Services we could fund
Reestablish the Summer Temporary Employment Program – $7.4 Million
Founded in 1972, the STEP program provided employment for 3,000 students every summer with over 2,400 community organizations in Alberta. In the 2013-2014 budget the Conservative government cut this program that helped so many students find meaningful work experience and non-profit organizations to do projects that would not get done without this support.
Achieve the government’s own class size targets for kindergarten to grade 3 - $130 million
The Alberta Commission on Learning recommended a class size target of 17 children for kindergarten to grade 3. Unfortunately only 14 out of 62 school boards are currently meeting this average as the student population has increased by 41,000 children since 2009 but the number of teachers has only increased by 100. Achieving this class size target will help children to develop their full potential as they get more individual attention and additional support for the diverse needs in today’s classrooms.
Close the participation gap between underrepresented groups in post-secondary education – $18 Million
Alberta currently has the lowest post-secondary education participation rate in Canada which was made worse by the $97 million budget cut last year. One way of supporting underrepresented groups is through a new bursary program, promised by the Conservative Party during the last provincial election, aimed at rural and aboriginal students. The government also previously cut a grant for low-income students that should be reinstated so that all students have a fair chance to be successful.
Create 10,000 more quality childcare spaces - $26 million
The lack of access to affordable, quality early childhood education and care means many families are trapped paying for very expensive care or are not able to return to work or school. Wait lists at most quality childcare centres are longer than two years, and many smaller communities have few options available to young parents. Even though the federal government continues to give $26 million in support to Alberta for childcare through the Canada Social Transfer, the Alberta conservative government ended the space creation program in 2011 (that provided $1500 for each space that was created) and cut the $7.1 million Childcare Quality Enhancement Grant in 2013. These funds should be targeted to areas with the highest need and not just given to childcare corporations to force out smaller operations.
Operate an additional 1000 public long-term care beds for seniors - $78 million
Even though the population of seniors in Alberta is projected to dramatically increase over the next 10 years and there are currently over 1000 seniors waiting in acute care hospitals and at home for long-term care, the conservative government is not investing enough in quality long-term care for seniors. Having seniors wait in acute care hospitals costs our public health system significantly more. It also results in seniors being forced to take the “first available bed” which is often far away from loved ones and in facilities that are not able to provide adequate health care. Rather than investing in quality public care for seniors, the Conservative government is pouring millions of dollars into subsiding corporations to take over the care of our most frail seniors.
Increase AISH support by rate of inflation - $35 million
Inflation in Alberta was 3.9% over the past year, yet there was no increase in support for people who qualify for Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped funding. The AISH budget has gone up slightly this past year to address the increasing number of people who qualify for the program but for the second year in a row, there is no increase to the level of AISH support despite the increased cost of living. If this important social program is not indexed to inflation then it becomes harder each year for these Albertans to make ends meet.
Increase Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) funding – $25 Million
Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) is a unique 80/20 funding partnership between the Government of Alberta and participating municipalities or Métis Settlements. Services “must be of a preventive nature that enhances the social well-being of individuals and families through promotion or intervention strategies provided at the earliest opportunity.” Despite a growing population and rising costs, the Alberta Government has not increased the amount of funding going to the FCSS program since 2009 and has announced the current $74.8 million annual budget will not increase for another 3 years. Rather than cutting programs in communities, 141 of 207 FCSS programs over contributed a total of $19.7 million in 2012 in addition to their 20% contribution of $18.7 million. Mayors and City Councillors from across Alberta have been writing to Human Services Minister Bhullar, to advocate that the provincial government increase funding so that municipalities are not forced to cut these programs or take funds from other areas of their already overstretched budgets.
Support full-day kindergarten in half of Alberta’s schools - $100 million
In the 2012 election, the Conservative Party promised to fund full-day kindergarten in all Alberta schools at a cost of $200 million. Studies have shown that full-day kindergarten greatly helps the development and education of children, particularly children from low-income and immigrant families. Research into the effects of full-day kindergarten in Ontario shows that, “in every area, students improved their readiness for Grade 1 and accelerated their development”. Every province in Canada except Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba will have full-day kindergarten by 2016. Many school boards across Alberta recognize the importance of full-day kindergarten and support and raise money to provide full day programs in targeted schools. For example, 27 schools in Edmonton Public, 23 schools in Edmonton Catholic, 16 in Calgary Public and 27 schools in Calgary Catholic have full-day kindergarten. So while we recognize that some schools would not have the classroom space for full day kindergarten, Alberta Could start by funding full-day kindergarten in half of Alberta’s schools.
Establish a comprehensive, affordable early childhood education and care system - $250 million
Alberta could develop a comprehensive early childhood education and care system that would support 110,000 childcare, day-home and after school spaces. While the Alberta government’s Social Policy Framework identified early childhood education and care as one of Alberta’s top priorities, instead of coming out with a new strategy, the government continues to spend the lowest of all the provinces on childcare relative to our increasing childcare population and GDP. This means a significant shortage of childcare spaces, particularly for families with infants and children with special needs. If Alberta Could partner with the federal government, we could reduce the cost of childcare to $15/day, increase the wages of early childhood educators and provide additional training and support to integrate the care of children with special needs. Not only would this address the severe challenges many families face in being able to afford and find quality childcare, but the childcare program would more than pay for itself by supporting more than 80,000 parents to work.