|Albertans want industry emissions reduced: poll
The majority of Albertans believe the provincial government should do more to protect the environment in the face of oilsands development, according to a report released by the Pembina Institute on May 30.
"The results of the survey show Albertans vision is very different than current plans for oilsands development," says Simon Dyer, senior policy analyst for the Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based, environmental policy think-tank. "Basically, what this all points to is Albertans want oilsands development done right and done with higher environmental standards."
This report is a followup to a survey released last week by the institute, which suggested that Albertans want royalty rates paid to the provincial government to increase.
"The sad thing is, of course, if we increase royalty rates, we could actually get the same economic growth benefits with less environmental damage," says Dyer, adding that the Klein government is heading in the other direction.
According to the report, 91 per cent of Albertans believe protecting the environment is important, even if it means slowing down oilsands development, and 82 per cent believe that wildlife should be protected.
The report follows a recent announcement by the provincial government that it will implement regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Details, however, are scarce. Kim Hunt, spokesperson for the provincial government, says the new policy will be revealed in the fall.
"We are still determining what the targets will look like. Basically, we are still consulting," says Hunt. "As part of the climate change taking action plan, we would be putting in place regulation targets. Our plan calls for a 50 per cent intensity reduction in emissions by 2020 (based on 1990 levels)."
Dyer says based on conservative estimates, Alberta will likely produce at least four million barrels of oil per day by 2020, up from the current one million, while some speculate the number could get as high as 10 million barrels per day.
"We are happy the provincial government has started talking about greenhouse gas emissions," says Dyer. "But a reduction in emissions by 2020 will be dwarfed by the increased production. Even if we reduce emissions by 50 per cent, they will still be twice as high by 2020."
ATA president calls for immediate school funding
Alberta Teachers Association president Frank Bruseker is calling for immediate funding increases to Alberta school boards.
In a letter to Education Minister Gene Zwozdesky, Bruseker asked him to meet with the school boards a soon as possible to address growing concerns over school infrastructure costs, class sizes and consequent layoffs of first-year teachers.
"When I add up the funding needs for school boards, I think we need at least an additional $30 million provincewide, I wouldnt be surprised if it ends up being $50 million," says Bruseker. "I want to see the funding put in place prior to September 1, so when schools open in the fall, students and teachers will have the needed resources."
Calgary is suffering from massive infrastructure issues in its schools, particularly older facilities in the inner city. An estimated $450 million is needed for roof repairs, boiler repairs, new windows, etc.
Bruseker estimates Edmonton and Calgary school boards are facing roughly $7 million deficits each.
"Boards will be forced to reduce numbers of teachers, which will cause class sizes to increase."
On the long weekend in May, the ATA passed a resolution, which was then forwarded to the education minister. Carried unanimously, the resolution read: "Be it resolved that the Alberta Teachers Association urge the government of Alberta to provide an immediate and significant increase to its 2006-07 base funding instructional grants to school boards."
Currently, the school boards receive a 3.2 per cent budget increase annually, which Bruseker says probably doesnt even cover inflation, let alone the increased costs resulting from growth.
"Public education is in serious trouble," says Ray Martin, public education critic for the NDP. "There is that perception in the public that things are OK, but parents will notice when kids go back to school in September into overloaded classrooms."
Martin says the Tories simply have not given school boards enough funding, and that the governments response has been "to deny, deny, deny."
Zwozdesky says it is premature to worry about budget issues until all school board budget requests are submitted prior the end of June.
Calgary dollars continues to expand
Calgary Dollars, a movement devoted to building self-sustaining local economies, is growing steadily, says Melissa Centofanti, one of the organizers.
After a series of successful potluck suppers and garage sales, and rising support from businesses and individuals alike, Centofanti says the grassroots organization is encouraging participation in several communities across the city.
"Activities are popping up everywhere. We are growing in profile, which is great," she says, adding that the program has expanded into Bowness.
Calgary Dollars are a form of unofficial currency honoured by members to promote local production and community involvement. It is also intended to encourage people to rethink currency and resist the big-box stores.
"Its not about saving it in your wallet," says Centofanti. "Its about changing peoples ideas about money you cant use your bank card. Its more about the people behind the money, not the profit."
For more information about Calgary Dollars and a list of participating businesses, go to the website at calgarydollars.ca.