Alberta election campaign continues with competing promises for women’s shelters

Rear view of an unrecognizable abused woman sitting on her bed looking out the window. Alvaro Medina Jurado/Getty Images

Alberta’s two main political parties offered competing visions Wednesday for women’s shelters and sexual assault counselling centres as the second week of Alberta’s election campaign continued.

Voters go to the polls on May 29.

The week has been dominated by United Conservative Leader Danielle Smith’s past comments comparing those who were vaccinated for COVID-19 to Nazi supporters.

Smith didn’t make any public appearances Wednesday, but some UCP candidates promised to increase support for women’s shelters and sexual assault counselling centres if their party is re-elected.

“We know that women and children are disproportionately impacted by violence and in particular domestic violence,” Tanya Fir, one of the Calgary candidates, said during a news conference.

“To help support women and children who are at risk, a re-elected United Conservative government will provide $20 million (over four years) for women’s shelters and for sexual assault counselling.”

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Fir said $10 million of that money would go to counselling centres across Alberta, while the other $10 million would go to women’s shelters.

“Albertans are looking for a government with a credible plan to address increasing crime in our communities while protecting survivors,” said Fir.

The candidates couldn’t say when that money would be provided to the shelters and centres.

Click to play video: 'Gender-based violence on the rise in Edmonton'
Gender-based violence on the rise in Edmonton

Earlier in the day, the NDP released a statement that it would ensure women’s shelters and sexual assault services have the resources needed if the party is elected as government.

Janis Irwin, who’s the Opposition critic for women’s issues and a candidate in Edmonton, said the UCP has failed to support the centres, failed to support survivors and then falsely claimed they turned down extra funding.

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“This is unacceptable,” she said in the statement Wednesday.

“Women’s shelters and sexual assault centres deserve better, and they deserve a government that will ensure they have the resources that they need to support survivors. We will provide them with immediate funding and then work with them to develop long-term stable funding based on demand and outcomes.”

Irwin said an NDP government would provide $9 million in the first year for sexual assault service providers to reduce wait times, expand counselling and ensure service providers can pay adequate wages.

She said it would provide another $8 million to domestic violence shelters to address inflation and allow those shelters to address any shortfalls in operations and increase wages appropriately.

Click to play video: '‘Unprecedented’ 45% turnover rate in Alberta domestic violence sector: ACWS'
‘Unprecedented’ 45% turnover rate in Alberta domestic violence sector: ACWS

The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters said in a statement Wednesday that there are immediate funding needs, but that the sector would also like to see legislative updates to two provincial laws.

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NDP Leader Rachel Notley also had no public events Wednesday, but some of her colleagues held a news conference to raise concerns about a newly uncovered video from October 2021 showing Smith proposing to sell off hospitals to private operators.

“These are extreme views and they are part of a defined pattern of extreme views held by Danielle Smith,” said Kathleen Ganley, an NDP candidate in Calgary.

“Earlier this week, a video emerged in which she compared the vast majority of Albertans who were vaccinated against COVID-19 to followers of Adolf Hitler. She said she would no longer wear a poppy because of the public health measures.”

On Tuesday, Smith declined to discuss comments she made in 2021, saying it was time to move on from the “dark days” of the pandemic.

She also declined to answer why she was allowed to stay on as a UCP candidate while the party last year barred a candidate from running in part for making similar comments.

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