Provincial Election Priorities

This guide will help you meaningfully engage with candidates on affordable housing, income security, and public safety

6 April 2023

Starting a dialogue

Albertans go to the polls on May 29, 2023, to elect their representative in the Alberta Legislature. Vibrant Communities Calgary has prepared this guide to help voters and candidates engage meaningfully about the challenges surrounding affordable housing, income security, and public safety that are present in all parts of our province. 

The past two years has have been marked by affordability challenges in Alberta, with food prices rising at the highest rate in nearly 20 years, rental costs rising by nearly 30%, and a vacancy rate at its lowest in over 14 years. And, despite the construction of over 3,500 purpose-built rentals in Calgary last year, only about 5% are considered affordable for low-income households, placing extra demands on public services and budgets. Additionally, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) suffered the most job losses in the past two years, had greater health implications from the pandemic, and are overrepresented in most areas of poverty.

Alberta has many policy tools to address poverty, to set people up for success, and grow our affordable housing stock. In fact, recent investments in the social service sector are a great start towards addressing the root causes of social disorder, rising costs of rent, and inadequate income supports.

VCC has been engaging with Enough for All Champions about their election priorities and Calgary’s Social Policy Collaborative has conducted research on several issues related to poverty in our province. Based on this, VCC has developed a list of priorities for the 2023 election. Equipped with these priorities, Calgarians can inform candidates of priority issues and find out where they stand.


percentage rental cost have risen for some over the past year


of purpose built rentals were affordable for low income Calgarians

Priority 1: Grow Alberta's Housing Stock

Commit an additional $90 million each year to deliver on the province’s affordable housing goals.

Review operating agreements with service providers to better understand appropriate funding levels to address growing challenges facing vulnerable Albertans.

Provide an immediate 10% increase and fully index existing operating agreements.

The government of Alberta’s affordable housing strategy commits to assist up to 25,000 additional households over the next 10 years. However, capital and operational funding allocations do not cover the costs to deliver on these commitments, let alone maintain units within the existing inventory.  Mental health and addictions-related issues have also grown more complex, placing increased demands on the homeless serving sector.

The Social Policy Collaborative outlines three key policy recommendations to help the provincial government meet its commitment to Albertans in need of affordable housing. Polling data showing that 70% of Albertans agree that the provincial government has an obligation to invest in building new affordable housing units.

hands holding an empty black wallet

Priority 2: Livable Incomes

Reduce the Penalty for Working While on Income Support

Income Support programs currently penalize recipients for working. Once a person finds a job and their employment income exceeds $230 per month, their benefit is reduced by $0.75 for each additional dollar earned and disappears completely, along with other related benefits and services, including health and dental before they earn enough to meet the poverty line. By increasing the exempt income amount and the income exemption rate, a single individual could better cover their essential expenses and strengthen their attachment to the workforce.

This brief highlights opportunities to improve the effectiveness of Alberta’s Income and Employment Support programs. These programs will be essential to the province’s economic recovery as Albertans seek support to meet their essential needs and find new opportunities to become self-sufficient through employment.

A Guaranteed Basic Income in Alberta

A guaranteed basic income, with benefit amounts based on taxable income, would address many gaps in our income support system made obvious during the pandemic.  Millions of Canadians including 1,071,450 Albertans applied for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), demonstrating our income support system is out of date and not sufficient to meet people’s needs. A guaranteed basic income would provide an income floor for those doing socially essential but unpaid work, would enable individuals to pursue educational, occupational, social and wellness opportunities, and support entrepreneurship and job transition for those trying to establish a new productive role for themselves. A University of Calgary School of Public Policy report says the cost may be less burdensome than many would think.

Index the minimum wage to inflation

Research suggests a one-dollar increase in minimum wage leads to 5% lower odds of experiencing food insecurity. Alberta is the only province that didn’t increase its minimum wage in 2022 and is one of four provinces that doesn’t periodically adjust its minimum wage based on the cost of living. It’s also worth mentioning that Calgary’s living wage is $7.40 an hour more than our $15 per hour minimum wage.

Priority 3: Demonstrate Meaningful Commitments Towards Anti-Racism

Address the recommendations in the 2021 Alberta Anti-Racism Advisory Council Report

Racism is real and it is pervasive in all aspects of our systems and structures. The more recently a person has immigrated to Canada, the more likely they are to be living in low income. Black, Indigenous, and other People of Colour are over-represented in our justice system and many experience discrimination in our housing market. In 2021 Alberta’s Anti-Racism Advisory Council published recommendations, including a coordinated, consistent provincial strategy to address inequity and systemic racism across all sectors. They also recommended that an Ombudsperson office be established with staff to investigate all complaints about policing in Alberta, and addressing the overlap in responsibility and duplication of services between the Offices of Equity and Diversity in universities and the Human Rights Commission. There is an opportunity for the government to demonstrate meaningful commitment towards anti-racism by implementing the recommendations in the report.

Calgary Transit bus on a dark street

Priority 4: A Balanced Approach to Community Safety

Increased investment for multidisciplinary community support teams

Calgary’s community mobile crisis response program pilot and Edmonton’s Community Outreach Transit Team pilot (COTT) improve crisis response by offering support teams composed of a social worker, peer support worker and practitioners with medical or health training. The evidence is clear, mental health professionals and social workers are better equipped than uniformed officers when responding to nonviolent social issues. The Provincial government must also direct financial resources to address the root causes of social disorder such as improved access to mental health supports, addiction supports and affordable housing.  And finally, the government must ensure that measures to increase Police presence does not have the unintended consequence of targeting racialized citizens who already experience disproportionate levels of surveillance compared to non-racialized citizens.

Priority 5: Start Measuring What Matters

Integrate quality of life measurements into policy making

Canada is a member of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, a collaboration of countries who are committed to improving our economic model by shifting our reliance on GDP to measures that are based on quality of life and well-being. There are outstanding international, and local examples to draw from such as the World Happiness Report and OECD’s Better Life Index to local initiatives like the Calgary Equity Index, Sustainable Calgary’s State of Our City Report, and the Enough for All Community Wellbeing Report. As the primary funder for health, and social services there is an opportunity for the provincial government to consult with civil society towards the creation of a quality-of-life policy framework that prioritizes well-being based on the different social determinants of health.

Collect standardized Early Development Instrument data as part of a province-wide early childhood development monitoring system

There is a significant gap in data related to childhood development. Research suggests that quality childhood education can reduce the need for additional supports in schools, reduce the drop-out rate, and prevent future crime. The Early Child Development Mapping Project, administered by the Government of Alberta in 2014 shows less than half of kindergarten-aged children in Alberta are developing appropriately in five key areas of development however the study was never replicated.

Priority 6: Make Private Career Colleges a Safe Choice for Students

Increase investment and staffing of PCC oversight bodies to strengthen compliance mechanisms and transparency.

Strengthen regulations regarding advertising and recruitment practices.

Higher standards and greater scrutiny of financial aid for PCC programs. 

Require the periodic review and re-evaluation of PCC curriculum content and learning materials.

Ensure and uphold minimum standards and qualifications for instructors.

Students in Private Career Colleges (PCC) are three times more likely to default on their student loans, have lower job placement rates, and often carry higher debt loads compared to students in publicly funded colleges. In the report High Hopes, High Costs: Protecting Students at Private Career Colleges, Momentum identified some worrisome trends in the PCC sector that serve to undermine the credibility of our education system and put students at risk of serious financial strain. Some of the concerns identified were incorrect information about programs, courses, and institutions; aggressive and misleading recruitment practices; poor quality of education, including quality of instructors, curriculum, and student resources; low employment and earnings outcomes post-graduation, and more.


Big spending, but will it last?

Alberta’s 2023 Provincial Budget included multiple investments in some key Enough for All priorities, including indexation of income support programs, addressing workforce challenges in the homeless-serving sector, mental health, and affordable housing.