Alberta Politics

Four Opposition Leaders United on Panel Boycott

While it has become common to watch the leaders of Alberta’s one Liberal and three Conservative opposition parties vote together against the New Democratic Party government in the Legislative Assembly, it is not everyday that those leaders hold a joint press conference. That happened yesterday as the four leaders pledged unity in boycotting a proposed all-party MLA panel tasked to study the childrens’ services system.

The opposition parties have raised concerns about the panel’s terms of reference, duplication of unimplemented recommendations made by previous reports, and the role played by embattled Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir.

Here is what they said during yesterday’s press conference.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean: “We have seen panels and reports gather dust for years. This is a real opportunity to provide important changes for our children in care system, but we need to get this right. The opposition parties in Alberta are unified in making real change in our system, and we trust the NDP will accept our conditions.”

Progressive Conservative interim leader Ric McIver: “Each and every member of the Legislative Assembly is responsible for ensuring that the children in our care are protected. We cannot in good conscience go home and spend Christmas with our families without knowing that an open and transparent process has been established to address Alberta’s deeply flawed child intervention system. We urge the NDP to accept these conditions and move this process forward.”

Alberta Party leader Greg Clark“The time for studies has passed, it’s time for action. Albertans want to know that real changes are being made to ensure all children in government care are safe. This panel should focus on ensuring the Serenitys in the system today are protected now and in the future. This issue transcends partisanship, and I ask the Minister to accept these good-faith changes.”

Liberal Party leader David Swann: “The parents, families and loved ones of children who’ve died in our care are not interested in yet another government document on how government has failed them – they want to know why nothing has been done about it. The opposition parties are united in our belief that this panel must be about implementing the solutions recommended in past reports.”

I do not have much to add to this debate that has not already been said about the sobering and heartbreaking stories of deaths of children in the care of government and government agencies. While the current NDP government is not to blame for the systematic problems that have existed in Alberta’s child welfare system for decades, they will be judged by how they now act to improve the system.

As I wrote back in 2013, as Albertans, we have a responsibility to protect our most vulnerable citizens, particularly those in care and especially children.

4 replies on “Four Opposition Leaders United on Panel Boycott”

I suppose on one level maybe it’s a good thing. For decades Conservatives set the tone of child welfare by committing to study the system, implementing the smallest aspects of the recommendations, and then push the cart forward until the next suggested study.

If anything I feel the NDP has just been given a mandate to radically fix the system. There are countless victims of an underfunded system that has fallen short of providing a real human service, and has failed to protect children time and again.

This should be an easy one. This should be the best funded, most monitored system that the government manages because it has the greatest ability to create life-long harm.

It’s a little rich that two parties who would put tax rates well before the care of vulnerable children are on a stage pretending that they advocate for the improvement of the system. The PC’s particularly underfunded and over studied the system for decades, and wasted countless opportunities to improve the system.

It is almost funny to watch the PC’s on this issue – the systemic problems they created and all the children who died over the years when they were in power are suddenly important now.

Somehow this inherited mess is now all the NDP’s fault in the eyes of some of the opposition – this is revisionist history on a grand scale. No wonder most people don’t take politicians very seriously.

Ric McIver, if you can’t enjoy your 2016 Christmas because of this, tell us about how you celebrated your 2014 Christmas, when your party was in power and these problems were happening.

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