Lower school fees, a cap on electricity rates, and lower child care costs are just some of the ways Rachel Notley’s NDP government hopes to impact Albertans’ pocketbooks in the weeks to come.
“We are an open and inclusive society built on enduring values; compassion, hard work, and justice,” said Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell in delivering the address. “In an uncertain world, these values are more important than ever – our North Star to guide us through our deliberations as we seek to build a better province for every Albertan.”
Reduced school fees
The first order of business for the government is a bill which will eliminate instructional supply and material fees at public schools across the province. The bill will also eliminate bussing fees for students going to their designated school. The cost of the fees is roughly $50 million and will be paid for by the province.
Currently, students attending Calgary public schools pay $15 per year in fees for kindergarten, $30 per year for grades 1 through 6, $137 per year for grades 7 through 9, and $152 per year for grades 10 through 12. All students taking yellow school buses pay $335 per year for the service.
If the NDP’s first bill of the legislative session is approved, changes will take effect for the start of the fall 2017 school year.
“In addition to eliminating certain school fees, your government will continue to provide stable, predictable funding to our schools, universities, colleges, and institutes and will announce the approval and construction of new schools,” said Lt. Gov. Mitchell.
Affordable child care
In November 2016, the NDP announced a $10-million pilot project that will allow 18 Alberta early-learning child care centres to offer daycare at a maximum of $25 a day.
“Bids to create or expand new affordable and innovative childcare centres will be awarded in the coming weeks,” said Lt. Gov. Mitchell.
According to a 2015 Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report, the median cost for monthly, licensed full-day child care in Edmonton was $900 for infants, $790 for toddlers and $800 for preschoolers. Calgary parents paid slightly more, with a median cost of $1075 for babies, $960 for toddlers and $910 for preschoolers.
Electrical rates to be capped, consumer protections to expand
New legislation will cap electrical rates for homes and businesses in Alberta. The cap will be based on a 10 year average. If electricity prices rise above the capped amount, the government says users won’t have to pay the overage.
“An electricity bill isn’t a jack-in-the-box,” said Lt. Gov. Mitchell. “There is no need for a surprise.”
On the heels of the recent changes to door-to-door energy sales, the government also plans on introducing a consumer “bill of rights” during the session.
The Notley government implemented its door-to-door energy sales ban in response to over 1,000 independent complaints over misleading and high-pressure sales tactics by people going door-to-door for electricity companies. The ban includes the door-to-door sale of furnaces, natural gas and electricity energy contracts, water heaters, windows, air conditioners and energy audits.
The NDP also plan to make changes to three areas of Alberta law in the coming weeks. This includes strengthening whistleblower protection and conflict of interest laws, ensuring child death reviews receive “the utmost care and attention,” and new legislation which would eliminate barriers to pursuing justice for victims of sexual and domestic violence.
The spring session of the Alberta legislature is expected to last 13 weeks.
With files from Global News