Fred Horne Jeff Johnson Libraries Teresa Woo-Paw

libraries play a key role in creating healthy communities in alberta.

Edmonton Public Libraries may have to end Sunday service, cut hours at all branches or close a branch due to a $1 million budget shortfall caused by provincial government spending cuts, meaning that the library will not receive its annual per-capita funding increase to account for the additional 30,000 people living in Edmonton.

In April 2009, I congratulated the MLA Committee of Jeff Johnson, Fred Horne, and Teresa Woo-Paw for their recommendations to improve library service in Alberta, that included a long-awaited budget increase of 39%. I would hope that these three PC MLAs would stand behind their recommendations for increased funding and not remain silent if funding for libraries are cut.

A strong public library system can play an integral role in creating healthy communities in Alberta.

Brian Mason Diane Colley-Urquhart Don Massey Jeff Johnson Ken Nicol Kevin Taft Linda Blade Linda Duncan Matthew Sztym Nathan Cullen Preston Manning Rachel Notley Ryan Hastman

new schools, bill 203, ndp conference, & preston manning.

A new school in the Pilot Sound neighbourhood of North East Edmonton will be named after former School Trustee and Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Don Massey. Massey was elected to Edmonton’s Public School Board from 1977 to 1989, and to the Alberta Legislature from 1993 to 2004. Massey served as Interim Leader of the Liberal Official Opposition between the resignation of Lethbridge-East MLA Ken Nicol and election of Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft.

Naheed Nenshi has some great commentary on Athabasca-Redwater PC MLA Jeff Johnson‘s Bill 203 (including special content on Calgary-Glenmore PC heir-apparent Diane Colley-Urquhart).

The Alberta NDP will be hosting a revitalization conference in Edmonton on June 6. Speakers include Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan, Edmonton NDP MLAs Brian Mason & Rachel Notley. Child-care critic Notley scored a big win this week after releasing leaked emails showing that ‘front-line workers were being told not to let potential subsidy recipients know about changes to the application process unless asked.’

– Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning has some strong words for Albertans.

– University of Alberta student Matthew Sztym has joined Ryan Hastman and Linda Blade in race to become the Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona.

Fred Horne Jeff Johnson Libraries Smart Growth Teresa Woo-Paw

making it easier for albertans to read books.

On a weekly basis, elected official in Alberta provide a lot of material to write about, and because it’s easy for politicians and politicos (and bloggers) to fall into a trap of constant negative criticism and partisanship, it’s not hard to overlook positive changes and ideas that are contributed.

This week, a committee of three MLAs contributed to positive change when it recommended an increase in funding for public libraries for the first time in 20-years. While minuscule when compared to other government expenditures, the $9 million announced increase is an positive move and will increase current the budget for public libraries by 39%.

The MLA Committee on the Future of Public Library Service in Alberta, which included PC MLAs Jeff Johnson, Fred Horne, and Teresa Woo-Paw, made a number of positive recommendations in their final report that, if implemented, could strengthen public libraries in Alberta.

A strong public library system can play an integral role in creating healthy communities in Alberta.

Alnoor Kassam Art Johnston Bill 202 Bill 203 Bill 204 Dave Bronconnier Ed Stelmach Jeff Johnson Laurie Blakeman

provincial representatives minding [municipal] affairs [re: bills 202, 203, 204].

Municipal issues are a hot topic for MLAs introducing Private Member’s Bills in this session of the Alberta Legislature:

Bill 202: Municipal Government (Municipal Auditor General) Amendment Act, 2009

Introduced by Calgary-Hays MLA Art Johnston. The AAMDC is waiting for more details, but the AUMA has written to Premier Ed Stelmach raising concerns about the “bureaucracy and increased costs, to both the Province and municipalities,” which they argue could be created if this Bill becomes Law. This Bill could also have the unintended consequence of creating increased tension between the province and municipalities, as many municipalities (including both the Cities of Edmonton and Calgary) already employ their own Auditors who report to the elected Councils. While I support increases accountability and transparency, I would hope that a new Auditor General would not face the same funding challenges that have plagued the provincial Auditor General over the past few months.

Bill 203: Local Authorities Election (Finance and Contribution Disclosure) Amendment Act, 2009

Introduced by Athabasca-Redwater MLA Jeff Johnson. As rules around municipal campaign financing currently vary from municipality to municipality, this Bill would bring law and order to one of the last frontiers of campaign finance in Wild Rose Country. Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier has recently introduced recommendations to change campaign finance regulations after his 2007 opponent, Alnoor Kassam, self-funded a $1 million dollar campaign against the incumbent Mayor. Increased consistency, transparency, and accountability on the municipal level is a good start, but there’s still a long way to go.

Bill 204: Municipal Tax Sharing Act, 2009

Introduced by Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman. Especially important in areas of the province such as Edmonton’s Capital Region, the creation of municipal tax-sharing agreements and formulas are a critical growth management issue in Alberta. I’m unsure how this Bill would complement the recently agreed upon ‘peace in our time* among the 25 Capital Region municipalities, but I’ve always thought it likely that provincial legislation would need to be enacted before we would ever see concrete action on this issue. Unfortunately, due to Blakeman’s political geography in the Legislature (sitting in the 9 MLA Liberal caucus, and not in the 72 MLA PC caucus), it’s very likely that Bill 204 will meet a similar fate to Kent Hehr‘s Bill 201 and be defeated.
Here’s video of Blakeman introducing Bill 204:

*More on this later.

Auditor General Fred Dunn Jeff Johnson Jonathan Denis

bullshit detector reaches critical levels [re: auditor general].

Alberta’s Auditor General Fred Dunn recently announced the delay or cancellation of 27 out of 80 planned system and financial audits due to budget constraints and yesterday, after opposition MLAs once again attempted (and failed) to increase funding for the Auditor General, the remarks of two backbench PC MLAs really caught my attention:

Calgary-Egmont MLA Jonathan Denis:

“Realistically everybody would like more money, I would like more money, but the reality is we froze our paycheques this year. This is the first time in 15 years we froze our paycheques. And similarly we don’t want to ge giving extra money to departments where that’s not required.”

Athabasca-Redwater MLA Jeff Johnson:

“We’re in a time of great financial restraint,” Johnson said. “I don’t know how we (justify) going from $21.5 million to $25 million in one year….” “Nobody has enough money to do the job they’d like to do.”

The mandate of the Auditor General of Alberta is to ‘identify opportunities and propose solutions for the improved use of public resources, and to improve and add credibility to performance reporting, including financial reporting, to Albertans.‘ Ensuring financial and systematic efficiency through these audits is one of our government’s most important responsibilities to the hardworking citizens and taxpayers of this province. Albertans should not have to wait until good economic times for the Auditor General to have the resources to do the most effective job possible.