Posts Tagged ‘Alberta Government’


Ah the heckling for change from the Federal Level (discussed previously here) has continued its journey within our nation. This time coming out of the governing party of Alberta, the New Democratic Party with Calgary-East MLA Robyn Luff’s recent announcements of a toxic culture within caucus due to leader control (here). Obviously the breaking of the thin caucus line led her caucus to “unanimously” boot her last night.

Image result for alberta NDP logoIt seems odd that an elected official would “strike” by not showing up for work as her statement said. Yet it has zeroed in attention that sitting as an independent or crossing to another party would. She has already declared she is not running again as her family wants her to spend more time with them. Yet in the parting shots she has opened up some intriguing things.

First- all political parties need to examine their toxic cultures. Yes one becomes members, and believes some (usually not all) of the party policies/ideologies. As the party is made up of smaller collectives different pockets can function differently due to the local make up. Yet, and this is a big yet, it is about power, and as such can bring out the worst in people. This was noted with why Sandra Jansen joined the NDP from the right, and now has Luff leaving the NDP. It is time for a gut check reflection of the party process, and a re-look at purpose. It is not power for powers sake, but rather serving citizens (that pesky first line of our Constitution Act, 1982: Peace, Order and Good Governance).

Second- Leaders are not be all and end alls. Within the Westminster System, as previous posts have exposed, Canada has done the reverse of other Commonwealth Nations. Wherein other countries Caucus health/direction/freedom is first; in Canada at Federal and Provincial it has become very top down. The advent in the 1970’s of the in-camera Question Period has led to more control and dramatics that do not actually support the first line of our Constitution.

This control extends further. With the UCP we saw it with the “bathroom runs” to avoid discussion on bills; and their leader tossing his grassroots guarantee. Now with the NDP in MLA Luff’s response to being removed from Caucus (Full statement here), she has two instances of control beyond the legislature:

For instance we were told that if we had any information on opposition members who had behaved inappropriately towards women that it was best not to go public with it because our party wasn’t completely without fault on the matter. This statement was never explained further, which is extremely problematic.

The thin caucus line of every political party that creates silence. Silence like we have seen within other power structures to protect (church, sport and entertainment to name but a few). Good Governance means opening up for full transparency. The challenge also illustrates why there possibly was not a full audit of financials of the government bureaucracy and MLA’s when the NDP took over after the 40+year PC dynasty (especially with the suspicious shredding by outgoing government). Could the same fear of loss be what drove the decision, not what was best for the people?

As well that this directive would come down:

When Jagmeet Singh was in town we got a text message saying not to be photographed with him.

Singh is the Federal NDP leader. Members are members of both parties, this is an outgrowth of the old social gospel-labour-human rights movements that founded the CCF which became the NDP. The provincial party has been trying to distance itself from the mess of the federal party recently, but to explicitly dictate that MLA’s could not be photographed with him, well…

I have always encouraged members of each party to call out the B.S. within their own party that harms. That takes away representation of citizens for leader control. It is hard enough to function for your constituents with the leader controls our system has moved to.

It is even harder when you are under constant duress and threat of loss of vocation. As with back benchers that have stepped up Federally to discuss and point out these concerns. It is now time to realize that these conversations cannot happen in isolation, and at a provincial level they need to happen. Members need to drive change within their parties. So do elected members, they need to speak up, and work if necessary against the cult of leader to produce the best service of citizen possible.

So thank you, Ms. Luff, for having the bravery to speak up and may your letter to the Speaker begin the process.

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What follows below is the latest letter I have written to Hon. David Eggen, the Minister of Education in Alberta. It is in regards to the casting aside of compassion towards the disabilities community within the education system. It is about families that mourn, staff that mourn, and the inability of the system to step outside of their own prejudices to respond as they would to any school community in mourning. It is solution focused. I encourage all to write the Hon. Eggen (education.minister@gov.ab.ca ) to call out and begin to work to eliminate the last acceptable passive/active hate within our educational community. My words follow, mine only, but I am sure others have their own stories, solutions (or best practices that may exist that are working for true belonging) to share with a rather responsive education minister, unlike previous years and administrations where I have heard nothing. I will keep you dear reader, up to date as possible on this struggle for belonging that should not need to be, because it is 2018.

Today’s e-mail:

Dear Hon. Eggen,

I write you today as a weary parent. Weary of the battle for my child, and his education community of supports to receive equity in care and compassion by the educational system.  I was encouraged to write you once more due to the systematic Ableism (used to be called Eugenics, that is persons with disabilities and those in their lives had less value in inherent personhood, and we should just accept their demise). This came about, as there is a practice when a child with disabilities passes away within the education system that appropriate grief and mental health supports are not brought in for the staff and the other children. The response given is that “they do not comprehend” for the child, and to the staff “it is part of the job, they die” (probably nicer words used for staff, but having served in various non-profits I can see it being that blunt). The attitude is that death is to be expected, and not taken in as deeply as when a “typical child” passes away.

What is missed is that children no matter what professionals say are empathetic, and feel deeper than we ever will. They are more accepting of belonging, and know long before we do when their friend’s spot in the class will be empty. I cannot count the number of friends my son has lost in his short 6 years (grade 1 to 6) within the public-school system in Calgary, but I know the depth of his sorrow, he has soaked through many shirts of mine with his tears, and beaten on my chest in his anger.

The standard practice we have long fought against is the form letter. We worked with the local school to at least personalize the letter to share whom the child was in community, and supposed to receive a phone call if they are in the classroom from the principal (though it can appear favouritism by family on whom is contacted is played). But it leaves the families receiving notification, and then with very little extra-funding helping their child wrestle through loss and complexity, knowing  the staff are wrestling through their own grief with little administrative support, plus wrestling through our own fear and loss within the community of medically complex children.

I write with a four-fold practice for Alberta Education to remedy ableism that has been accepted down the line:

1)      Training and equipping of administration, trustees and school staff outside of those providing services (and those who provide) to ensure the erasure of passive ableism, and generationally held eugenic beliefs towards the community. We have practice for this with TRC and GSA’s. Time to break the last hate group down and expose it.

2)      The families of the student who passes needs to be provided (and have readily available within schools, like medical clinics) resources for the loss. I do not care what anyone says, it is not normal for a child to pre-decease their parent.

3)      When a child passes, staff need to be cared for. This is Principals, Maintenance, Administration, Teaching, Aides and volunteers within the school. It is not acceptable to say death distance is professionalism, when you build a community of belonging- the loss is felt and help needs to be brought in within best practice principles of debrief within the first 24 hrs, 72 hrs, and follow up protocols for staff that continue to struggle.

4)      Information for grief support to the families of friends needs to be distributed with notification, and I would say the school needs to host a form of celebration for the community member, so the children know that their friend belonged in the world and is not some coded statistic. Also along with this celebration, the same debrief needs to be used to provide grief support for the children, no matter how complex their communication or medical conditions are. They are aware of loss.

Why is this important? We are a scrapper family when it comes to rights, I am on multiple records for many battles to ensure full dignity and human rights for all citizens. To have to fight within a system to prove my son is cognitive enough so he can “earn” a spot to be on a wait-list for grief support if his behaviours around grieving become unmanageable is inhumane. It says to the family, the community, and most importantly to my son: YOU ARE NOT HUMAN ENOUGH for us to care about.

That is quite frankly wrong, and disregards so much of our human, charter and constitutional rights. Many good changes are happening to put students and frontline staff first within our education system of Alberta finally. I implore you to remember all children and staff/volunteers deserve the same care when a classmate/student passes, regardless of what society and professionals deem. All staff in the system also deserve the same level of care. Public Education is community, and as community we learn, grow and celebrate together, we also mourn together. Let us remember that.

Sincerely,

 

Dr. Ty Ragan

To close, my Facebook post from late June 6, 2018 when I was informed by an Ableist I had no right to anger at another white envelope:

Parents imagine at least once a month being informed that your child has had a friend pass away in their class. Then imagine there being no grief supports sent in for the kids or staff for coping, and the only communications is a letter home… when you ask why I am angry about people not seeing my boy as fully person–this is his reality. He cries on me. Screams why God takes his friends. Talks about how his buddy’s mummas, daddy,s and sibs can keep going…the emptiness. Our children belong, the world says they don’t because the world doesn’t want to have to explain how to heal from a once full chair, now being empty. The world, doesn’t know what to do with a child who asks where’s my buddy? Why do all my friends die on me. Instead they tell me that I have to prove my son comprehends life and death, and then they will think of aid. Is this the world we want? Where compassion and healing is an earned right? So yes I am angry. And yes we need to discuss Ableism (what used to be called Eugenics) openly, and call it out. To my religious friends, if you are not then you have failed. To my other friends, I am tired of a world that says earn your spot. I am tired of a world that says a child’s tears are okay because they don’t understand. I am tired of a world that tells those that walk with them, to accept it as part of the job. NO! We grieve, as we live, in community. I am weary, but I will be damned if I will accept this world as it is. Our children deserve better

 


I was gladdened a few weeks ago when the newest affordable housing complex in Calgary broke ground that the government corrected the service provider gently on the use of terms. It was deemed by the service provider as “permanent supportive housing” yet the MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly), when announcing pointed to it as “permanent housing with supports”. Many will think this is just semantics b.s. that does not amount to anything but hair splitting. But it matters for the terms lead to the conditions which lead to the ability to create healthy communities through an interconnection of healthy interdependent citizens and their homes. It is the terms and conditions which outline the corporate and personal responsibilities for all stake holders.

Despite the long battle the City Council of Calgary had over secondary suites, and folks attempting to justify who their neighbours should be through red tape, let us be honest—we all have good or not so good neighbours—it has nothing to do with how they live (rent/own) but rather other life events that have shaped their personality. (and yes I am gladly awaiting new neighbours with secondary suites, and lane-way/mini housing). This is the hitch, and why words matter when describing housing (or as one round table for the federal government on housing in Calgary phrased it with member of Parliament (for Calgary Centre and at that time Cabinet Minister) Kent Hehr, spectrum of homes which is not just rental, but ownership).

I look to my own neighborhood. It is a mash up of group homes; long term care; seniors residence; affordable housing (which is a spectrum from near market; percentage off market to geared to income) rentals; family and friends couch surfing; shared accommodations; at one point I am sure folks residing in hotels; market rentals; condos; townhouses and houses (owned/rented).   As noted in rental there is different ways rents can be figured in; same with seniors or assisted living facilities or group homes, ½ way houses; Supportive Roommates (supported independent/interdependent living), sober housing and harm reduction (sometimes sadly becomes harm acceptance). All rolled up for singles; couples; roomies; and families (sometimes fur family allowable, sometimes not). As well, home ownership which can be straight through Canadian Mortgage; Habitat for Humanity style ownership or Affordable Homes (or perhaps another way I have not heard of yet).

These ways have a qualifying mechanism which can be as simple as credit/debt ratios to sweat equity to income levels to medical and/or care provisions. Each, depending on where they fall on the spectrum; have rules, regulations and laws that govern contractual obligations, complaint mechanisms, accountability tools, acts and levels of government that may or may not oversee, whom to seek out for conflict resolution or mediation. Essentially it lays out in computer terms for apps the terms and conditions. That is what are the rights and responsibilities for the owner/service providers/landlord/tenant/owner while building a healthy home, and when the need arises through positive or negative means—transitions out of that home to the next.

The contractual obligations before signing, while signed and at dissolution.

This is why I applaud the NDP (New Democratic Party) government in their subtle caring way for reminding us of that. In this example Permanent Supportive Housing falls under a legislative licensing act in Alberta which has a ministry; specific protocols of provision (i.e. housekeeping and/or meals); and a very specific anonymous tip line for complaints to protect the resident. This aids the tenant and the staff of the facility. For it lets the staff know their rights and responsibilities, also for the tenant, it allows their rights and responsibilities to be clearly understood and known by not only them but their circles of support (professionals paid to be in their lives, and social supports ala family, friends and chosen family).

The terms and conditions allows one when seeking a home, whether it is moving from one tenancy to the next, or into care or out of shelter to understand that what they are needing/looking/qualify for…is what is being offered by the operator and/or property.

Seek clarity, on what specifically the terms and conditions are.

More precisely, seek clarity on what this means for the rights and responsibilities of all involved in the contractual arrangement.

By knowing this. By being informed. It allows for a healthy home to flourish for the individual, couple, roomies or family…and by proxy be a healthy piece of the puzzle for the growth of healthy communities in truly living out the understanding of being and knowing neighbour.

Ty Ragan Psy.D. has worked many decades as a community builder in many styles of housing  for what many would term vulnerable populations, but are always someone’s neighbour seeking a healthy home.


Dear Premier Notley:

You did the impossible, toppled a dynasty that had begun rotting from the centre out, the top down, the bottom up and the outside in. 44 years and done. Yet in the time your new Government has been in power it has been the same cycle of petty partisan politics, and not the new day we hoped for casting our votes for change.

This is an open letter to your government to refocus on Albertans in such a way that partisanship no longer matters. Business should not longer be conducted as the Tory-tatorship did it.  It needs to be open, party branding becoming irrelevant, and getting the best MLA’s regardless of party affiliation for the job.

It is not just about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, oil economies have cycles of ups and downs, but during downs stimulus and change need to be the focus.

What does this mean? This is simply one Albertans’ perspective:

  1. Time to let the Skeletons out of the Closets, a full audit of government by an outside body. Time to clean house of cronyism, backroom deals, forced through legislation, hidden taxes (the Government calls them user fees), and bringing all laws in line with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Constitution Act 1982, and the Health Act. Yes in a far sweeping inquiry some Dippers may go down as well, but if they are not focused on the full good of Alberta then so they should.
  2. Term Limits: Hard and fast for all elected officials…that’s right MLA’s limited to 3 elected terms in their life times; and for the Civic Elections your government oversees, 2 term limits only. Time to abolish the idea of politician as a career and get it back to true public service. Oh and shrink the size of the Legislature seriously we are at least 20 MLA’s to large (MLA Greg Clarke would be great to spear head these changes)
  3. MLA Pension/Severance Packages—seriously???? Simply put, follow your party’s conscience with Raj Pannu’s votes on these issues: NO!!!! Abolish retroactively.
  4. Health care: this should be a no brainer for a NDP government with the proud history of Tommy Douglas–a true one pay system is the cheapest most efficient–time to get Alberta back on track with public health care, and stretch it to include dental and optical.  MLA David Swann would be great to take on this portfolio.
  5. Charging for parking at hospitals—this is a ridiculous fee for service that keeps low income Calgarians away from accessing care, and families financially challenged for accessing the Children’s Hospital.
  6. AB Works/AISH/Human Services—the greatest inefficiencies as it is a system designed to keep people out, not work with the person at the community level to ensure proper care for Albertans….and seriously who decided that $323/month was an appropriate rental allowance for a person on social assistance?
  7. Pay Day Loans–seriously, we still allow legalized loan sharking—a 6% rate drop is not even a start of a solution-let a Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt  take on this cancer.
  8. School boards—Okay, huge bureaucracy, huge expenses on elections, and elected boards which are minimally duplicated twice in the public arena by Public and Catholic boards, then multiple fundings for private schools, etc…  Hmmm…what a quagmire? Perhaps it is time to realize that school principles can handle budgets, every child is appropriately coded, and each building has a need of a care taking staff for up keep with centralized trades people for bigger issues than that…yet what we have is schools falling apart, private schools admitting they get monies for special needs kids but direct the money away from the child to the general pool (YES HERITAGE Christian Academy Calgary I am looking at you and your admission 4 years ago at a Renfrew School Parents Recruitment Night, at least unlike the other Special Needs Private School you had enough common sense not to refer to our kids with the “R” word)…and so on… so what does all the excess bureaucracy give us? A craptacular education system, that needs to be reduced to simplicity…a few accountants in the Education Minister’s office doing money transfers to the schools to manage their finances. Abolishing all boards and folding into one local public school, oh and the tax money paid through taxes? Calgary Board of Education never collects it all—bad money management, that can be pooled. What does a localized strong public school give to a community? A central gathering point of celebration, learning and growth. As communities cycle through ages, and school attendance numbers drop do not sell off the capital, reinvigorate it with ideas for changing demographics, using different spaces for different community programs i.e. seniors clubs, social clubs, etc.
  9. Busing, lunch room fees and school fees…. seriously! Constitution Act 1982–Free Public Education—have you read it recently? And as a family with a special needs child, we have no choice in where our son goes to school, so then we get dinged for busing when I can’t take him to his local school.
  10. Utility companies—California failed with deregulation–then Klein deregulated—it is time to end this horrible experiment that punishes families financially.

Alberta is a great province to live in. But the cost of living is going through the roof, look at the high level of access of community meals, food banks, those opting out of the illegal school fees, making tough choices on paying the utility bills, internet (yes it is no longer optional in an education world that drives more to have everything online) or rent.

This is an open letter for there was hope when the Government changed…but that hope needs to be reignited…are you a Premier that will move beyond ideology to solutions that will help Albertans? Solutions that will correct decades of errors and punishments on the working classes?

Remember, the Alberta Government is not the NDP Party, it is made up of 84 MLA’s from across 5 parties currently, and it is a mixture of this wisdom that Albertans want guiding our province forward. Are you willing to actually show that Government can work for the people?

Sincerely,
Ty Ragan

A Parent, a Taxpayer, someone wondering where more money is to miraculously appear from.


I can already here the outcry going that is rather harsh words for the hard done by corporation that is Direct Energy, but it has been a long road to attempt to get back from them, $153 which they are refusing to return. Which may not seem like a huge amount but for a family with a special needs child and another child, that is a good chunk of our grocery budget.

This story begins on July 4 when bill payments were put forward online. To save money on bank fees I avoid the auto pays, and it also allows for when utilities fluctuate to not have to get behind on a bill.

During this round of bill payment I could swear like every month I clicked Just Energy as with the last 3 years of payments, but I do not know if it was my error or the website payment but this money went to Direct Energy Regulated Services instead (to a closed account I might add).

This error was discovered when the new Just Energy bill came to my inbox mid month and it was double what it should be, and a bit of checking revealed the error. We are now at the beginning of August and Direct Energy is incommunicado and not willing to refund the money.

Here is what is known for truth:

  1. Direct Energy did not respond to any online contact attempts to correct the error.
  2. Friday night July 29 I spoke to 4 different operators, the first 3 kept redirecting me away from “This Direct Energy to this Direct Energy Regulated Services Number” which brought me back to the same loop.
  3. 4th operator stated that any payment sent to a closed account was impossible as it would bounce right back.
  4. Pointed out this had not happened, and there has been no account for 3 years with Direct Energy (whichever one). So I once again gave closed account number, my address, postal code, city, and name. They stated I was not the account holder so they could not disclose anything to me or it would be a breach of privacy.
  5. Stated to operator that account holder was my father, we share same last name. Operator still would not budge.
  6. My father called back the following day, Direct Energy stated if there was money received in error a cheque would be processed within 30 days and sent out, but would not verify when or if this would happen. This is now to the account holder on record.
  7. Why account holder of a closed account on record does not matter in this case: (a) Direct Energy had been accepting payments from the non-account holder for years up until 3 years ago, so this would already show a breach of privacy on their part as I was getting the bills to my e-mail. (b) Just Energy took over the account 3 years ago with my signature authorizing it.  This shows Direct Energy accepted me as the account holder and as such should have simply EFT’ed the money back to my account.
  8. The Hail Mary if you will, was contacting my actual bank. The online secure contact with the details proved fruitless for their secure online answer was call their 24/7 customer line to open an investigation.
  9. Called the 24/7 line last night, and the operator was as helpful as they could be. An investigation was opened and money was credited back to my account with the caveat it would remain ONLY if DIRECT ENERGY refunded the money to the bank, otherwise they would mail me a letter out and remove the money.
  10. So there is $153 in my account sitting there that I could use for groceries, but could not take the hit of money being pulled out if Direct Energy is like Direct Energy.

So that is the story awaiting resolution, that needs to be shared so others can understand the convoluted system that exists with Alberta’s privatized/de-regulated power sector. The crime that has been perpetuated upon us, and that truly there is no mechanism in place to reclaim any monies from mega-corps.

Our family waits, to see if the money turns up, for to keep the power on I had to pay out double to Just Energy end of July which skewered quite badly our family budget, it harkens back to the Klein Days of Alberta of “Feed the Kids or pay the power”.

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