Alberta public services will undergo major improvements with the help of stable, predictable funding, said new Alberta Premier Alison Redford during her first leader’s dinner in Red Deer on Thursday.
Speaking in front of more than 600 party faithful at the Capri Centre, the newly elected Progressive Conservative leader addressed her desire to see public services work better for families.
Redford, who was sworn in as new Premier a week ago after winning the Tory leadership race on Oct. 2, said she intends on putting major public services like health care and education on multi-year budgets. Health care funding will go on a five-year budget plan while education will see funds on a three-year cycle.
“I sincerely believe that dependable budgeting will revitalize morale among public service providers,” said Redford, during the Premier’s Dinner. “However, I expect that its primary effect will be to curb public spending.”
Earlier this week, Redford delivered a key promise during her leadership campaign by restoring $107 million in education funding. She hopes that schools will use this money to restore and enhance the classroom experience.
She pledged that she will keep existing schools open and allow others to operate, even on a small scale, where enough support exists.
Redford also addressed post-secondary education, saying she wants to implement more vocational programs and non-traditional hands-on learning. Plus, she promised to negotiate externships, or competitive placements with international organizations for talented Alberta grads.
Improving health care is also critical to helping families, she added.
“I will unclog the system using family care clinics,” Redford said. “My plan involves putting a publicly funded clinic in every community.”
Nurses and nurse practitioners would handle the bulk of primary care duties in these clinics, but others would be involved as well including chiropractors. Doctors will be able to own such clinics, but the clinics themselves will remain publicly funded.
When asked later by news media whether this was an expensive proposition, Redford replied that the current funding regime doesn’t make sense.
“Alberta Health Services is going to have to restructure the way they’re going to fund services,” she said. “Right now, in that model, there’s funding that flows through doctors to pay for nurse services. We think we need to restructure that so that you’re still paying money, perhaps even less money, to nurses directly so that essentially they’re able to bill directly for those fees for services.”
Redford said her party will solve the housing crisis that has left so many elderly Albertans in unhealthy living conditions. To reduce the problem over the short term, she will work with health care professionals and those providing continuing care on adding 1,000 seniors care units to the system as soon as possible.
She pledged to remove the cap on seniors’ housing costs that stop continuing-care facilities from expanding.
Redford also said she would increase supports for home care and provide incentives to builders so they would expand affordable senior-friendly housing.
During a news media scrum, Redford also said she vows to make Alberta roads safer by getting tough on impaired drivers. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Alberta RCMP and sheriffs laid 166 impaired driving charges, 34 other alcohol-related violations and 55 24-hour suspensions for alcohol or drug abuse.
She’d like to see provincial legislation introduced where administrative penalties would be added that would create “disincentives for drunk driving.”
Redford said that announcements will be made in the next couple of weeks with respect to having specific caucus members working with Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths.
“And part of that will be to look at specific pieces of policy work around different sized communities,” she said. “We’re still developing it.”
— copyright Red Deer Advocate