Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Here is a breath of fresh air!

February 7, 2007

Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft Unveils Democracy Action Plan

For Albertans to capitalize on their province’s astonishing opportunities they need to regain a voice, says Kevin Taft, Leader of Alberta’s Official Opposition in his new book, Democracy Derailed - The Breakdown of Government Accountability in Alberta – and How to Get it Back on Track.

Taft lays out over 35 ways an Alberta Liberal government would achieve this. Below are five highlights of this action plan:

1. The legislation creating the position of the auditor general, the Auditor General Act, should be reviewed to ensure that the powers of Alberta’s auditor general are at least equivalent to those of the federal auditor general.

· “It’s hard to imagine the work of an Alberta auditor general helping to bring down a government, even though the office is empowered by powerful legislation. Fred Dunn is our strongest auditor general in years, but he’s no Sheila Fraser. Instead of forcing complete accountability, he offers gentle, carefully worded criticisms of government failings. In Alberta, the auditor general sometimes walks loudly, but he always carries a small stick. (p. 55/56).

2. The legislation that governs FOIP, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, must be thoroughly reviewed and revamped. The public interest in obtaining information must prevail over the government’s interest in concealing it.

· “In Alberta, freedom of information is a contradiction in terms. For one thing once you start scouting around for government information, you quickly discover that it’s anything but free.” (p .71)

· “Freedom of information in Alberta is heavily weighted in favor of the government, effectively providing it with the means, within the law, to keep from the public any information it deems sensitive.” (p. 72)

. The $14.4 million Public Affairs Bureau should be disbanded.

· "It's the largest public relations operation in western Canada…. that in 2006-07 employed the equivalent of 117 full time staff." (p.106)

· "They manipulate our perception of Alberta's government and then charge taxpayers millions for the service. The Public Affairs Bureau is in effect a public relations agency for the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta." (p. 104)

· "More and more I hear from people who are cynical, frustrated and skeptical in dealing with their own provincial government. They know they are being manipulated and they resent having to pay for it." (p. 108)

4. Strike a citizen’s assembly on electoral reform similar to the one in British Columbia with a commitment to put its recommendations to a province-wide vote during the next general election.

· “… massive landslides often effectively stifle the political voice of at least half of the electorate. No wonder voter turnout has dwindled over the years.” (p. 42)

· “There is almost no chance the Tories will bring a new electoral system to Alberta because they’ve got nothing to gain from it.” (p. 41)

5. Enact whistle-blower legislation based on best practices elsewhere.

· “When people witness wrongs, they must feel safe to express their concerns, no matter whom they might offend in the process.” (p. 34)

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For more information, contact:

Yolande Cole, Media Liaison
(780) 446-6868
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