|Wildrose party pledges education support|
|Local Content - Local News|
|Written by Dave Mabell|
|Wednesday, 04 April 2012 14:13|
Alberta schools would be prohibited from charging student fees, if Danielle Smith becomes the province's next premier.
The Wildrose party leader announced the ban â€” accompanied by more tax support for public schools, during a campaign stop Friday in Lethbridge, which later included a stop at Johnsonâ€™s Drugs in Taber.
"A Wildrose government would ban mandatory school fees, and bring an end to this unfair nickel-and-diming of Alberta families," she said.
That would save families an average of $100 for every child, she said. The ban would apply to all public, "public charter" and Catholic schools in Alberta.
In Lethbridge, high school students pay at least $100 plus a variety of course fees in addition to caution fees. Party officials say the schools would still be able to levy refundable locker and textbook fees, as well as the costs of field trips and extra-curricular activities.
Current costs to Alberta parents is estimated between $40-$80 million â€” an amount she'd add to the province's education budget to offset the ban, Smith said.
The ban, she said, "Would ensure there are no unfair barriers to education, while alleviating undue financial burdens on families."
Elimination of the fees, Smith said, would be part of a package of family friendly measures she'd implement if elected on April 23.
"Wildrose is standing up for Alberta families by helping to make day-to-day life more affordable," she said.
Earlier in the week, Smith announced plans to offer a $2,000 child tax credit, worth about $400 for a middle-income family. It would be phased in after the province's budget is balanced and there's a "confirmed cash surplus over $250 million," possibly in 2014.
The tax credit would do little for low-income families - one Alberta child in five is reported to be living in poverty - but Smith said other programs would help those families.
On other issues, Smith said she'd take her time in deciding whether to save the Castle River recreational area, now being clear-cut logged as part of a multi-year harvest approved by the Conservative government. Some Wildrose election candidates are in the forestry industry, she pointed out.
"We don't want to rush into decisions during a campaign," she added.
If elected, Smith said a Wildrose caucus, "Would have robust discussions," over the merits of saving recreational land versus opening it for economic advantage.
On the MLA pay issue, she said politicians should receive a base salary â€” rolling back the 30 per cent added during Premier Ed Stelmach's time, with no additional pay for attending committee meetings. On another matter, she said Wildrose would hire more RCMP members and add five "dedicated CheckStops" to reduce drinking and driving.
Smith also repeated previous pledges to halt shut-down plans for the City Centre Airport in Edmonton, and to cancel provincial support for a new Royal Alberta Museum there until higher-priority projects are in hand. The airport, she said, is a vital part of northern Alberta's airborne medivac network.
"Health care is a provincial issue," beyond city council's power.
Later in the day, Smith met a group of local business people during a reception at the Galt Museum on the city before making brief "photo-op" stops in Coaldale and Taber. She was scheduled to end the day with a regional rally in Medicine Hat.