Alberta Social Policy Framework Outlines Plans For More Facilitation Among Agencies

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ALBERTA SOCIAL POLICY FRAMEWORK
A new social policy framework outlined by Premier Alison Redford calls for government to reduce its role as provider and focus more on influencing and facilitating work among social agencies. (Alamy) | Alamy

EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Alison Redford says her government plans to dictate less and focus more on harnessing the energy of agencies to deliver social programs.

"We have government that has invested heavily in social programs across this province," Redford said Thursday.

"But we've also seen over a period of time a number of initiatives and programs that have developed in response to particular circumstances, and at no time have we taken the time to sit down and ask ourselves: 'How do these connect?'"

Redford made the comments at a care facility as she outlined her government's new blueprint of guiding principles for social programs.

The core change is the role of government from funder and legislator to convener and partner.

The strategy was developed following consultations with 31,000 Albertans last year.

Human Services Minister Dave Hancock said input was critical because while the government is the driving force, "we didn't want it to be our policy. We wanted it to be owned by community agencies.

"One of the most important pieces of social policy is that it's community owned and driven."

The framework focuses on how to avoid policy being made on the fly in response to crises.

It also promises solutions that get to the root of problems rather than the symptoms.

About 4,000 government agencies will work more closely together on the principle that many social problems — such as housing, child care and unemployment — are often intertwined.

Martin Garber-Conrad, head of the Edmonton Community Foundation, said the key is the recognition that social problems overlap, but he said words in a blueprint are still just words.

Referring to the young children who were on stage for the announcement, Garber-Conrad said, "Those children in 15 or 20 years, standing in for all the children of Alberta, will be asking us: 'Did we do this? Did we turn these good ideas into action?

"I believe that's our challenge."

The policy acknowledged that despite Alberta's wealth, the gap between rich and poor is increasing.

Art Korpach, chairman of the United Way in Calgary, said time is of the essence.

"In Calgary alone we have over 120,000 people who live on low incomes, and we know as a community that is not good and we can do better."

NDP critic Rachel Notley said what the premier calls facilitation is code for government off-loading responsibility for those most in need.

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