Category: Provincial Politics

Scheer cautions against internal fighting in speech in Conservative heartland

CALGARY – Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has dismissed those calling for him to step down after last month’s election loss as elites and “talking heads” who know he’ll never relent in his opposition to the carbon tax.

“They think that what Canada needs is a second Liberal Party,” he said in a speech to the Alberta United Conservative Party annual general meeting on Friday.

“And you may have heard that some of these folks want me gone because they know I will never stand for that.”

The Liberals were re-elected with a minority government on October 21. They were entirely shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan, where there is deep anger over the federal carbon tax, an overhaul of resource project environmental reviews and an oil tanker ban off the northern B.C. coast.

Scheer’s speech in the heart of Conservative country received a warm, but by no means raucous, reception. It was bookended by standing ovations and some in the crowd waved signs bearing his name.

When he asked UCP members whether a carbon tax would be the Conservatives’ path to victory in the next election, they responded with a hearty “no” followed by a smattering of cheers of “Andrew! Andrew! Andrew!”

The Conservative leader said he was deeply disappointed in the election results and would be listening and learning from people in his party about what can be done better next time.

“I am very interested in how you think our party must be shaped to finish the job we started this campaign,” he said.

“I am entirely uninterested in what the talking heads, the naysayers and the people who make their money by stirring up division in our party have to say.”

Scheer cautioned against listening to those who want to turn the Conservatives’ April convention into an internal fight.

“When we focus on our differences instead of our common goals and our vision for a strong and united Canada, we have snatched victory from ourselves in the past,” he said.

Earlier Friday, Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Ed Fast said he has declined a spot in Scheer’s shadow cabinet, saying the party leader needs to be surrounded by people who fully support him.

The B.C. MP expressed frustration over how the party’s climate-change policy was handled, saying most of the voters he met didn’t even know the party had one. Fast had previously served as Scheer’s critic for the environment ministry.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2019.

 

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Wexit Alberta rally in Red Deer Saturday

Hundreds are expected to attend a rally in Red Deer this weekend to learn more about Alberta’s separation movement.

Wexit Alberta is hosting its third rally in Red Deer since August of this year, inside the Prairie Pavilion at Westerner Park on Nov. 30.

The event runs from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. Those planning to attend, encouraged to arrive early and register in advance.

Officials with the movement say their short and medium-term political goals include official registration of Wexit Alberta as a political party, building strong electoral districts, and electing MLAs in upcoming by-elections.

Alberta aiming to end 500 nursing jobs over three years; nurses call it ‘betrayal’

Alberta aiming to end 500 nursing jobs over three years; nurses call it ‘betrayal’

EDMONTON – The union representing Alberta nurses says the provincial government’s intention to eliminate 500 full-time nursing positions over the next three years has left them feeling betrayed.

David Harrigan, a labour negotiator with the United Nurses of Alberta, says that means at least 750 nurses will be out of work once job-sharing is factored in.

Harrigan notes Premier Jason Kenney ran on a platform of reducing spending but keeping front-line services intact.

Harrigan says fewer nurses will translate into longer waits for care, increased privatization and upfront costs to patients.

The government’s intent was communicated in a letter and in a meeting today between the nurses and their employer, Alberta Health Services.

The two sides are heading into collective bargaining next year, and the health agency says in the letter that it wanted to give nurses a heads up on finances and staffing.

“We do not believe Albertans will support this plan, and they should tell the premier so,” Smith said.

“In light of the promises made by the government not to touch front-line health care workers, we will be asking for an immediate emergency meeting with Health Minister Tyler Shandro,” UNA President Heather Smith said. “”We do not believe Albertans will support this plan, and they should tell the premier so.”

(With file from The Canadian Press)

Alberta aiming to end 500 nursing jobs over three years; nurses call it ‘betrayal’ 1

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools funding loss approaches $5M

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools is facing a much bigger budget reduction this year than they had originally expected.

Last spring, the division had been anticipating a cut of about $2 million to its overall $114 million budget.

However, upon further review the actual loss is closer to $4.75 million.

“We have worked hard to ensure that our budget decisions have the least impact on students and the classroom as possible,” says board chair Anne Marie Watson.

Most of the loss will be covered by reserves, she says, but doing so will leave those reserves in the weakest position they’ve been during her nine-year tenure as a trustee. She adds that it won’t lead to any teachers to being let go.

Watson says learning that the funding loss was this large was surprising and disappointing, but she doesn’t put the blame squarely on Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.

“The reality is in government that the minister is responsible for the portfolio, but then that minister sits at a cabinet table and it’s the entire cabinet that weighs in on these decisions. Then it’s the treasury board that really owns the decision,” she says. “I would expect behind those closed doors that our minister is making a solid case for the funding required by her department.”

The shortfall is due to the elimination of three funding envelopes – the Classroom Improvement Fund, the Class Size Initiative and the School Fees Grant.

In a move Watson says was the right thing to do, the board voted to suspend its renumeration policy for the 2019/20 school year, meaning trustees won’t see an increase to their annual honoraria or per diem, which is typically adjusted based on the Alberta Consumer Price Index.

“At our August meeting, that item comes before the board as a reminder that it’s happening automatically (in September), and at that time we were a little uneasy about what might come in the October budget, so we pressed pause at that time until November when we would know our budget,” Watson explains.

“After we had that budget update, even though it’s a small amount, it wouldn’t have been appropriate for us as leaders to accept an increase when we’re faced with such large cuts to our budget.”

Currently, the chair receives $19,834 annually, the vice-chair receives $16,748, and the other trustees $15,475.

Alberta Justice laying off 90 lawyers due to budget cuts: CBC report

Alberta Justice is reported to be preparing to lay off about 90 lawyers to deal with a $20 million budget cut.

CBC News says it has obtained a memo saying the cuts will be made among civil law lawyers and that government departments will be “outsourcing considerably more legal work than they are now.”

CBC says it has also obtained a copy of an internal draft white paper that found outsourcing of legal work will cost the government about two-thirds more than retaining its own lawyers whose salaries have been frozen for the past several years.

The memo says the department continues to try to mitigate the effect of budget cuts but it needs to provide working notice to about 90 lawyers in January.

The NDP Opposition is concerned that lawyers tasked with making emergency applications to get children out of dangerous situations are among those being dismissed.

“It’s shocking to learn that lawyers who act on behalf of children in child protection applications are among the targets for cuts from this government to pay for their $4.7-billion corporate handout,” said Rakhi Pancholi, Official Opposition Critic for Children’s Services and MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud. “Minister Schweitzer and Premier Jason Kenney have lots of money for energy war rooms, private planes, and five-star luxury London hotels, but none for children that need an emergency application to the courts to keep them safe.”

(With file from The Canadian Press, CBC, NDP media release)

U of C cancels admissions to collaborative degree programs at RDC

The president of Red Deer College is lamenting news that the University of Calgary is cancelling admissions to its collaborative degree programs at RDC.

Dr. Peter Nunoda admits they didn’t see it coming.

“We didn’t have any sort of prior indication that this was going to happen,” says Nunoda. “I don’t have the actual details, the only thing that I can guess is, this is probably a budget decision based on the latest provincial budget and what the University of Calgary feels it needs to do to try and cut some of the expenses.”

The decision affects more than 100 U of C students enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Sociology and Psychology) and Bachelor of Science (majoring in Psychology) programs who attend RDC. Students enrolled in other collaborative degrees at RDC are unaffected.

Nunoda says the affected students have since been informed of their options to complete their studies.

“In addition, we’re going to have to reassure students for next fall starting, that there will be a pathway for them,” he explains. “All of that work is underway and we don’t have specific details, but we are planning to meet with the students just to reassure them that we at Red Deer will do everything in our power to ensure that they do have that pathway.”

Nunoda admits one of the options offered by the U of C to affected students, is for them to finish their studies outside of Red Deer.

“They could complete their program at the University of Calgary, but I should say, is that is not a guarantee of entry into the program in Calgary,” exclaims Nunoda. “They would move from a cohort at Red Deer College, into the larger pool of competition for spots at the University of Calgary. But again, we will have those conversations with the University of Calgary.”

In the meantime, College officials say the University of Calgary has committed to offering courses at RDC until April 2021, but add no new students are being accepted by the U of C to begin classes at RDC next fall.

Officials point out though, that RDC will continue to accept applications from new students who are able to complete the first two years of a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees, and then complete their degrees by transferring to another post-secondary institution.

Dr. Nunoda adds however, the news truly highlights the need for further degree-granting abilities at RDC.

“If we have our own degrees, then we can give students assurances obviously, of their ability to complete the degree programs in which they enroll,” says Nunoda. “It’s a message we’ve been communicating and it’s just one more example, and an unfortunate one to say the least. But an example of why we need to make that transition to university status.”

For the last two decades, College officials say collaborative degrees have provided RDC students the opportunity to complete their studies in Red Deer, while receiving their degree from a partner institution, such as the University of Calgary.

In addition, RDC is said to be moving swiftly to complete proposals to offer its first bachelor degrees in Arts, Education, Science (majoring in Biological Sciences) and Business Administration.

Pending government approvals, students could begin classes in these degrees at Red Deer University as early as September 2021.

Nunoda says plans to become RDU are still on track.

“That is asking the Ministry for an Order in Council in the spring and launching the university brand in September of 2020,” adds Nunoda. “Nothing at this point indicates that we’re off that timeline. We want to serve the students of central Alberta in the best way possible, with as many program offerings as we can.”

Province to double number of articling students to assist Crown prosecutors

CALGARY, AB – The provincial government is planning to double the number of articling students in Alberta starting next year.

Speaking with reporters Monday morning, Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer announced the province will be hiring an additional eight articling students each year starting next year. This will bring the total hired to 16.

Schweitzer says the province plans to hire 20 students in 2021, which represents a 150 per cent increase.

“The reason why this is important, is because we have to make sure we have the right compliment across the province,” he said.

Articling students are graduates from law school who work in the office of Crown prosecutors to gain experience. They can perform many of the same tasks as prosecutors.

“Right now in the province, we have a gap of about 25 unfilled positions in the prosecution service,” said Schweitzer. “This is one way to make sure we have that pipeline of lawyers coming through the system.”

He adds the province is also planning to hire 50 more Crown prosecutors.

Schweitzer says adding additional articling students will help alleviate the workloads of Crown prosecutors.

“One thing Albertans made loud and clear about the government is they want to make sure the right caseload is there for the prosecution service so these cases can be prosecuted,” he said. “Too many cases have been dropped in the province of Alberta, because we have too many cases that aren’t receiving the due care they need, simply because our prosecution caseload is too high. Making sure we have the right number of students coming into the system is the right decision to make.”

Schweitzer adds the province is offering incentives to have students work in rural communities. According to a news release, incentives include financial incentives under the government’s Premium Pay Directive, along with relocation expenses, along with ensuring students who complete their articles can remain as Crown prosecutors in the communities they worked in.

Alberta youth advocate urges more support for young adults no longer in care

CALGARY – Alberta’s child and youth advocate is urging better support for young adults who are no longer in government care.

A report released today outlines the cases of six people between 20 and 22 who died within nine months last year.

All had what are known as support and financial assistance agreements through Alberta Children’s Services.

Such agreements are meant to help with living expenses, accommodation, training, education and medical coverage for people between 18 and 24 who had been in government care.

Advocate Del Graff is recommending improved policy and practice guidelines, along with training and time for staff to support young adults.

He also recommends that Children’s Services clearly outlines available support and that adequate and safe housing options be provided.

A copy of the report: “A Critical Time: A Special Report on Emerging Adults Leaving Children’s Services Care” is available here.

(Lauren Krugel – The Canadian Press)

Alberta launches online survey about Daylight Saving Time

Tick tock. Tick tock.

Albertans are again being invited to share their on whether the province should continue to observe daylight saving time, this time through an online survey.

“We know people have strong opinions about changing their clocks twice a year, and we want to hear them,” says Nate Glubish, Service Alberta Minister. “As more Canadian provinces and territories and some American states are having discussions about this, it’s important that we hear from Albertans.”

Albertans currently set their clocks forward one hour to observe daylight saving time from the second Sunday in March until the first Sunday of November, putting the province in the same time zone as the Northwest Territories and Montana year-round.

“The practice of changing our clocks twice a year is largely done only in western Europe and North America,” Gulbish noted. “Earlier this year, the EU voted to abolish seasonal time changes by 2021. In North America, we’re seeing provincial and state governments table and pass legislation to do the same. It’s time for Alberta to have a serious conversation about this.”

The online survey will be open until Dec. 10.

Two years ago, Edmonton NDP MLA Thomas Dang put forward a private members’ bill proposing the province ditch the semi-annual time change. The bill didn’t proceed after MLAs heard from businesses who opposed the change.

Last month, legislation was tabled in British Columbia to move to year-round summer hours starting next year.

Saskatchewan, Arizona and Hawaii do not change their clocks twice a year.

(With file from Government of Alberta media release)

Notley kicked out of Alberta legislature for comment on election watchdog firing

EDMONTON – Alberta NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley has been kicked out of the legislature chamber after she refused to apologize for comments about the United Conservative government firing the province’s election watchdog.

Notley told the house that Government House Leader Jason Nixon was making misleading statements on why the government was firing Lorne Gibson during Gibson’s investigation of UCP fundraising misdeeds.

Legislature members have wide latitude to debate in the house, but rules don’t allow for allegations that one member is deliberately misleading or lying.

When Speaker Nathan Cooper directed Notley to apologize, she refused, saying bigger issues are stake and that legislation to fire Gibson is “corrupt.”

Cooper ejected Notley for the day, and she picked up her books and papers and walked out as colleagues pounded their desks in support.

Gibson has levelled more than $200,000 in fines surrounding rule-breaking linked to the 2017 United Conservative leadership race, which Jason Kenney won before he became premier this year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2019.

The Canadian Press