Today the Alberta Liberal Party released its platform for the election to come this spring. Titled simply "Yes" and divided into three sections - Good People, Big Ideas, Better Government - the platform is a bold and brave statement of vision and principle.
Since ALP Leader Raj Sherman is an emergency room doctor, it should come as no surprise that fixing the public health care system is one of the cornerstones of his party's platform. He aims to cut non-emergency surgery wait times to six months, and emergency room treatment within six hours. (A six-hour wait would be a vast improvement compared to what happened to Sylvia back when she broke her leg in 2007.) He also proposed to put decision-making back in the hands of front-line health care professionals and get every Albertan access to a family doctor. And for anyone worried about the state of care for seniors, Sherman is promising to invest heavily in public home care and public long-term care. This is necessary for two reasons: one, Alberta's seniors deserve to live in dignity. And two, caring for seniors appropriately means getting them out of acute care, which frees up hospitals and emergency rooms, unclogging the system - and saving a whole pile of taxpayer money.
For parents, Sherman is promising greater access to quality pre-school and non-profit day care, better parental leave, an end to school fees and a school lunch program.
A post-secondary endowment would eliminate post-secondary tuition. Other endowments will support the arts and amateur sport.
But how to pay for these promises? Well, according to the conventional wisdom of the post-Reagan era, it's political suicide to campaign on raising taxes. And yet the Alberta Liberals are promising a progressive tax that would increase rates on those earning $100,000 or more and a corporate tax hike of twelve percent, up two from the current rate of ten percent. That adds up to about $1.4 billion in annual revenue. Combined with over $200 million in cuts to wasteful spending, including communications (ulp!), funding for private schools, subsidized carbon capture and storage (CCS), fewer MLAs and fewer government ministries, that's an extra $1.6 billion to help eliminate the deficit and pay for the Liberals' ambitious social programs.
The Alberta Liberals are also proposing a
The platform also features some welcome democratic reforms, chief among them instant run-off elections, an idea I've blogged about before. Alberta Liberals also promise more free votes in the legislature, a simpler and more transparent pay structure for MLAs, truly fixed election dates (as opposed to the "election season" Premier Redford has created), recall legislation and more.
In fact, there's a lot more, including help for the energy sector, a better deal for municipalities, new consumer protections, a plan to decrease power bills...I hope Albertans will read the whole document - and, of course, the platforms of the other parties when they're released.
Will this vision convince Albertans to support the province's most venerable party? Maybe, maybe not, but I'm proud of the party for stepping way outside its comfort zone and wearing its liberal heart on its sleeve. Win or lose, Alberta Liberals can be proud for campaigning on a truly Liberal platform - fiscally responsible while investing in the programs and services that ensure no Albertan is left behind.