Video: Inclusion Alberta’s Candidate’s Forum – Election 2023

May 11, 2023

On May 9th, 2023, Inclusion Alberta hosted a virtual Provincial Election Forum on disability-related issues.

The forum gave individuals with developmental disabilities and their families an opportunity to hear candidates respond to questions that were pre-submitted by the public on five themes:

  • Persons with Developmental Disabilities Program (PDD) and Family Support for Children with Disabilities (FSCD): Access and funding
  • Inclusive education: Ensuring access and quality
  • Indigenous children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families: Access to culturally relevant supports and resources
  • Expanding inclusive housing and ending institutionalization
  • Improving income security and increasing employment opportunities

The United Conservative Party (UCP) declined to send a representative, but did provide written answers which were read by moderator Steve Hogle. Inclusion Alberta thanks the UCP for their written submissions. Thank you to the six Alberta New Democratic Party (NDP) candidates who participated in the forum:

  • Luanne Metz – Calgary-Varsity
  • Marie Renaud – St. Albert
  • Katherine Swampy – Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin
  • Kevin McLean – Grande Prairie
  • Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse – Edmonton-Rutherford
  • Justin Huseby – Calgary-South East

The full unedited recording of the forum can be played below, or here on Inclusion Alberta’s YouTube channel. *Scroll down (below the video) for Inclusion Alberta’s statement on candidate’s responses at the forum. 

This forum is just one moment in a conversation that has been happening right across Alberta as many of you have gone to meet with your MLA local candidates about how government can improve the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. We encourage you to meet and #HaveTheConversationAB with the candidates in your riding emphasizing the issues that are important to you and your family. Take the time to make your interests known. Share the actions you expect the candidates in your riding and their parties, if elected, to take that will improve the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

To learn more about the issues we think are important and what YOU can do to ensure that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are included in the election May 29th, visit our provincial election page.

Statement on parties’ responses at Inclusion Alberta’s Provincial Election Forum:

May 18, 2023

On May 9th, 2023, Inclusion Alberta hosted a virtual Provincial Election Forum on issues that impact children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families. Both UCP and NDP candidates were invited as these two parities currently hold seats in the legislature. The United Conservative Party (UCP) declined to send a representative but did provide written answers to the 10 questions both parties had been provided in advance. Six Alberta New Democratic Party (NDP) candidates participated in the forum, Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse, Justin Huseby, Kevin McLean, Dr. Luanne Metz, Marie Renaud, and Katherine Swampy.

The full unedited recording of the forum can be found at this link: Inclusion Alberta’s Candidates Forum.

Over 100 people attended the online forum, and on their behalf, we express our appreciation for the candidates’ commitment to attend, given they had to take time from their busy campaign schedules. Nevertheless, it is disappointing that neither party directly answered the 10 questions. The only exception to this is that the UCP clearly stated that they will not mandate the replacement of seclusion rooms with other proven strategies. Though the NDP had banned the practice when they were in government, the NDP response avoided answering whether they would reinstate this ban.

No clarification from Inclusion Alberta is required with respect to most of the responses since no specific commitments were made or promised solutions were of limited relevance to the questions. However, we feel statements made on three topics necessitate clarification or correction: 1) Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) and Family Supports for Children with Disabilities (FSCD), 2) Accessibility and Inclusion Legislation, and 3) Protecting Parental Choice for Inclusive Education. Inclusion Alberta does not endorse any political party and offers no opinion on who to vote for. All references to Alberta’s political parties’ statements, platforms or actions are based on information publicly available at the time of writing. The following is offered only in the interests of providing information to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families and to encourage Albertans to participate in the electoral process.


The first question asked for a commitment to restoring PDD (Persons with Developmental Disabilities) and FSCD (Family Supports for Children with Disabilities) to their past status of being sustainably funded, supportive and respectful in their response to families and individuals. Despite thousands of children and adults with developmental disabilities currently waiting for support, and the rising public outcry over a system that lacks transparency as to how decisions are made and treats families with mistrust, neither party offered a plan or a commitment of new funding adequate to address the problem.

The UCP’s response to this question stated:

“We are investing $240 million into the PDD waitlist to ensure individuals get the services they need.”

We believe, given our current understanding, this statement misconstrues the facts behind the Government of Alberta’s April 21, 2023, announcement of new funding of “$240 million over three years to increase access to vital supports for Albertans with developmental disabilities”. The $240 million is spread over 3 years, and the vast majority of this funding provides for increases in staff wages and service provider administration funding, not reducing the waitlist. Inclusion Alberta has learned that $26.5 million is the amount of new funding being spent in 2023-24 to begin providing services for individuals now waiting for PDD services. No funding has been committed to support the thousands of families eligible for FSCD who are waiting for any services or to the over 1400 adults ‘in-service planning’ without any actual support in place.

The NDP’s responses to this question and to question #3 (also about PDD) made commitments to increased transparency and accountability, and to looking into whether they could implement some recommendations from past program reviews. These small and ambiguous commitments could prove to be helpful in restoring FSCD and PDD.  If the NDP had a clear and strong commitment to ending the toll the system is inflicting on individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, they could have committed new funding for thousands of individuals and families waiting for services.

Neither party committed to funding the supports and services Albertans with developmental disabilities and their families require. This suggests waitlists and inadequate supports can be expected to continue, and some will continue to have their supports reduced, no matter who forms the next government.

Accessibility and Inclusion Legislation

The NDP responses to 9 of the 10 questions restated their party’s commitment to consulting on and creating Accessibility and Inclusion Legislation, although no specifics have yet been made public. It is important for Albertans to know that in other Canadian provinces accessibility legislation has begun to effectively address barriers to physical accessibility and some other forms of accessibility, but nowhere has accessibility legislation addressed barriers to inclusion for people with developmental disabilities.

Accessibility by way of environmental and technological adaptations can very much lead to more inclusion for persons with physical and sensory disabilities. The same is not equally true for individuals with developmental disabilities who require very different accommodations and means to being included. The accessibility standards of other provinces fail to address the unique considerations required to guarantee access for individuals with developmental disabilities. Fully segregated and congregated environments can simply be made fully accessible Two of the many barriers to inclusion that accessibility legislation has not addressed are:

  1. The right to disability-related supports and funding for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to have access to an inclusive life.
  2. The right to an Inclusive Education.

Whichever party forms the next government, Inclusion Alberta will work with that government to ensure any accessibility legislation advances these rights and addresses barriers to inclusive education, employment, post-secondary and continuing education, and generic community recreation.

Protecting Parental Choice for Inclusive Education

The fourth question was about ensuring that parental choice of an inclusive education is honoured. The UCP response gives the impression that the government had acted to protect this right:

“We also have reaffirmed parents’ rights to choose the education choice that best meets their child’s unique needs. This is why the UCP believe it is critical that government support parent’s choices so that they can choose the path that they feel will best help their children reach their full potential.”

While it is true that the UCP government made changes to provide parents with a range of choices among private, charter, and independent schools, the Minister of Education took no action to ensure choice for parents seeking an inclusive education for their children with developmental disabilities or to hold districts accountable to honouring this choice. This problem has persisted across multiple governments and, despite the UCP statement quoted above, has not been resolved.

Once the major parties have released their full election platforms, Inclusion Alberta will publish a summary and assessment of their commitments relevant to people with developmental disabilities and their families.