Thursday, October 13, 2011

Groups look for Redford to bring change


Published October 6, 2011 by Lindsey Wallis in News




Redford is commended by groups such as Friends of Medicare, Calgary Arts Development and the Alberta Wilderness Association for taking time to meet with them during the campaign process. “I think she has reached out to us,” says David Eggen, the executive director of Friends of Medicare. “I hope she is sincere about keeping the lines of communication open.”
Friends of Medicare have railed against the Progressive Conservative’s handling of the health system for years and want to see an end to the privatization. “Health care in this province has taken a dramatic turn for the worse,” says Eggen. “It is time to leave behind these destructive health policies.”
Despite positive campaign promises, Eggen is somewhat wary of what Redford will bring to Alberta health care. “She was endorsing the expansion of private health contracts,” he says. “She needs to put that behind her and repudiate the previous government’s policy on private delivery of public services and make a long-term commitment to repair the damage this government has inflicted.”
Reinforcing that wariness is Redford’s recent appointment of Alberta Health Services chairman Ken Hughes as a member of her transition team. Although Hughes took a leave of absence from AHS, for Eggen the implication is clear. “We know that Alison Redford is not particularly progressive on health care and the company she keeps seems to reinforce that,” he says.
“The direction of Ken Hughes over the last two years is a manifestation of that private agenda. Alison Redford claims that he’s her friend and confidant so we can presume that she’s in line with his view on private health care.”
Friends of Medicare is waiting to see if Redford will follow through on her campaign promises, including greater access to primary care by establishing family care clinics, better continuing care for seniors and more local decision makiung. . “We can only judge her based on her actions, we’ll have to see what she actually accomplishes,” Eggen says.
The Alberta Wilderness Association will also be waiting to see what action Redford will take. “We are encouraged by some statements made publicly and in conversation with us,” says Carolyn Campbell, a conservation specialist with the AWA. “But the proof is in action and it will be much more difficult to follow through on her good intentions.”
Campbell cites Redford’s commitment to the province’s endangered species and to sustainable energy, and the promise to suspend the sale of 16,000 acres of native prairie until the South Saskatchewan Land-Use Framework is completed, as positive signals.
But Campbell notes there are contradictions in Redford’s promises, one of them to do with hydrocarbon development. In her campaign literature, Redford says: “The main issue confronting us is the environmental and social sustainability of hydrocarbon resources… it is clear that the sector’s growth rate has outpaced the government’s regulatory and enforcement capacities.” But she has also said that when it comes to hydrocarbon development it is important that Alberta increase production and keep costs low.
Despite some contradictions, Campbell looks forward to working with Redford. “We hope environmental sustainability will be more central to economic decision making than in the past,” she says. She also wants Redford to strengthen regulations and put sustainability before development. “Some of (her promises) are difficult to achieve given the legacy of Alberta’s permissive leasing and approval process. There has been too much industrial development across too much of the landscape.”
Unlike the AWA and Friends of Medicare, Terry Rock, the president and CEO of Calgary Arts Development, is not looking for radical changes from Redford. According to Rock, the biggest boost to Calgary artists will be Redford’s position on cities, which has already been applauded by Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “Having a thriving arts sector depends on the ability of cities to respond to what citizens are calling for,” Rock says.
Rock is also pleased that her policy stresses the integration of arts into communities and schools, saying it “reflects a potentially very forward-thinking approach to the role of the arts in communities — she recognizes the fundamental value of the arts.”
Rock hopes Redford will continue the Premier’s Council on Arts and Culture, allowing a direct line to the premier, and will continue to look for ways to partner with the province.
Redford declined to speak with Fast Forward Weekly for this article. To read what Redford had to say to James Wilt, visit ffwdweekly.com.

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