Fort McMurray Food Bank Association – Candidate Questionnaire Don Scott , Progressive Conservative Party Progressive Conservative leader Allison Redford has stated that a healthy society looks after the most vulnerable. 1. Several provinces have set in motion ambitious poverty reduction strategies. Does your party have a plan to address hunger and poverty in Alberta? A new Progressive Conservative government is committed to strengthening supports for Albertans in their time of need. Our Plan for Poverty Reduction will focus on a 5‐year plan to eliminate child poverty and a 10‐year plan to reduce overall poverty. This community‐led initiative will result in equality of access to the economy, better health for the impoverished in our community, stronger families, safer communities and increased civic participation. There are significant benefits to reducing poverty beyond the positive social impact for those immediately affected. Children raised in poverty are far more likely to have long term health implications and a difficult time in school, which is why early intervention is vital. Putting the department of Human Services through the Results Based Budgeting initiative will result in savings that will be directed to the Plan, which will build on Alberta’s Social Policy Framework, with consultations starting in May of this year." 2. Welfare rates in Alberta are far below the poverty line. What will you do for people with disabilities and for people in general, living on social assistance? Effective April 1, 2012 the maximum monthly financial benefit for Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) clients was increased by $400 per month to $1,588 The program also provides employment income exemptions to clients and their spouses, enabling them to retain a portion of their earnings. The thresholds for the employment income exemptions will double, from $400 to $800 per month for single AISH clients and from $975 to $1,950 per month for AISH clients with cohabiting partners or dependent children. Doubling the employment income exemptions for AISH clients will also come into effect April 1. About 17 per cent of AISH clients and/or their cohabitating partners (more than 7,500 households) report some form of employment income. Budget 2012 provides $271 million to cover the cost of increasing the maximum monthly benefit for AISH recipients by $400 per month and doubling the AISH program’s employment exemption thresholds. The total 2012‐13 budget for the AISH program is nearly $1.1 billion. Community agencies contracted by the Alberta government to provide services to vulnerable Albertans will benefit from increased funding over the next three years to help them recruit and retain staff. Staff in contracted agencies play a pivotal role supporting adults with disabilities in community and home‐like settings, and this
new funding will help contracted agencies attract and retain qualified staff so that our most vulnerable Albertans get the excellent support they deserve. We will also build a single point of entry to all seniors housing and health services and programs. A portal, built into the ministry’s website, would include information such as wait times to get into a supportive living, continuing or long‐term care facility, as well as information on accommodation costs and services. The commitments that have been made, which are part of Premier’s Redford’s business plan going forward include: A property tax deferral program to assist seniors with the rising costs of home ownership; The Aging Population Policy Framework to help government and community organizations make sound decision on programs and services for seniors. A fully‐refundable Seniors Activity Tax Credit of up to $500 per year, supporting seniors wanting to pursue more active lifestyles, and a better quality of life through participating in the community, or engaging in a wide range of social, artistic, crafts and physical activities. Since Alison Redford was elected premier, the government has provided substantial support for Albertan families. In Budget 2012, more than 9,000 Alberta families have new or increased funding to offset childcare under the changes to the Provincial Child Care Subsidy program. That is the approach a re‐elected PC government will continue to deliver to Albertans. Because of the vital importance of acting decisively to protect vulnerable children and families, a new PC government will ensure that the Ministry of Human Services works with the newly created Child and Youth Advocate Office of the Legislature. The Progressive Conservative party will also continue to develop prevention and early intervention services, including early childhood development, parenting programs, and programs geared toward preventing domestic violence. As part of the $53 million increase to Child Intervention Services funding in this year’s budget, 30 new child intervention positions were created to strengthen support for frontline caseworkers. This move will help assure better outcomes for at‐risk children, youth and families. 3. What is your party’s platform on food security in Alberta? Alberta should be a leader in advances in agriculture, and we need to explore new avenues to advance agricultural and bio‐technologies, and sustainably raise production capacity. We need policies that will support and encourage farmers to continue to lead the way in productive and high tech agricultural practices. We need predictable funding for technological advances with a focus on research and innovation. Alberta should be a leader in the areas of animal and human health and welfare, food safety and its traceability, water use and genetic improvement to
cattle, grains and crops. We must explore new avenues to advance agricultural technology and sustainably raise production. 4. What is your party’s platform on affordable housing in our region and in Alberta? The Provincial Government of Alberta released “A Plan for Alberta: Ending Homelessness in 10 years” in March 2009, and it supports the Housing First model as the approach that communities in Alberta will use to address the issue of homelessness. Within the Provincial Plan, there are definite goals, timelines and financial requirements for the Province of Alberta. The key elements are centered on five priority areas for action: better information, aggressive assistance, coordinated systems, more housing options, and effective. In addition, the Alberta Secretariat constructed ‘basic criteria’ that should be considered and included in community multi‐year plans to ensure alignment with the provincial plan. Premier Allison Redford has stated that "We are proud of our accomplishments with the 10‐year Plan to End Homelessness, and Alberta is now recognized as a leader in Canada in its approach to addressing this issue. We plan on building on this success with our Plan for Poverty Reduction.” The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) Plan to End Homelessness aligns with the Provincial Plan in its emphasis on housing first and the belief that housing is a basic human right. Information about the municipal plan to end homelessness can be found at: http://www.woodbuffalo.ab.ca/living_2227/Social‐ Support‐Services/Asset1316.aspx The Regional Municipality’s approach to housing has evolved and the Wood Buffalo Housing and Development Corporation was established to bring affordable housing solutions to all Wood Buffalo residents in need, from single income families to seniors; service sector employees to the homeless. Through affordable housing developments and the administration of provincial housing subsidy programs, they provide people the opportunity to establish in the community. Information about Wood Buffalo Housing can be found at the following site: http://www.wbhadc.ca/ Additionally, helping low‐income seniors, individuals and families to meet their basic housing needs is a priority for the Alberta government and includes the following current approaches:
1. The Community Housing Program provides subsidized rental housing for lower‐income families, senior citizens, wheelchair users or other individuals who cannot afford private sector accommodation. 2. The Rent Support Program provides assistance to households in need to obtain and maintain affordable and suitable rental accommodation. 3. The Seniors Self‐Contained Housing Program provides affordable apartment accommodation for lower‐income seniors who cannot afford private sector accommodation. Functionally independent seniors, with or without the help of existing community‐based organizations, are eligible to apply. 5. If elected, what will your party do (or, what is your party doing) to enable welfare recipients to enter the workforce successfully? Currently, Alberta Works is administered by Alberta Employment and Immigration (E&I) and helps unemployed people find and keep jobs, helps employers meet their need for skilled workers and helps Albertans with low income cover their basic costs of living. More information can be found at this site: http://www.employment.alberta.ca/FCH/3171.html Alberta Works achieves these goals through its four program areas: Employment and Training Services, Income Support, Health Benefits and Child Support Services. People in three general situations may qualify for Income Support: People who have difficulty working because of a chronic mental or physical health problem or because of multiple barriers to employment (Barriers to Full Employment) People who are looking for work, working or unable to work in the short‐ term (Expected to Work) People who need upgrading or training so they can get a job (Learners) People are encouraged and supported to work while receiving Income Support. Employment can increase their total income and provide valuable work experience. When people receive ongoing financial assistance, they keep all of their wages, and only a portion of their employment earnings are taken into account when their benefits are calculated. This is called an earnings exemption. 6. It has been commented that some parties may be planning to privatize social assistance and child welfare? is this something your party plans to do? I understand that the Minister of Human Services indicated in October, 2011 that the provincial government had no plans at that time to privatize or shift the province's many social programs and services to municipalities.
7. If elected how do you and your party propose to assist nonprofits and charities to spend less time raising funds and more time doing the work their organizations were created to do? I have been involved with nonprofits as I was a board member and past president of the United Way. I have seen both the administrative burden and the financial challenges they face. I believe in eliminating duplicative, redundant and ineffective rules so that our nonprofits can focus on the critical work that they do. Premier Redford believes in the importance of Alberta’s vibrant non‐ profit/voluntary sector and actively supports its work through targeted programs and capacity building initiatives. Financial support for community organizations, non‐profit organizations and public use facilities has been delivered through a diverse range of programs and grants, including the Community Spirit Program, the Community Initiatives Program and the Community Facility Enhancement Program.