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List of issues to be taken up in connection with the consideration of the third periodic report of Canada : United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (June 10, 1998)

Alberta Government Response
3. What is the opinion of federal, provincial and municipal governments as to the effect of current or proposed trade and investment agreements such as NAFTA, FTAA and the MAI on their ability to fulfill obligations under the Covenant and what processes have been put in place to review this question?

Alberta believes the Canada - U.S. Free-Trade Agreement and the NAFTA have not had any detrimental effect on the ability of the province to pursue and implement economic, social, or cultural policies it considers appropriate and necessary for the well-being of all Albertans. To the contrary, the Canada - U.S. FTA and NAFTA have provided substantial economic benefits to the provincial economy, resulting in better circumstances than would otherwise have been the case to pursue broader economic, social and cultural objectives.

With respect to the Free-Trade Agreement of the Americas and the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, as there are no agreements in place (they are currently being negotiated), there are no actual circumstances to evaluate as to their effect on the province. As is the case in the negotiation of all of Canada's international trade and investment agreements, the province participates fully to ensure that its interests and concerns are addressed

Alberta was the first province or territory in Canada to commit itself to the North American Agreement on Labour Cooperation (NAALC), a side agreement to the NAFTA. The NAALC requires signatories to effectively enforce its labour laws, outlines key labour principles in support of worker rights and promotes collaboration between all workplace stakeholders in creating highly productive, creative, fair and safe workplaces. This is one indicator of Alberta's recognition of the importance of meaningful labour standards in the economic growth of both the province and the country.

Alberta Labour regulations related to items outlined in the Covenant undergo periodic review and assessment. Within Alberta the following government organizations oversee the provisions outlined in the Covenant:

Employment Standards:

The Employment Standards Code and Regulations (last revised March 1, 1997) describes the minimum rights and obligations of employers and employees in areas including payment of wages, hours of work and overtime pay, vacations and vacations pay, general holidays and general holiday pay, termination of employment and parental benefits. Also included within the Employment Standards Code are provisions for maternity and adoption leave, the employment of adolescents and young people, and the employment of farm labourers and domestics.

Workplace Health and Safety:

The Occupational health and Safety Act and Regulations establishes the responsibilities and duties of employers and employees to protect workers' health and safety. It promotes health and safety in the work place by providing information to employers and workers, and promotes compliance through the ability to conduct inspections, investigate incidents and complaints. Operationally Workplace Health and Safety train and certify auditors, and work with industry, institutions and government to reduce injury and Workers' Compensations Board claims.

Occupational Health and Safety Council:

An independent body responsible to the Minister of Labour which hears appeals on Orders issued by Occupational health and Safety Officers and advises the Minister on matters concerning the Occupational Health and Safety Act and on matters pertaining to the health and safety of Alberta workers.

Labour Relations Board:

The Labour Relations Code (Code) guarantees the right to collective bargaining and establishes a framework for bargaining relationships between employers and employees. The Labour Relations Board is a quasi-judicial body responsible for providing fair, impartial and efficient resolution to matters related to the interpretation and application of the Code. The Board processes applications regarding application of the Code, conducts hearings and assists parties in resolving disputes.

8. Will the Government of Canada be acting on the recommendations of the Canadian Human Rights Commission that the ambit of human rights protections in Canada be expanded to include social and economic rights? What are the views of the provincial commissioners on this issue?

Human rights legislation is constantly evolving. Other protections are added as they become necessary. As an example, a recent review of the Alberta human rights legislation resulted in "source of income" being included as a protected ground.

9. Please provide to the Committee with information from each Human Rights Commission in Canada about cases in which the Covenant has been used in interpreting or applying human rights legislation.

We are unaware of any cases in which the Covenant has been used in Alberta.

10. Please provide an estimate of the percentage of human rights complaints filed with each Human Rights Commission in Canada which are adjudicated and explain how this is consistent with the Committee=s General Comment No. 3 para 5. Can the Government of Quebec explain how its system is different and provide an estimate of the percentage of human rights complaints in Quebec that are not dismissed?

Fewer than 1% of the cases before the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission are adjudicated by a panel. The focus of the Commission is one of mediation and education.

12. What is the Federal Government's and each provincial government's position with respect to whether "workfare" programs discriminate against welfare recipients and are contrary to article 2 of the Covenant? Please explain the Government of Quebec's position in the Lambert case.

Alberta's temporary work experience programs for welfare recipients (sometimes inappropriately referred to as "workfare" programs) are not considered to contravene the Covenant. These programs represent one of many options welfare recipients can chose from to assist them in moving from welfare dependency to independence. In that way, they are supportive of article 6 of the charter, as they provide the opportunity to work, which may not otherwise be available to an individual.

Alberta's programs are not based on the notion that recipients have to work in order to get welfare, but on the notion that recipients have to undertake efforts to become independent of state support to the extent of their abilities. Welfare recipients who participate in one of the temporary work experience programs receive wages (and not welfare benefits) as any other working person. In many cases, such work income is supplemented by welfare to meet family needs.

14. What is the position of each Human Rights Commission (with the exception of Quebec's) on whether "social condition" should be added as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the light of article 2 of the Covenant, and what is the position of the provincial and federal governments on this question?

Alberta Human Rights legislation has already been amended to include "source of income" as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

15. Please state whether children of non-nationals of Canada seeking to stay in Canada are denied access to social services and benefits, education or medical care which children of Canadians have access to.

Access by non-nationals and their children to some social programs may be restricted. However, with respect to social services, once non-nationals obtain an established right to stay in Canada, access to services such as social assistance, child welfare, day-care subsidy and so on is not different from that accorded to children of Canadians.
 
18. Have provinces responded by cutting social assistance rates or entitlements? Please provide information from each province about changes which have occurred from April 1995 to the present day, and any effect on the extent or depth of poverty.

In Alberta, social assistance rates or entitlements have not been affected by the move from CAP to the CHST. Since April 1995, only minor adjustments have occurred to social assistance in Alberta. Any observable and measured changes in the extent or depth or poverty would not have been as a result of the move from CAP to the CHST (and related changes to Alberta's social services programs)

The only direct reduction in Alberta program funding as a result of the elimination of CAP was in how municipalities were funded through the Family and Community Support Services program. This affected some day-care programming in particular.
 
20. With respect to the negotiations by the Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal mentioned in paragraph 86 of the Report, are the federal and provincial governments committed to restoring legal enforceability of the right to adequate financial assistance?

There have been no discussions by the Ministerial Council on Social Policy Renewal nor by social Services Ministers on restoring the legal enforceability of the right to adequate financial assistance. Even under CAP, although there was a right to adequate assistance, "adequacy" was defined within each province and CAP provided no means of legal enforcement of a particular level of benefits. Any right to adequate assistance is contained within the legislative parameters of each province.

The Council is however developing a "Framework Agreement for the Social union". If approved, this agreement may contain principles ensuring assistance to people in need, which would then be used by each province to guide the development of their social services programs.
 
21. Describe any monitoring procedures established by governments as well as non-governmental agencies to measure the effect of the 40% ($6 Billion) cut in the amount of cash transferred by the Federal Government for social assistance, health and post-secondary education between April 1995 and the end of fiscal year 1999-2000. What common effects have become evident throughout Canada?

Provincial Finance Ministers have identified effects of the federal cuts on social transfers. No specific procedures have been established in social services. Alberta has not seen a need to reduce provincial social services expenditures as a result of the reduction in federal transfers.

22. Did the previous cost-sharing of all social assistance costs and specific social programs for vulnerable groups mean that in times of greater need or in regions of greater needs, the Federal Government contributed more? Please provide information on the types of services which are no longer 50:50 cost shared, report on any reductions in those services since 1995 and provide information about the effects of any changes on vulnerable groups.

When the Federal Government reduced its share of the social housing program expenditures, the Alberta government responded with a number of initiatives designed to improve the efficiency and management of the housing portfolio. In response to a growing shortage of subsidized housing in many communities, the Alberta government also provided additional funding through the Provincial Unilateral Rent Supplement Program which was introduced in 1997 to assist household in greatest need.

When established in the 1960's the 50:50 cost-sharing formula under the Canada Assistance Plan did provide possibilities to receive greater contributions form the Federal Government in periods of greater need. However, the same formula also worked against this, since the Province had to come up with its share in a time when it could ill afford to do so.

Alberta has traditionally made programming decisions in social services based upon an assessment within the province as to whether the program or expenditure was required, irrespective of a federal contribution. In retrospect, this appears to have been prudent, especially when the cap on CAP was imposed on the three "have" provinces in the mid-eighties.
 
24. Please provide information on any provinces which require participation in "workfare" or similar programs and describe the appeal procedures in place with respect to any disentitlement from basis necessities on this ground. Are these programs applied to single parents, and if so, what exceptions apply? Is the Committee correct to assume that these programs would have been illegal under CAP?

Alberta expects from social assistance recipients that they make every effort to become independent from welfare. This general expectation was inherent under CAP and has not fundamentally changed. One of the options for clients is to enter into temporary work experience programs, which were introduced when CAP was still in existence. These programs are in spirit and technically not work for welfare programs as participants receive regular wages, which may be sufficient to keep them off welfare. Earnings received from these programs by recipients are treated the same way as other earnings.

Some client groups are exempted from an expectation to find and seek employment or training, for example: those who temporarily ill; the care-giving parent of an infant up to the age of 6 months or a disabled child; persons with severe disabilities. Although temporarily exempt, these individuals are supported to start the planning process towards employment

Disentitlements from welfare benefits as a result of a lack of effort by a client to gain independence are appealable to an independent tribunal. The appeal procedures have not changed with the placement of CAP with the CHST.

27. According to Statistics Canada, in 1991 over 40% of people with disabilities received no employment income compared to 18.5% for people without disabilities and the unemployment statistics for people with disabilities are among the highest of all minority groups. What are the steps taken by the federal, provincial and territorial governments to remedy this situation?

Persons with disabilities in Alberta are supported through a variety of programs which help them to prepare for and retain employment. These programs are offered by Human Resources Development Canada, as well as a variety of provincial government departments: Advanced Education and Career Development, Family and Social Services, Alberta Health and AADAC. Many of these programs will be renewed and enhanced under recently signed Employability Assistance for Disabled Persons Agreement.

Persons with severe disabilities receiving AISH benefits will be further supported through new provincial initiatives.
 
28. Please provide information as to the minimum wage rate in various provinces and territories and any changes in its real value over the last few years. Please indicate how the income from a full time job at minimum wage compares with the poverty line. What do the federal and provincial governments intend to do to ensure that minimum wages are adequate?

The minimum wage in Alberta was set at $5.00 per hour on April 1, 1992. In January 1998 an extensive public consultation process was undertaken with respect to various aspects of the minimum wage. On June 19, 1998 the Alberta government announced that the minimum wage would be increased to $5.90 by April 1, 1999 in three stages. This represents an increase of 18%. Since 1992, the Consumer Price Index for Alberta has increased by 10% and the Gross Domestic Product in the province has increased by 19%. It is the position of the Alberta government that this increase brings the minimum wage in line with standards of adequacy. There are no government studies that address the relationship of the minimum wage to the poverty line.
 
29. Please provide information as to the transformation of women's work to more precarious forms (part-time, homework, etc.) and the economic consequences of these changes on the poverty of women, particularly young single women with dependent children.

Economic and employment issues are at the core of many issues affecting women. As of July 1998, the total number of women in the Alberta labour force was 683,000 (an increase of 31,000 in one year). This is a labour participation rate of 65.4%, up from 62.6% in 1994.

Of the 683,000 women working for pay in Alberta, 72.8% were employed full-time and 27.2% were employed part-time. The percentage of women working full-time in Alberta has steadily increased, while the percentage employed part-time has decreased. In January 1997, there were 624,000 women in the Alberta labour force, of which 66.8% were employed full-time and 33.2% were employed part-time.

The Alberta Government offers many initiatives aimed at helping women participate in the workforce. For example, career development programs offered by the government to promote women as entrepreneurs are paying off. Women now make up approximately one-third of Alberta's self-employed workforce, up from one-quarter ten years ago.

The Alberta Government is also working on a human resources strategy that will strive to ensure that all Albertans are given every opportunity to be fully participating members of the provincial workforce.

31. Please provide information regarding the rights of farm workers and domestic workers to organize and bargain collectively and identify any changes in provincial labour legislation which has affected these rights. Is there any justification for denying these workers collective bargaining rights accorded to other workers?

There has not been any changes in Alberta's labour legislation regarding the rights of farm workers and domestic workers to organize and bargain collectively. Alberta excludes primary agriculture farm workers and privately-employed domestics from coverage under our labour relations legislation. Having said this, there are no provisions in our labour legislation that would specifically prohibit any of these groups from participating in some form of voluntary negotiation with organizations or employers they may perform services for. Such negotiations would not occur under our labour laws, and we do not believe there to be any other processes to compel an employer to voluntarily recognize the group for negotiation purposes.
 
35. Are there any provinces in Canada in which a person in need of financial assistance may have such assistance discontinued without a hearing or be denied interim assistance for basic necessities pending a hearing before an impartial adjudicator? Please provide information as to any cases in which this issue has been considered by the court and the positions taken by responding governments in those cases.

Individuals in social housing in Alberta have recourse, should they wish to exercise it, under governing legislation. If recourse is taken, individuals would not be denied interim assistance such as housing, pending an official hearing. Alberta Municipal Affairs is not aware of any cases that may have been considered by the courts.

In Alberta, an appeal process is quickly available to clients requesting social assistance or those whose assistance has been discontinued. Interim assistance while an appeal is pending is generally not provided.

36. Please estimate what it costs on average to meet the special needs arising from pregnancy and caring and providing for a new born, including special dietary needs, etc. Are these special needs provided for in social assistance rates for pregnant women? Please provide information about any changes in those benefits.

Special social assistance benefits may be provided to expectant mothers in their last trimester, as needed including special dietary needs. A natal allowance ($350 for first child and $125 for each subsequent child) is available to social assistance recipients in Alberta.
 
37. The Committee has received information that food bank use has continued to increase in Canada and has approximately doubled over the last ten years. Can the Government explain why the number and use of food banks has continued to increase? Does the Government consider the need for food banks in so affluent a country as Canada consistent with article 11 of the Covenant?

Food bank usage supplements tight budgets on social assistance or other low income, but it does not necessarily reflect a lack of funds available for food. Social assistance benefits for food are considered adequate to meet basic needs. Access to food banks allows low-income Albertans to stretch their resources for other purposes. Food banks are a valuable contribution, but not a necessity. Furthermore, the advocacy and community integration role they play has to be appreciated.

38. Please provide information as to the number of people paying more than their shelter allowance for housing and indicate whether paying for housing out of money need for food may lead to hunger in these households.

"Shelter allowance" is provided by Alberta Family and Social Services. Alberta Municipal Affairs provides social housing accommodation and charges rent based on income. Alberta Family and Social Services provides shelter allowances which individuals then use to pay for accommodation in the private market. Alberta Municipal Affairs is not aware of consequences such as those mentioned.

In Alberta, out of the 33,000 cases on social assistance in a given month, approximately two thirds claim that their housing costs are higher than what the shelter allowance provides for. In many instances, the costs of housing reflect a deliberate choice by the client to select a higher standard of accommodation than provided for under the social assistance program which only covers basic needs. A prime example is the allowance provided for single employable clients, which assumes that recipients will share accommodation rather than occupying an apartment alone.

39. What proportion of children who use food banks go hungry and how often do parents go hungry?

Alberta's social protection system is considered to be sufficient to prevent hunger and reliance on food banks. Social assistance rates for food are considered adequate for basic needs. Parents also have access to the Canada Child Tax Benefit, the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit, the Alberta Child Health benefit, subsidized day care and subsidized housing to assist with the costs of raising a child. Together, these resources should be sufficient so that families do not need to access food banks to provide for their children.

The Alberta support system is based on a strong belief of individual independence and freedom. This belief includes the notion that the individual knows best how to manage his or her affairs and is capable of managing with limited resources. This notion however may fail with a small segment of the population, leading to mismanagement, hunger and so on.

41. Please provide any available data on the extent of homelessness in various cities in Canada. At what point would the government consider homelessness in Canada to constitute a national emergency?

No government data exist on this issue.

Within Alberta, homelessness is considered to be an issue primarily in Calgary, and strategies are under development between the government and community to deal with it.

A survey conducted by private sources (advocacy groups) in Calgary estimated homelessness in Calgary. They estimated that anywhere between 100 and 1,000 individuals could be considered homeless, among a population of well over 800,00. In many instances, the homelessness encountered reflects more a "hard to house" issue rather than availability, in terms of hostels and emergency shelters not meeting the expectations of those in need of shelter.
 
42. Please provide information on any disparities between Aboriginal housing and other housing with respect to piped water, flush toilets, need for repairs and other indicators of adequacy.

Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs does not maintain a data base regarding the state of housing occupied by Aboriginal people.

The Alberta government does not have any housing programs that are specifically targeted to Aboriginal people. However, a large percentage of clients in rural housing programs are Aboriginal, as these programs are targeted to northern and remote communities. In the past, social housing needs in these areas was provided according to local needs. The Alberta government continues to try to meet the needs of low income families in these communities.
 
44. According to information provided to the Committee from Statistics Canada, the percentage of government expenditure on housing has declined since 1993. There has been extensive media coverage of a growing crisis of homelessness in Toronto, Vancouver and elsewhere, emphasizing primarily charity-based efforts to address the problems Is the Government applying the "maximum of available resources" to eliminating homelessness and does it agree that guaranteeing the right to housing is a core responsibility of governments and a matter of the highest priority?

The Alberta government has responded to the homeless issue by providing additional shelter spaces and support. It should be noted that with the federal funding cutbacks, there is a limit as to how much the Alberta government can do alone to eliminate homelessness. The increased homelessness in Calgary is mainly due to people moving into the city from other provinces looking for jobs. Like any city going through an economic boom, Calgary's housing market needs time to adjust to the housing shortage situation.
 
48. According to the 1996 Report of the National Council of Welfare (Poverty Profile 1996), 91.3% of families led by single-parent mothers under 25 live below the level of poverty. Child poverty is at a 17 year high of 20.9% meaning that nearly 1.5 million children live in poverty in Canada. Although the last recession ended in 1991, poverty rates have risen steadily since then. Please provide to the Committee the most up-to-date information on single parents, children, people with disabilities and Aboriginal people and explain how this unacceptable situation has been allowed to occur?

The Government of Alberta does not agree with using Statistic Canada's Low-Income Cut-offs as poverty lines, as the National Council of Welfare does. There are serious and substantial issues with the definition of poverty and the measurement, which make the findings very suspect. It is most likely that the income lines used overstate the incidence of poverty, with an increasing error over time.

We nevertheless acknowledge that a focus on reducing child poverty is required. Alberta is an active partner in the new National Child Benefit which has as its explicit objective reducing the depth of child poverty across Canada. As a result of the NCB, low-income working families in Alberta will get higher cash benefits through the Canada Child Tax benefit, as well as better coverage for their children's health and day care needs.
 
50. What measures did the federal and provincial governments take to follow up on the recommendations of the Committee in 1993 to reduce the gap between welfare rates and the poverty line? Has this gap been reduced? If not, what is the explanation for the government's failure to address this pressing need during a time of relative economic prosperity?

In part, again, the use of Statistics Canada's Low Income Cut-offs as a poverty line is highly questionable. If a more appropriate measurement of poverty had been used, the gap - if any- might not have changed. Alberta also believes that addressing poverty through passive welfare assistance is an inadequate response. Poverty needs to be approached by providing opportunities for training, work experience, and employment for those who can work. State support for those not able to work ( such as seniors, children, persons with disabilities) has steadily increased, even in times when the government's fiscal situation was precarious.
 
51. It has been reported that in Canada, close to one in four persons with disabilities lives below the poverty line. What are the steps taken be the federal, provincial and territorial governments to remedy this situation?

The reports hinge on an appropriate definition and measurement of poverty as well as an acceptable identification of persons with disabilities. Government support in terms of straight income transfers for Albertans with severe disabilities is one of the highest in the country, through the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped Program

For people with some disabling conditions that do not prevent them from working, the emphasis of government support in Alberta is on labour force participation and independence rather than passive income support. This emphasis may lead to a mix of in-kind support (e.g. training) and income support or working income that results in more income for the lower-income categories, but provides the advantage of active participation, usefulness and hope.

53. In 1993 the Government informed the committee that section 7 of the Charter at least guaranteed that people are not to be deprived of basic necessities and may be interpreted to include rights under the Covenant, such as rights under article 11.1 Is that still the position of all governments in Canada?

There is no change in this position.

54. Does the Canadian government have any evidence of restrictions in access to health care for the poor? If so, what is the government doing to remedy the situation?

Under the Canada Health Act, all medically necessary hospital and medical services must be insured and provided according to the five principles given in the federal section.

In Alberta, the premium subsidy and Premium Waiver Programs are available to assist lower-income Albertans having difficulty paying all or a portion of their health-care premiums. As well, the Extended health Benefits plan helps seniors pay for eyeglasses and some dental services. It covers Alberta residents 65 years of age and over and their spouses and dependents.

55. The Committee understands that a high percentage if discharged psychiatric patients are ending up homeless. Please provide as accurate evidence as is available in relation to this problem and explain what is being done to address it.

There is no accurate evidence in Alberta that shows that discharged psychiatric patients are ending up homeless. Significant correlations between the changes in homeless populations and the rate of deinstitutionalisation have not been established.

One of the changes in the delivery of mental health services is a decline in the number of individuals housed in large psychiatric hospitals. This is related partly to advancements in medical knowledge and interventions, such as the development of psychotropic drugs that allow persons with mental illnesses to manage their conditions and lead more normal lives within the community.

This change is also partly related to human rights, and the change in philosophy that allows individuals with mental illnesses to have the opportunity to lead a more normal life.

In Alberta, we recognize that providing care and support to the mentally ill is challenging as some may not be in a position effectively to advocate on their own behalf. The Provincial Mental Health Advisory Board (PMHAB) was established to respond more effectively to their needs. Part of its mandate is to ensure that there are effective supports in the community despite pressure on the hospital system.

The PMHAB funds an approved home program, as well as group homes that allow the mentally ill to live in a more normal community setting. Alberta health recently increased funding to the PMHAB.
 
56. Please provide any information available on the particular health problems of the homeless, including tuberculosis rates and identify any barriers faced by the homeless in getting access to appropriate health care.

Particular health problems of the homeless may include mental conditions, specifically depression and anxiety disorders, physical health problems related to alcohol or substance abuse, especially intravenous drug use, lack of safe sex practices, inadequate diet, and physical injury. Data on the incidence of tuberculosis in the homeless population within Alberta are unavailable at this time.

Barriers to receiving medical care among the homeless include: refusal to accept care; lack of knowledge of where to go for medical and support services; lack of transportation; lack of knowledge about key health risks such as hepatitis, safe use of needles for IV drug use, venereal diseases, substance abuse, smoking and safe sex practices; and financial difficulties in obtaining needed medications.

Within Alberta, there are a number of community-based health clinics which provide health and medical services to homeless persons, as well as information about health risks.

57. To what extent is increased reliance on expensive drug therapy for HIV/AIDS and other illnesses eroding universal access to health care? Will programs such as pharmacare be introduced to cover drug costs?

The emergence and reliance on new high cost drugs to treat HIV/AIDS and other illnesses will not erode universal access to health care in Alberta. Drugs for HIV/AIDS are provided through the regional health authorities in Edmonton and Calgary as part of the Province-Wide Services Program. Recently, significant additional funding was provided to this Program. HIV/AIDS drugs are available to all Albertans with assessed medical need, at no charge.

Some provinces now have pharmacare plans in place. These differ from the medically necessary services that must be provided under the Canada Health Act. Although there are large differences in plan features among provinces. they all have some common elements, including coverage for vulnerable groups such as seniors and recipients of social assistance.

Together with the federal government, provinces and territories are considering the issue of access by Canadians to prescription drug coverage. A report on their findings is expected in March 1999. Before a national pharmacare plan can be developed however, a number of key issues must be addressed, such as costs, role of private insurers, the need for information systems, and access.

58. What steps are being taken in Canada to ensure that changes in health service delivery do not adversely affect the most vulnerable groups in society?

Within Alberta, an array of health programs and services are targeted to assist vulnerable groups, including the Extended health Benefits program for Seniors, the Premium Subsidy and Waiver Programs for lower-income Albertans, the Aids to Daily Living Program for persons with disabilities or chronic health conditions. Alberta Health works with the federal government to fund and deliver the Child health Benefit Plan and Community Action Programs for Children the Teen Tobacco Reduction Project, the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program, and the TB Management Program on Alberta First Nation Reserves. There is an Aboriginal health Strategy for Alberta health which encourages partnerships among Aboriginal communities and health providers to improve the cultural appropriateness of health services, increase access to health services by Aboriginal people and increase the number of Aboriginal people working throughout the health system.

59. The Committee has received information that between 1990 and 1995 the average tuition fees for post-secondary education rose by 62% in real terms. The average student debt at graduation seems to have almost tripled since 1990. What are the steps taken to ensure that post-secondary education remains equally accessible to all, regardless of income?

While average tuition fees increased in real terms by more than 60% during 1990-1995, average student graduate debt increased by less than 30%, in real terms, over the same period. The following steps have been taken by Alberta to ensure that post-secondary education remains accessible to all.
- Tuition fees at public post-secondary institutions have been capped to a maximum of 30% of net operating expenditures;
- Annual average tuition fee increases are limited to $215.50 (adjusted by consumer price index);
- Student loan and bursary programs are available

60. At paragraph 372 of the Report, the Government reports on the results of the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) conducted in 1994 in Canada. Almost half of Canadians would appear to lack the minimal literacy skills necessary for coping and managing in such basic activities as, for example, comprehending a bus schedule. Can the Government provide the Committee with an estimate of the number of Canadians who are currently receiving literacy training and describe any strategies that are being considered to deal with this problem?

Alberta has approximately 6,000 adults in community-based and institutional-based basic literacy programs (1996-97). A 44% increase in funding has been provided to Volunteer Tutor Adult Literacy programs. This increase will provide literacy programs in additional 15 to 20 communities and increase the number of adults participating in rural programs by 20%.

61. What steps have been taken in Canada to extend knowledge of, and respect for, the culture of Aboriginal people?

Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs provides grants to Aboriginal organizations to support cultural events like pow-wows. Grants are also provided to organizations such as friendship centres which, in part, act to increase cross-cultural awareness.

63. The minimum wage in Alberta is the lowest in Canada. What measures will the Alberta government take in order to bring it in line with standards of adequacy?

While the current minimum wage in Alberta is nominally the lowest among Canadian jurisdictions, when taxation levels are considered, Alberta currently ranks 7th out of 10 provincial jurisdictions. The scheduled changes will raise the ranking of Alberta to 4th, both nominally and when taxes are taken into account.


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