Alberta NDP's two Municipal Affairs Critics Sarah Hoffman and Kyle Kasawski, penned an open letter to Alberta's Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver.
In the letter, Hoffman and Kasawski hope that the Smith government along with the Ministry, "Will be an effective government that supports our amazing municipal governments with the resources and tools they need to provide Albertans with the affordable high quality of life we all deserve.."
Hoffman and Kasawski outlined in the letter their deep concern for the well-being of Alberta's two largest cities, Calgary and Edmonton, and urged McIver to prioritize safe and affordable housing for those facing houselessness or housing insecurity, "Without access to safe and affordable housing, the downtowns of our two largest cities can not thrive."
Hoffman and Kasawski point out that over the past four years, funding for essential agencies such as urban food banks, healthcare for vulnerable populations, shelters, and supportive housing has been cut, hampering the growth and prosperity of downtown cores. ". We urge you to become a champion for our big city downtown cores," Hoffman and Kasawski urged of McIver.
To enhance transportation in these major cities, the critics emphasize the importance of prioritizing the development of future transit lines. They call for collaboration between all three levels of government to expedite projects like the Green Line and Valley Line to ensure easy mobility for all citizens.
Healthcare infrastructure emerged as another key concern for the NDP critics, who highlight the shortage of rural healthcare workers and the impact it has on patients living in remote communities. "(Alberta is) losing rural physicians, nurses and other health professionals. This hurts patients living in rural and remote communities and impacts the next generation of the rural health care workers," Hoffman and Kasawski stated in the letter.
The Alberta NDP is urging the government to take immediate measures to recruit frontline healthcare professionals to address the healthcare gaps across the province. Additionally, they call for the expansion of hospital and health centre services in both Edmonton and Calgary.
The day the open letter from the Alberta NDP was released was the same day the mandate letter for the Minister of Health was tabled. In the Ministry of Health Mandate letter, Premier Danielle Smith urged the minister of Health, Adriana LaGrange, to work with municipalities, post-secondary institutions, doctors, and allied health providers to identify strategies to attract and retain health care workers in rural Alberta
Schools also come under scrutiny as the two NDP critics criticized the slow progress of school construction and overcrowding in classrooms, particularly in growing neighbourhoods. "The number of projects under the last government was unacceptable. Students are being bussed across freeways and put in overcrowded classrooms in growing neighbourhoods, while many mature area schools are in desperate need of modernization or replacement" the two NDP critics wrote.
Addressing industrial development, the critics propose investments in the Industrial Heartland of the Province to create well-paying jobs for the people of Alberta. They specifically mention a proposal to "supercharge" the Alberta Petrochemical Incentive Program (APIP) to generate tens of thousands of job opportunities.
The open letter discussed various capital and infrastructure needs across the province, including local roads, hockey rinks, community halls, and cricket pitches. The critics also suggested that the government look into a pledge the Alberta NDP made during the last provincial election. "(The Alberta NDP) proposed a Hometown Alberta program that would massively expand the funding available to support growing communities across the province," Hoffman and Kasawski added.
In the July 14th Minister of Tourism, and Sport Mandate letter to the Hon. Joseph Schow, Premier Smith requested the Minister to follow through on establishing a Community Recreation Centre Infrastructure Fund that invests at least $80 million over four years in small and mid-sized projects such as indoor and outdoor hockey arenas and rinks, community pools, indoor turf centres, pickle ball courts, sports fields and courts, and other recreational facilities.
The Alberta NDP critics urged the Minister to proactively support municipal governments, which are currently facing a significant funding deficit of $30 billion for infrastructure projects.
During the 2023 Provincial Election, Alberta Municipalities outlined three priorities the next provincial government needed to address. Vice President of Cities Under 500,000 Mayor Tyler Gandam (Town of Wetaskiwin) said in a press conference during the provincial election, that one area the next government would need to address would be funding for infrastructure projects,"(The $30-Billion infrastructure deficit is) a massive problem for Albertans. And steps need to be taken by the next provincial government to address it." At the same press conference, Gandam called on whoever formed the next government to work with Alberta Municipalities to add an additional $1.75 billion in annual funding for municipal infrastructure.
Hoffman and Kawasaki expressed their willingness to engage in a dialogue and collaborate with McIver to find solutions to the challenges faced by municipalities throughout Alberta.
We reached out to Minister McIver's office earlier in June after he was sworn in as Minister of Municipal Affairs for a sitdown interview on the relationship he hopes to foster with Municipal leaders from across Alberta. At the time Minister McIver's office informed us they were waiting for mandate letters before agreeing to an interview.
Late last week, we also reached out to the Alberta NDP Communications Team about an interview with both MLA Hon. Sarah Hoffman and MLA Kyle Kasawski about the relationship they intend to build with both urban and rural municipalities. At the time the NDP informed us they were waiting for the Municipal Affairs mandate letters before an interview could be arranged.