Navigating the Alberta Government

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By Jessica Powell, CCVO Policy Analyst

Nonprofits Vote: Albertans go to the Polls in 2019

As noted in a previous post, CCVO is rolling out an election toolkit to provide nonprofits with resources, tools and information to engage in policy advocacy in the upcoming provincial election. The date of the election is not yet released, but will need to be called by the end of May 2019. The full toolkit will be published in the new year. Please follow the CCVO blog as we release installments of the toolkit to help you engage in the provincial election.


Not sure which government level does what? With the spring 2019 Provincial Election approaching, we’d like to share a refresher on the different levels of government, how the Alberta Government works, and how your nonprofit can effectively engage.

The Alberta Government is the body empowered to create legislation in areas that fall within provincial jurisdiction, from health and education, to family and social services. The Alberta Government has three important branches: Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), the Cabinet (or Executive Council) and the Public Service. Each branch serves a different role in policy and decision-making, approving relevant legislation and providing programs and services to citizens. To learn more information about these three branches, what roles they play, and which positions will be elected in the upcoming election, review this resource for an overview on the Alberta Government.

You can empower your nonprofit to engage with the Alberta Government by knowing more about the types of decisions they make, and the services and programs they provide. Being aware of the appropriate avenues to address policy concerns is one of the first steps towards effective advocacy and engagement for your nonprofit. This knowledge can elevate your advocacy efforts by ensuring the actors targeted are well-positioned to listen, consult, and provide actionable solutions to your concerns. 

Which Level of Government Does What?

Since government regulation and oversight is handled through a sometimes confusing web of federal, provincial, and municipal jurisdictions, it can be difficult to know who is responsible for what. This is especially true when information is not easily accessible, or there is no “one-stop shop” for information. Despite this, understanding the different levels of government and strategically addressing concerns to the right audience, will go a long way to ensure your organization achieves its advocacy goals. To clarify these roles, the following section lays out the high-level responsibilities of each level of government. Note that some responsibilities, such as environmental management, are the responsibility of more than one level of government.

The Provincial Government places its primary concern on the needs of Albertans. Examples include:

  • Education and Training

  • Health Programs, Services and Regulations 

  • Family and Social Services

  • Employment and Labour Standards

The Federal Government addresses the needs of all Canadians. Examples include:

  • Aboriginal Laws and Rights (overlaps with provincial government)

  • Canadian Pension Plan and Old Age Security

  • Employment Insurance Benefits

  • Income Tax Act

  • Criminal Law

  • Immigration Policies (overlaps with provincial government)

The Municipal Government aims to handle issues facing citizens living within defined municipalities and local communities. Examples include:

  • Affordable Housing

  • Community and Youth Services

  • Public Transportation and Parking Bylaws

  • Libraries, Parks and Public Spaces

  • Waste and Water Management

How Nonprofits Can Engage with the Alberta Government

The Alberta Government, like all levels of government, is intrinsically linked to nonprofits. The Alberta Government provides resources and support to nonprofits that help them to effectively accomplish their mission and initiatives, examples of this include:

  • Providing programs and services that support communities.

  • Providing grants, awards and other types of funding models.

  • Leading key research and innovation initiatives.

  • Partnering with nonprofits, such as through educational and awareness campaigns.

  • Providing a platform across the province to share ideas and perspectives.  

To increase impact in the communities you serve, your nonprofit can engage with the Alberta Government in various ways. One of these is of course through engagement in the democratic process of elections. This might include meeting local candidates, inviting candidates to events, organizing a Town Hall meeting, and encouraging voter engagement. There are also ongoing opportunities to share ideas during government consultation processes. CCVO encourages nonprofits to take advantage of opportunities to get involved in government consultation sessions, as using these outlets is a great way to advance policy options and see ideas realized – when the government is already engaged and listening to the sector.

Further, your nonprofit should make efforts to build and establish relationships with public servants in the Alberta Government. Fostering these relationships allows for open communication and can streamline the sharing of information. It is important to remember that your nonprofit is free to engage with different branches in the Alberta Government, including local MLAs (including members of the governing party and all other major political parties represented in the legislature), Cabinet Ministers and Alberta public servants.

Ready to engage, but still not sure what to connect with the Government about? Here is a list of ideas to get you started:

  • Share successes and impact of your organization.

  • Share visions for the future of your organization or the sector.

  • Share different approaches for tackling common issues.

  • Share how government programs and services are experienced within the community.

  • Indicate needs within your organization or the sector.