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What Was She Thinking?

A Glimpse Into Danielle Smith’s Mind

The most in-depth glimpse into Premier Smith’s thinking on a range of critical public policy issues is contained in a 20-page paper entitled “Alberta’s Key Challenges and Opportunities.” Smith’s paper was published in June 2021, before oil and gas prices rose and substantially changed the province’s fiscal outlook. In this blog, Robert Ascah outlines and analyzes her fiscal policy ideas and health-care proposals.

Alberta’s new premier Danielle Smith is taking the reins of government at a time when many families are struggling to pay their bills. Inflation is high. The wages of many Albertans are not keeping up. Alberta’s minimum wage has been frozen at $15 since October 1, 2018. Premier Smith could give minimum-wage workers a hand up during these difficult times by raising the minimum wage. The UCP government should also legislate annual increases to the minimum wage that align with the annual rate of inflation.

A Well-Being Economy

A New Paradigm for Health Equity in Alberta

It is well known that health and well-being are importantly influenced by the conditions in which we are born, grow, live, work, and age, including the quality and integrity of our natural environments. These are the social and ecological determinants of health. The unequal distribution and quality of those conditions create health inequities: differences in health and well-being between social groups that are unfair because they are avoidable.

In his response to the UCP government’s February 24, 2022 budget, President Bill Flanagan of the University of Alberta characterized its allocations for post-secondary education positively, as a “turning point for the University of Alberta.” In his statement, Flanagan highlights a UCP initiative called “Alberta at Work,” which promises to invest $171 million over three years to increase enrolment in programs selected by the government, and asserts that the U of A will move quickly to take advantage of this new funding program (along with 21 other post-secondary education institutions, or PSEIs).

When the Alberta government passed Bill 32: The Restoring Balance in the Workplace Act in the summer of 2020, a number of observers noted the many ways in which it unfairly targeted unions and their members. My Parkland Institute report analyzing Bill 32, however, made it clear that changes like those in the Act have broader implications for the rights of ALL Albertans. The report, Tipping the Balance, concluded that the legislation represented an Americanization of labour relations in Alberta and that many provisions undermined rights protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

While there is no roadmap on how to feel or the actions that might help truth and reconciliation, Don McIntyre urges us to never stop pressing for more stories of the lost children in unmarked graves. Never stop telling the story of Phyllis and her orange shirt. These stories are our Truths.

The climate crisis, low oil and gas prices and accelerating automation in Alberta’s oil and gas industry has reignited decades-long pleas to diversify the province’s economy and has strengthened calls for a just transition.

It's time for all of us to reflect on the brutal reality of this country’s colonization and understand the true meaning of reconciliation. The truths are difficult, but listening is the first step to stop the silencing of Indigenous voices. This Canada Day, we must hear the voices of those who were never allowed to speak for themselves. 

As Alberta sees more cuts to help with the overdose epidemic, now is a time to be investing more, not less in the overdose epidemic response, according to an op-ed that originally appeared in the Edmonton Journal. Dr. Stan Houston co-authors the piece with Dr. Ginetta Salvalaggio.

The public interest commissioner opposed four of Cam Hutchison's recommendations that are basic to ensuring whistleblowers feel safe to come forward to report wrongdoing. These reforms are based on his Parkland report released late last year. All are considered part of international best practices and have precedent in other jurisdictions. However, all were portrayed by the commissioner as deeply problematic, reflecting her lack of understanding about whistleblower protection outside of the Alberta experience, and a troubling misinterpretation of the law and her particular administrative role. 

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