Public Interest Alberta Executive Director Joel French recently joined Public Interest Alberta's Democracy Task Force Chair Larry Booi and Democracy Task Force member Dr. Don Carmichael to present to the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission at their public hearing in Edmonton. You can read our press release for more information on our presentation to the Commission. We encourage you to attend a hearing in your area.Public Interest Alberta's Democracy Task Force has also put together a written submission to the Electoral Boundaries Commission. The Task Force is encouraging Public Interest Alberta members and the general public to make a submission online as well. The deadline for submissions is February 8, 2017.
What you can do
We encourage you to make your own submission until February 8, 2017. Simply visit the submissions portion of the Commission's website, and fill out the form. Your submission doesn't have to be long or detailed; what is most important is that you participate. We invite you to read over our submission to get a sense of what we are calling for. In short, our two main points are that the Commission should:
1. Limit the variance in the constituency population size to 5%.
The current legislation allows variances of 25%, but that was meant to serve as an outside limit, in very different times.
Clearly, the goal should be to have constituencies of equal population size, but due to the desire to take into account some local circumstances (for example, existing community and municipal boundaries) some modest degree of latitude is necessary. The proposed five per cent variance would actually amount to ten per cent, since it would allow five per cent above and below the average.
In addition, the Commission should not make use of their power to create any of the four “special exceptions” constituencies of even wider variance as allowed under the legislation, since the particular circumstances of these areas can be better addressed through other means, such as by providing more assistance and support to MLAs.
2. Call on the Legislative Assembly to increase support to MLAs to assist them in effectively representing their constituents and addressing their varying needs.
While acting on a commitment to political equality and representation by population, the Electoral Boundaries Commission should point out that they are no longer using population variance to address the challenges of representation. In doing so, the Commission should call on appropriate bodies to ensure that all MLAs have the necessary staff and technical support to address those their representational challenges.
Such additional support is not only justifiable, but long overdue. It will mean that the Legislative Assembly must revise and enhance the formula for providing support, with the goal of allowing all MLAs to more effectively represent their constituents and their unique circumstances in rural, urban, and suburban constituencies throughout the province.
The increased costs are an investment in strengthening democracy in our province and a necessary complement to the move to more political equality and representation by population.
Public Interest Alberta in the news
Voter equality vital for electoral boundary review commission says interest group by Tyler Marr, Lloydminster Meridian Booster
Electoral boundaries hearing in Red Deer on Friday delayed one hour by Mary-Ann Barr, Red Deer Advocate
For more information
All votes for MLA deserve an equal weight by Michael Janz, Chair of the Edmonton Public School Board
Time for ridings to better reflect Alberta by the Edmonton Journal Editorial Board
Suburban voters must get the political power they deserve by David Staples, Edmonton Journal
On Friday, December 2, 2016, Public Interest Alberta, in partnership with the Terra Centre for Teen Parents and Early Childhood Development Support Services, released the results of a province-wide survey of child care operators. The responses highlight concerns related to accessibility, affordability, and quality of early learning and child care in Alberta.
Public Interest Alberta has released 2016 data on low-wage earners in Alberta from Statistics Canada. Read our media release showing what the data means for Albertans working in the province.
Nearly one in five employed Albertans are low-wage workers.
- 354,700 of 1,906,700 employed Albertans earn $15 per hour or less (18.6%)
- 403,400 earn $16 per hour or less (21.2%)
- 158,600 earn the new minimum wage ($12.20 per hour) or less (8.3%)
The majority of low-wage workers in Alberta are women.
- 213,500 low-wage workers are women (60.2%).
- 100,200 workers earning the new minimum wage ($12.20 per hour) or less are women (63.2%).
More than three-quarters of low-wage workers are 20 years of age or older.
- 273,500 (77.1%) are 20 years of age or older.
- 77,900 (22.0%) are between 20 and 24 years old.
- 115,800 (32.6%) are between 25 and 44 years old.
- 79,800 (22.5%) are 45 years of age or older.
Regional fact sheets
Edmonton City Council is in the process of selling two pieces of land currently marked as surplus school sites to private schools. Public lands should be used for public not private interests. Read the press release. On October 31, a coalition of organizations led by Public Interest Alberta and the Edmonton and District Labour Council laid out three calls to action:
- Edmonton City Council must overturn this re-zoning motion.
- Edmontonians should contact their City Councillors, and all organizations represented will be encouraging their members to do so.
- The provincial government and municipalities across the province must put in place rules to ensure surplus sites like these cannot be sold to private schools in the future.
What you can do:
- Read the City of Edmonton Policy which calls for surplus school sites to be designate for residential uses, adopted by City Council July 7, 2015.
- Write to your city councillor. Let them know you want public lands to be kept for the public interest.
- Find your Edmonton City Councillor.
- Write to them using this online form.
- Share your message to your City Councillor on social media. Tell your friends!
Here's a sample template for contacting your Councillor:
Dear Councillor ____________,
I am concerned about the recent news that Edmonton City Council is planning to sell surplus school lands in Kiniski Gardens and Evansdale to private schools. It is particularly concerning because these sites were made surplus after school boards determined those communities wouldn't need any additional schools in the long term. So, the new private schools could put our public schools at risk if they are successful at attracting more students from those communities (which they say is part of the reason they want to move to those sites).
Public lands should be used in the public interest. Please do the right thing and work to stop that process, and let's use public lands for something that builds community instead of dividing people.
Thank you for your time.
The coalition of organizations includes:
- Public Interest Alberta
- Edmonton District Labour Council
- CUPE 784, representing maintenance and construction staff in Edmonton Public Schools
- CUPE 474, representing custodial staff in Edmonton Public Schools
- CUPE 3550, representing support staff in Edmonton Public Schools
- Unifor Local 52A, representing support staff in Edmonton Catholic Schools
For more information:
City hall approves sale of two sites for Punjabi, Muslim schools - Edmonton Journal, September 13, 2016
City's plan to sell surplus lands for private schools upsets public school board - Edmonton Journal, October 3, 2016
This post was revised as of August 31, 2016 at 4:30pm
Public Interest Alberta and the University of Alberta’s Dr. Kristopher Wells, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Policy Studies have released Making the Grade, an analysis of four Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) policies that school boards have submitted to Alberta Education. Read the press release here. Read a detailed analysis of each of these four Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policies, here.
- School boards and private schools to improve policies to “make the grade”
- If school boards and private schools are unwilling to bring their policies up to an A+ standard, the Minister of Education should introduce legislation to ensure all students are supported and protected.
- Policies must be made easily accessible to the public either on school boards’ websites or posted in one place by Alberta Education. Students, staff, and families deserve to know what supports and protections are in place in their schools.
Dr. Wells used the following criteria in his analysis of the four Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) policies:
1. District has a specific/standalone sexual orientation and gender identity policy, procedure and/or resources
Policy is publicly available and easily accessible on district website
2. Policy complies with provincial legislation
- Is in compliance with Bill 10 and Alberta’s human rights legislation
- Includes specific protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression
- Includes specific support for students to start a gay-straight alliance/queer-straight alliance, and name it as such
3. Clearly addresses the needs of sexual and gender minority (LGBTQ) students, staff, and families
4. Provides specific supports for transgender and non-binary students
- Includes clear provisions for washrooms, student records, athletics, locker rooms, field trips etc.
5. Protects student confidentiality and privacy
- Is in compliance with Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
6. Imposes no special requirements/additional constraints
- Parental permission/notification is not required to attend a gay-straight alliance or queer-straight alliance meeting
- GSAs/QSAs are not subject to special requirements or approvals that are not applied equally to other student clubs in a school (i.e. Limited to certain grade levels, or require principal to approve speakers, materials or activities used in the club)
Revised as of August 31, 2016 4:30pm
Revised as of August 31, 2016 4:30pm
Revised as of August 31, 2016 4:30pm
Revised as of August 31, 2016 4:30pm
Read a detailed analysis of each of these four SOGI policies, here.
On June 17, Public Interest Alberta Executive Director Joel French and Larry Booi, Chair of the Democracy Task Force presented to the Select Special Ethics and Accountability Committee to discuss recommendations for changes to campaign and party finance and electoral reform in the province.
The Task Force's submission, Strengthening our Democracy was made in February of this year, but this was Public Interest Alberta's first opportunity to speak directly to the committee. The transcript to last Friday's presentation can be viewed here.
In partnership with the Alberta College of Social Workers and the Edmonton Social Planning Council, Public Interest Alberta has launched the 5th Annual Child Poverty report entitled “The Path Forward: Opportunities to End Child Poverty in Alberta”.
The report acts as an annual checkup of child and family poverty in the province, and identifies strengths and challenges in ending child poverty in Alberta. Data on child poverty numbers and rates in this year’s report is from compilations by Statistics Canada from tax returns filed by Alberta families.
Watch Public Interest Alberta Executive Director Joel French on Alberta Primetime:
Private Schools in Alberta
Alberta Education offers the following description of private schools:
The Government of Alberta recognizes that parents have the right to choose a private school for their children and has provided financial support for private schools since 1967. There are over 250 private schools and private Early Childhood Service providers in Alberta.
The School Act, Section 28, authorizes two kinds of private schools to operate in Alberta:
registered private schools and accredited private schools … There are three categories of accredited private schools. [Accredited Non-funded, Accredited Funded, and Designated Special Education Private Schools.]
Accredited funded are entitled to partial provincial funding for meeting educational standards… Students write the provincial tests and are taught the Alberta Programs of Study by Alberta certificated teachers. Schools receive either Level 1 or Level 2 funding, as per the Funding Manual. [Accredited funded schools receive 60 to 70% of base funding]
Questions and Answers re Private Schools (Alberta Education)
Can a private school operator refuse to enrol my child? Yes. A private school operator can refuse to enroll a student. This is because the School Act does not require private school operators to provide education programs to every student.
Do private school operators offer special education programs?
Private school operators are not required to admit students with special needs. However, once an accredited funded private school enrolls a student with special education needs, Alberta Education requires the private school operator to provide appropriate education programming for that student for the school year in which that student is enrolled.
If I’m not happy with a decision made by the private school operator, can I ask the Minister of Education to review that decision? Parents do not have the right, under section 124 of the School Act, to ask the Minister of Education to review a private school operator’s decision. Private school operators are encouraged to establish appeal mechanisms for parents of children enrolled in their schools.
Reasons for ending funding for private schools in Alberta
“Public boards are being strapped a bit for cash and we’re trying to do more with less,” said Helen Clease, who was elected to a two-year term as ASBA president at the organization’s fall general meeting this week.
“We don’t have an issue with there being private schools,” Clease added. “But we believe that the public dollars should go to public schools where every child can have access to that education.”
The policy, which was supported by 71 per cent of the 62 public and separate school boards represented by ASBA, calls for public funding currently provided to private schools be reallocated to public education, with the exception of designated special education private schools.
“At a time where every bit would help in the public education system, whether it’s substantial or not, I think we have to support public education,” said Clease.
“We’re there to take every child and we have to make sure that we can meet many, many diverse needs with our children in our communities,” she added.
David Howell, “Private school funds under fire,” Calgary Herald, Nov. 21, 2013
Charter schools in Alberta
Alberta Education describes charter schools as follows:
- Charter schools are autonomous non-profit public schools designed to provide innovative or enhanced education programs that improve the acquisition of student skills, attitudes and knowledge in some measurable way.
- Charter schools meet the needs of a particular group of students through a specific program or teaching/learning approach while following Alberta Education's Program of Studies.
- Alberta’s 13 charter schools occupy 23 school buildings, 20 of which are owned by school districts, mainly in Calgary and Edmonton.
Reasons for ending support for charter schools in Alberta
“Alberta is the only Canadian province that funds charter schools, which are generally defined as ‘alternative’ schools that receive government money but are really just private schools that are subsidized by taxpayers.
There's a good reason we’re alone on this. It's a bad policy that takes money from taxpayers to bankroll often dubious and poorly monitored specialty programs, many of which cherry-pick students on such grounds as how likely they are to succeed and how much money their parents have. Practically speaking, it also takes money away from public education.
Alberta's charter schools, which often try to deny their teachers fair pay and union representation, continue to receive the full per-student grant provided to public and separate schools.”
David Climenhaga, AlbertaPolitics.ca, April 3, 2016
Alberta Student Population by Authority System
|School Authority System||2011/2012||2012/2013||2013/2014||2014/2015||2015/2016|
|ECS Private Operator||4165||4617||5062||5291||5688|
|Federal - First Nations||9631||10007||10266||9836||9695|
|All School & Authorities||619228||638768||657811||676332||690844|
Source: Alberta Education
Public Interest Alberta has released the latest data on low-wage earners in Alberta from Statistics Canada.
Click here to read our media release showing what the data means for Albertans and the new government's plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018.
Nearly one out of every five workers earns $15 per hour or less
- 362,400 Albertans earn $15 per hour or less out of a total of 1,915,700 employed Albertans (18.9%).
- 414,100 Albertans earn $16 per hour or less (21.6%).
- 117,500 Albertans earn between $9.20 per hour and $11.20 per hour (6.1%).
The majority of low-wage workers are women
- 225,600 low-wage workers are women (62.3%).
- 73,700 women earn $11.20 per hour or less.
- Women make up 62.7% of workers making $11.20 per hour or less.
Three quarters of low-wage workers are in their prime earning years
- 285,500 (78.8%) low wage workers are at least 20 years old.
- 68,700 (19.0%) are 20 – 24 years old.
- 130,500 (36.0%) are 25 – 44 years old.
- 86,300 (23.8%) are 45 years old or older.
Edmonton Region Statistics
- 123,900 out of 646,100 employed Edmontonians earn $15 per hour or less (19.2%).
- 140,200 Edmontonians earn $16 per hour or less (21.7%).
- 39,700 Edmontonians earn $11.20 per hour or less (6.1%).
- 78,900 low-wage workers in Edmonton are women (63.7%).
- 25,800 women in Edmonton earn $11.20 per hour or less.
Calgary Region Statistics
- 122,100 out of 691,100 Calgary workers earn $15 per hour or less (17.7%).
- 142,300 Calgary workers earn $16 per hour or less (20.6%).
- 37,500 Calgary workers earn $11.20 per hour or less (5.4%).
- 73,500 low-wage workers in Calgary are women (60.2%).
- 22,900 women in Calgary earn $11.20 per hour or less.
- Women make up 61.1% of workers in Calgary making $11.20 per hour or less.