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Alberta Election: UCP, NDP spar over Calgary Chinatown, healthcare

Alberta’s political parties dueled over Chinatowns in the two major cities Saturday, plus they held separate health care announcements as the campaigns chugged away over the weekend.

From Sien Lok Park in Calgary, the Alberta NDP promised $1.5 million for improvements to the Chinese Cultural Centre in Calgary, plus upgrades to the surrounding public realm.

Late last year, the Calgary city council approved the Tomorrow’s Chinatown strategy, a plan to guide the area’s redevelopment over the next 30 years.

“Calgary’s Chinatown is one of the oldest and largest in Canada and is rich with historical significance,” said Court Ellingson, Alberta NDP candidate in Calgary-Foothills.

“We must support preserving the Chinese-Canadian community’s meaningful contributions to the cultural fabric of our city.” 

Alice Lam, community advocate and member of I Love Chinatown YYC, said the funding would have an impact for years to come.

“This funding will help connect resources to build a stronger and safer neighbourhood, and more importantly, lead the country in showing how provinces can fund initiatives that will grow and celebrate our cultural and ethnic diversity,” she said.

Jason Luan, a UCP candidate in Calgary-Foothills said that prior NDP policies hurt Alberta Chinatowns. He said that under previous NDP policies, a disproportionate number of supervised consumption sites popped up in Edmonton’s Chinatown, causing social disorder issues.

“The NDP ignored repeated cries for help from the Chinese community,” Luan said.

“This extreme density of drug consumption sites has led to Chinese businesses and families having to deal with an unreasonable amount of crime and social disorder.”

Luan said their investments in fighting crime and improving safety will help Chinatowns in Calgary and Edmonton.

Healthcare at the forefront

UCP leader Danielle Smith made a wide-sweeping announcement on women’s and children’s healthcare on Saturday, promising investments in obstetrics and midwifery, newborn screening and maternal research if re-elected.

If re-elected they would look at adding five more birth conditions to the 22 they already screened for. They will fund those screenings she said. Along with that, they said they would provide more funding for testing and support for autism and other complex children’s needs.  To top it off, Smith promised more obstetricians for communities in need, a provincial midwifery strategy and a $10 million legacy grant to help fund women’s and children’s health research.

Smith once again said that Albertans would not pay out of pocket to see a family doctor or get the medical treatment they need.

“The only card Albertans will need to access health care is their health card. Any NDP attack to the contrary is irresponsible and utterly false,” Smith said.

Julia Hayter, Alberta NDP candidate in Calgary-Edgemont said that the UCP have failed on maternal health in their time in office. She pointed to several hospitals across Alberta that have had to partially close obstetrics units due to staffing shortages.

She pointed to Lethbridge, a situation that Smith said could warrant expectant moms being sent to different cities for care.

Meanwhile, at another NDP announcement Saturday, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley said they’d offer signing bonuses of up to $10,000 to attract doctors and nurses to the province. They’d also add 10,000 post-secondary healthcare spaces if elected.

“We will solve the healthcare crisis and empower Albertans to choose meaningful and respected careers in healthcare, in communities right across Alberta,” she said.

The UCP said the Alberta NDP had four years to address challenges in the healthcare system – and didn’t. Calgary-Varsity candidate Jason Copping said they’re already copying UCP policies to get a handle on the issue.

Copping also noted their workforce strategy to obtain nurses had led to 1,413 internationally-educated nurses ready to join the healthcare system.