage increase draws mixed reviews by Eric Bowling, Westlock News
Previous Low Wage Reports
Public Interest Alberta has launched this new campaign calling for the provincial government to fix Alberta's revenue shortage to protect and revitalize our public services.
Albertans need public services. They must be strengthened, not cut.
Resource revenues should be saved for future generations, not relied upon to fund government's basic operations.
Alberta's revenue shortage is best solved by renovating our tax system with changes to personal income taxes and a sales tax.
To learn more about our campaign and to take action, please visit www.RevenueReno.ca
Public Interest Alberta in the news
Lobby group pitches sales tax in Alberta to save public services by Crystal Laderas, 660 News
An Alberta sales tax: The unpopular idea that just won't die by Robson Fletcher, CBC News (makes mention of the Revenue Reno campaign)
The Return of the Leg, Pipelines, and prep for the 2019 election by Dave Cournoyer and Ryan Hastman, Daveberta.ca podcast (mention of campaign begins at the 1 hour 8 minute mark)
The revenue reno campaign. Taxes could be good thing Interview with Joel French on the Rob Breakenridge show (News Talk 770)
Public Interest Alberta's revenue reno campaign Interview with Joel French on the Ryan Jespersen show (630 CHED)
Sustainable public services unattainable without 'revenue renovation' by United Nurses of Alberta news
Public Interest Alberta to host Revenue Reno in Red Deer Red Deer Advocate
Alberta’s revenue shortage concerns Central Albertans by Sean McIntosh, Red Deer Advocate
Alberta's tax system fair but failing, experts warn by Brodie Thomas, Star Metro Calgary
Advocacy group says tax reform, sales tax needed to get province off revenue roller coaster by rdnewsNOW
Globe editorial: It's time for Alberta to bite the bullet and impose a sales tax by The Globe and Mail
Opinion: Albertans face choice between service cuts or a sales tax by Joel French, Edmonton Journal
Alberta needs to renovate its tax system to generate more revenue by Joel French, Calgary Herald
Public Interest Alberta hosts meeting in Lethbridge for new 'Revenue Reno' campaign by Malika Karim, Global News Lethbridge
When Does "Advantage" Bring Structural Deficits? Ask Alberta Interview with Joel French on The View Up Here podcast
Alberta's tax regime today's SACPA topic Lethbridge Herald
Taxes only way to reduce deficit by Dave Mabell, Lethbridge Herald
Provincial Sales Tax Recommended by Public Interest Alberta 94.1 CJOC FM
Public Interest Alberta joined 18 other organizations in calling on the Government of Alberta to:
1. In Budget 2018, reduce public funding to private schools from 70% to 50% (with the exception of special needs schools).
2. Re-allocate the $30 million in savings to fund a classroom conditions improvement project in select Public, Catholic, and Francophone schools.
This call to reduce public funding to private schools would be the first step towards completely phasing out this funding over a three year period. Please see our previous media release from 2017 for more details.
- Public Interest Alberta
- Progress Alberta
- Alberta Teachers’ Association
- Public School Boards Association of Alberta
- Edmonton Public School Board
- Support Our Students (SOS) Alberta
- Calgary and District Labour Council
- Edmonton and District Labour Council
- Edmonton Catholic Teachers
- Edmonton Public Teachers
- Calgary Board of Education Staff Association
- Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Alberta
- CUPE Alberta Education Employees Committee
- CUPE Local 40 (Calgary Board of Education staff)
- CUPE Local 474 (custodial staff for Edmonton Public Schools)
- CUPE Local 1099 (St. Albert Public Schools support staff)
- CUPE Local 3550 (support staff for Edmonton Public Schools)
- CUPE Local 4625 (Sturgeon Public Schools support staff)
- Unifor Local 52A (support staff for Edmonton Catholic Schools)
Public Interest Alberta and partners in the news
Public school proponents push for cut in funding to Alberta private schools by Janet French, Edmonton Journal
Joel French interview on CBC Radio CBC Radio Active with Portia Clark
Une coalition demande à l'Alberta de réduire ses subventions aux écoles privées Radio-Canada/ICI Alberta
ATA joins call to scale back private school funding by Jen Janzen, ATA News
Should Private Schools Get Public Funding? by Joel French and David Staples, Alberta Views magazine
Think-tank calls for increased private school enrolment in Alberta by Janet French, Edmonton Journal
Public Interest Alberta and the University of Alberta's Dr. Kristopher Wells have released Progress Report on LGBTQ Policies of Four Alberta School Boards (download the full report).
This work builds on our previous work with Dr. Wells, Making the Grade: An analysis of sexual orientation and gender identity policies in Alberta.
Our organization has been supportive of efforts to ensure that the policies and guidelines of all of Alberta's 61 school boards fully reflect the requirements of recent provincial legislation with regard to sexual and gender minorities (LGBTQ), and in particular the changes mandated by Bills 10 and 24. The provincial government originally required school boards to submit their policies in this area by March 31, 2018. These policies must be made publicly available by June 30, 2018.
As an interim measure, Dr. Kristopher Wells was asked by Public Interest Alberta to evaluate the current policies of four school boards, two each from public and Catholic school systems:
- Westwind School Division #74
- Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools
- Edmonton Catholic Separate School District No. 7
- Buffalo Trail Public Schools
The purpose of the project is not to generalize about the policies of the remaining boards on the basis of these four, but rather to analyze in detail the specific policies of these four boards in order to determine the nature and extent to which they currently meet the expectations of the legislation, and the kinds of changes that will be necessary in the near future as a result.
Our ultimate goal is to contribute to a process that will ensure all 61 boards have exemplary policies and guidelines which meet the legal requirements of government and, in turn, actively welcome, support, and affirm LGBTQ students, staff, and families as a full and valued part of the school community.
Public Interest Alberta in the news
School LGBTQ policies out of step with School Act changes, advocacy group says by Janet French, Edmonton Journal
Alberta school boards face steep climb to support LGBTQ students: Report by Kevin Maiman, Metro News
Deadline for LGBTQ school policy approaches by Susan Zielinski, Red Deer Advocate
Public Interest Alberta released a report on how school board policies need to change to support LGBTQ students, staff and families Danielle Smith radio show (News Talk 770)
Some school boards falling behind on protecting sexual minority students by Dave Cournoyer, Daveberta.ca
CHILDREN IN CRISIS
Nearly 150,000 children in Alberta – that’s one out of every six kids – currently live in poverty. Poverty is prevalent across the province, but vulnerable groups such as single parents, minimum wage earners, and racialized communities are more susceptible. The result is generation after generation of people who lack access to early education, health care supports, adequate housing, and proper nutrition.
LEARNING AND GROWTH
Poverty can impede children’s ability to learn and contribute to social, emotional, and behavioral problems, which continues into teens and adulthood.
- Children born into poverty are at a greater risk of low birth weight, poor nutrition and subsequent health issues, developmental delays, abuse and neglect, and behavioral and socioemotional problems.
- Many children in poverty arrive at school with developmental and behavioral disadvantages, which adversely effect academic outcomes
- Children in poverty are less likely to graduate high school
- Lack of education, supports, and chronic health conditions can lead to unemployment and adult poverty
THE WORKING POOR
Many children living in poverty have parents who work, but low wages and unstable employment leave their families struggling to make ends meet. Low-income earners face obstacles finding affordable housing, arranging transportation to and from work, buying basic necessities, arranging childcare, having unpredictable work schedules, and juggling two or more jobs.
Risks are greatest for children who experience poverty when they are young and/or experience deep and persistent poverty.
Read more on child poverty here: Keep Investing in Alberta’s Children: The Government’s Role in Ending Child and Family Poverty
QUALITY CHILD CARE
- Provide greater access to affordable, quality child care spaces to ensure that those wanting to participate in the work force or to increase their earning power through training or education can do so, particularly for women and single parents
- Develop a strategy to support child care centres implementing the province’s new curriculum framework.
- Continuing investments should be made to help support increased access to child care spaces for families with infants, children with special needs, and those living with lower incomes
- Improve hours of accessibility to child care spaces
- Establish child care centres in underutilized schools and require all new schools and other publicly-owned facilities to incorporate additional space for early childhood and after school programs
- All orders of government should adopt living wage policies for contracted services
- Provide additional support for language and employment training for Albertans who need to upgrade their skills and literacy or be re-skilled
- Increase social assistance rates, which are currently the lowest in Canada, and index income support programs like Alberta Works and Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped to inflation
- Increase earnings exemptions and asset limits to make income support programs more fair and effective at lifting Albertans out of poverty
- Increase direct to tenant rent subsidies to enhance affordability for low-income families and individuals in the rental market
- Remove the budget cap on rent supplements, which currently leaves eligible Albertans without that support after the budgeted amount has been spent each year
- Ensure affordable housing units are available in all neighbourhoods and municipalities
- Significantly increase asset limits for eligibility to social housing and lengthen the transition time for Albertans moving out of social housing
- Extend the Alberta Adult Health Benefit to low-income working Albertans
- Extend the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit to all low-income Albertans, including those without children
ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN
From Poverty to Progress is a campaign coordinated by Public Interest Alberta to educate the public on the problem of child poverty in Alberta and to mobilize the public to speak out for greater investments in poverty reduction. The number of children living in poverty in Alberta has remained virtually unchanged for 25 years. Helping children and their parents who continue to live in poverty must remain a priority.
From Poverty to Progress is a step towards ending the cycle of child poverty.
The campaign was launched on August 16, 2017 and includes:
- alarming child poverty statistics and their effect on children
- steps to be taken to reduce child poverty
- take action, sign our petition - From Poverty to Progress
The NDP government has made some significant positive steps to alleviate poverty:
- increased funding to Family and Community Support Services
- increased funding for women’s shelters
- increasing minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018
- created a Status of Women Ministry
- funded 22 Early Learning and Care Centres
- implementing an ambitious Alberta Child Benefit focused on supporting our lowest-income families
- unveiled a new affordable and social housing strategy with significant funding attached
Despite these actions, Alberta’s women and children are still affected the most by income disparity. Children are overrepresented among Alberta’s poor; they represent 22 percent of the population but comprise 30 percent of all people living in poverty. Many families continue to struggle to afford quality, and accessible child care. Women are disproportionately affected by the lack of access to child care because it hinders their ability to fully participate in the economy, while children in poverty do not have access to quality care and early interventions.
Alberta needs a poverty-reduction strategy to prevent, reduce, and ultimately eliminate poverty in Alberta. This strategy should align with the local poverty reduction initiatives that are happening in municipalities across the province in order to effectively meet community needs.
The strategy needs to include good jobs at living wages that ensure full-time work is a way out of poverty; an effective child benefit that is indexed; a system of affordable accessible early learning and child care services available to all families; a program to create more affordable housing and to help maintain existing properties; an affordable and accessible post-secondary education system, and training programs that prepare youth and adults for employment leading to economic independence.