Tag Archives: Public Interest Alberta

NDP MLA Brian Mason announces his retirement from Alberta politics on July 4, 2018. (photo credit: David Climenhaga)

NDP MLA Brian Mason retires after 30 years in politics. A spirited nomination contest expected in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood.

Photo: NDP MLA Brian Mason announces his retirement from Alberta politics on July 4, 2018. (photo credit: David Climenhaga)

After 30 years in elected office, Brian Mason will call it quits when the next provincial election is called. The New Democratic Party MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood announced at a press conference this morning that he will not seek re-election in 2019.

Brian Mason as a city transit driver in the 1980s. (source: Facebook)

Brian Mason as a city transit driver in the 1980s. (source: Facebook)

He started his political career as a student activist, including a term as Vice-President External of the University of Alberta Students’ Union and as director of the Alberta Federation of Students. Mason jumped into municipal politics in 1983, running for city council as past of the left-leaning Edmonton Voters Association slate. His first run was unsuccessful but he ran again six years later.

Then employed by the City of Edmonton as a bus driver, Mason challenged a law prohibiting city employees from running for council and was elected to city council in 1989. He was re-elected in north east Edmonton in 1992, 1995, and 1998. He jumped into provincial politics in 2000, running in a by-election in Edmonton-Highlands to succeed former NDP leader Pam Barrett, who had represented the district from 1986 to 1993 and 1997 until her retirement from politics in 2000.

Mason cruised to victory in the by-election against former Leduc Liberal MLA Terry Kirkland and was re-elected by significant margins in the five elections since. He became leader of the Alberta NDP ahead of the 2004 election, succeeding Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Raj Pannu.

Brian Mason at the opening ceremony marking the completion of the north-east leg of the Anthony Henday ring road in Edmonton. (photograph by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Brian Mason at the opening ceremony marking the completion of the north-east leg of the Anthony Henday ring road in Edmonton. (photograph by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

As leader of the sometimes 2 or 4 MLA caucus, Mason led a feisty opposition that frequently ran circles around the actual Official Opposition Liberals (to the frustration of Liberal Party staffers like me).

He stepped down as leader in 2014, perhaps sensing a change in the times. And the timing of the NDP leadership race that chose Rachel Notley was perfect. While no one could have predicted on that day that Notley would lead the NDP to form government in 2015, Mason handed over a party that was in much better shape than it was on the day he started the job in 2004.

He was re-elected in 2015 in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood with the widest margin of his political career, earning a landslide 78 percent of the vote.

Despite rumours that Notley might pick him for Minister of Finance or back a bid for him to become Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, she appointed Mason as Minister of Transportation, Minister of Infrastructure and Government House Leader when the NDP were sworn-in to office in 2015.

The Dean of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, Mason will end his political career as the longest-serving current MLA in our province.


NDP nomination battle in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood

Janis Irwin NDP Edmonton Highlands Norwood

Janis Irwin (source: Facebook)

With Mason stepping aside, we could now see a spirited nomination contest in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, a largely blue-collar district that is considered strong territory for the NDP.

Two names frequently mentioned as potential successors to Mason include 2015 federal NDP candidate Janis Irwin and former Public Interest Alberta executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon.

(I live in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, so I have a particularly keen interest in this nomination contest).


A history of Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood

The Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood district was created in 2004 and included areas from the former Edmonton-Highlands and Edmonton-Norwood districts.

Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood 2019 Map

Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood (click to enlarge)

Edmonton-Highlands had been represented by the NDP from 1986 until 1993, when Liberal Alice Hanson was elected, and again by the NDP from 1997 until 2004.

Edmonton-Norwood was represented by NDP leader Ray Martin from 1982 until 1993, when he was unseated by Liberal Andrew Beniuk. Beniuk later crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservatives and was defeated in 1997 by Liberal Sue Olsen. Olsen did not seek re-election in 2001 and the seat was won by PC candidate Gary Masyk, who would later cross the floor to the Alberta Alliance. Masyk chose not to challenge Mason in the new district in 2004 and was defeated in his bid for re-election in the neighbouring Edmonton-Decore district.

Public schools should be the priority, says trustee Michael Janz

With Finance Minister Joe Ceci scheduled to table Alberta’s budget in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, March 22, there was plenty of activity today by advocates wanting to see big changes in provincial education.

Public schools should be the priority, says Janz

Edmonton Public School Board Trustee Michael Janz is calling on the province to prioritize the construction of public schools in new communities. Janz will introduce a motion encourging the board seek a commitment from the provincial government that ‘the first school built in any community or neighbourhood be a public school or a shared public, separate, and/or francophone board facility.’

As of September 2017, around 100,000 students were enrolled in Edmonton’s public school system, a 3.4 percent increase from the previous year. According to Janz, the board’s draft projections indicate an increase of an additional 3,000 students in the 2018-2019 school year.

The board is currently debating its Three Year Capital Plan.

3 out of 4 taxpayers say no money for elite and exclusive private schools 

Progress Alberta released a poll from Environics showing that 75 percent of Albertans agree that schools charging more than $10,000 per year in tuition should not receive public funding. According to data released by Progress Alberta in 2017, 15 private schools that charge more than $10,000 in annual tuition fees received more than $30 million in taxpayer subsidies from the Alberta government in 2015-2016.

Some school boards falling behind on protecting sexual minority students

Public Interest Alberta has released a new report on four school boards’ policies and procedures on sexual and gender minorities that points to the need for changes to protect students and their rights. “Policies should be clear, comprehensive and unequivocal in their support for LGBTQ students, staff and families. Students shouldn’t need a lawyer to make sense of their school policies, or to find out if they’re fully protected or not,” University of Alberta assistant professor Kristopher Wells told Metro Edmonton.

Photo: Edmonton Public School Trustee Michael Janz

Child poverty a problem worth eliminating in wealthy Alberta

November 24, 2014 marked 25 years since members of the Canadian Parliament voted unanimously to end child poverty in our country. The motion introduced by then-NDP leader Ed Broadbent supported abolishing child poverty in Canada by the year 2000.

Twenty-five years later, we are far away from reaching this goal.

Although Alberta has benefited from rapid economic growth, not everyone has shared in this prosperity. The Edmonton Social Planning Council, Alberta College of Social Workers and Public Interest Alberta released a new report on Nov. 24 showing that 143,200 children in our province lived below the low-income measure in 2012.

Alberta Child PovertyThe numbers in the report are depressing but important to recognize. According to the report, the percentage of Alberta children living in poverty is essentially unchanged since Mr. Broadbent’s motion was passed in 1989.

Unemployment is not necessarily the main cause of child poverty in Alberta. The report shows that in 2011, a record high of 59.2% of children in poverty lived in a household where one or more persons were working full-time job.

According to the report, Alberta’s income inequality has increased faster than the national average, with the top 1% of earners seeing real income increases of over 60% since 1982 while the bottom half of income earners only saw a small increase of 3.4%.

The report also shows that in March 2014, more than forty-nine thousand Albertans accessed food banks, an increase of 2.3% from  2013 and 48.2% higher than in 2008.

The recent Homeless Count found 2,252 people without a home in Edmonton, an increase of 3.5% from 2012. The number of youth increased by 17% from 481 to 562. Of all those counted in the survey (including non-youth), 47% identified as being of Aboriginal heritage.

But despite an intense political focus in Alberta on low taxes and oil pipeline expansion, the discussion around income-inequality and eliminating poverty has gained some attention in recent years.

Poverty Parents Working Alberta

In March 2014, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson named a task force on Poverty Elimination to develop a plan with recommendations to eliminate poverty in the city.

“There are over 100,000 Edmontonians living below the poverty line, 30,000 of whom are children. For me, that is not acceptable,” Mr. Iveson said in a press release earlier this year.

Speaking to a group of Edmontonians during a break from budget hearings last week, Mr. Iveson explained some of the ways Edmonton can help contribute to the reduction of child poverty through public library education programs and reduced-fee transit passes for low-income parents.

“Poverty elimination will be the result of good prevention,” Mr. Iveson said, as he explained the need for a renewed focus on the social determinants of health.

“If we don’t deal with some of those things proactively they can become policing challenges, which is the most expensive thing we do,” he said.

As city governments are limited in their resources compared to provincial and federal governments, he spoke to the need for municipalities to pressure MLAs to make much needed funding increases to Family and Community Support Services.

During the 2012 election, Progressive Conservative leader Alison Redford promised the creation of a ten year strategy to end poverty in Alberta, which would include a five-year plan to eliminate child poverty and a plan to address the root causes of poverty. Following Ms. Redford’s departure, it is suspected that a strategy will not be released until next year. But it remains unclear how Premier Jim Prentice will approach this issue.

Despite our prosperity, Mr. Prentice is pleading poverty due to slightly deflating world oil prices and is already suggesting education funding cuts are likely in next year’s budget.

It is shameful that child poverty in Canada still exits in 2014, twenty-five years after every Member of Parliament stood and committed to eliminating it by 2000. And in a wealthy and prosperous jurisdiction like Alberta, where we have the financial means and ingenuity to ensure every resident can live outside of poverty, there is no excuse why child poverty still exists.

Read the reportNo Change: After 25 years of Promises it is Time to Eliminate Child Poverty.

Listen: Ed Broadbent’s interview with CBC’s The Current on the 25th anniversary of the motion to end child poverty