Schulz offers more teaching and support assistants in schools

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Rebecca Schulz, a UCP leadership candidate, said she would consider increasing funding for education if elected prime minister.

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In an interview Saturday with Postmedia, Schulz said she would commit to more teaching assistants in K-12 classrooms and more mental health support programs for students in schools.

“I really believe that we need to do some things differently in education,” she said, adding that she would “consider” an increase in the budget line, although she did not proposed specific dollar figures.

“We need to make sure there’s accountability, but we also need to make sure there’s funding to meet some of the needs in the classroom,” she said.

Schulz said her platform would look at pilot programs offering holistic mental health supports for young people, “recognizing that schools are the heart of the community.”

Its proposals would follow the recommendations of the UCP Government’s Child and Young People’s Wellbeing Review, which collected information for around two months in mid-2021 to determine how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected children and young people. The report notes that health and mental health professionals reported “an increase in stress, anxiety, grief, depression, eating disorders, self-harm, suicide and suicidal ideation, and substance abuse among children and young people”.

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The provincial government said it is taking several new steps in response to the expert panel’s 10 general recommendations, including expanding “prevention and early intervention supports” like virtual counseling and school-based supports.

Alberta is expected to have plenty of cash thanks to high oil and gas prices and could run a surplus of at least $10 billion. When asked what she would do with that extra money, Schulz focused on saving and paying off debt, especially when interest rates are high and the province is paying more to pay off this debt.

“We need to have a workable plan to pay that back, and I’ll have that in my platform,” she said. However, given affordability issues, Schulz said she would look for ways to support Albertans.

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Fellow leadership candidates Rajan Sawhney and Leela Aheer have promised to re-index Assured Income for the Severely Disabled (AISH) payments to inflation. Schulz said Saturday she would reconsider her decision.

“It’s something important, especially at a time when costs are rising, and if it makes sense, I’ll do it,” she said.

Asked if she would shift gears or continue with the UCP’s plan to revamp public health care, Schulz said private health care providers have long operated in the province and most Albertans simply want to see shorter wait times, especially for surgery. She acknowledged that Albertans want to know they have local family doctors and paramedics, but pointed to solving processes and red tape in the health care system.

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“I believe frontline workers have the answers to many of these questions.”

The PCU had worked to save $2 billion on doctors’ pay after it took office in 2020, but Schulz said the government now needed to restore relationships with doctors and that doctors understood the need to curb earnings growth.

When asked if she would continue to fund the Canadian Energy Centre, known as the War Room, Schulz said the province must continue to fight for its energy sector and tell its story story.

“I’m not going to commit to ending the war room.”

Schulz worked for three years under Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and said during that time she learned the importance of good communication.

“You can have a government that’s fiscally conservative and fully committed to economic growth, but also have compassion and common sense when making decisions and be able to communicate those decisions well,” Schulz said.

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