Alberta Votes

Hospital parking: Wildrose pledges 2 free hours for Albertans

The Wildrose Party says if it forms the government it will ensure all hospitals offer two free hours of parking for visitors.

Leader Brian Jean says Alberta Health Services is 'nickel and diming' patients

Wildrose Party leader Brian says if he becomes premier, Alberta hospitals will be required to offer two free hours of parking. (Allison Dempster/CBC)

The Wildrose Party says if it forms the government it will ensure all hospitals offer two free hours of parking for visitors.

Leader Brian Jean said Tuesday the move would ease the burden for Albertans visiting loved ones.

"In the past year alone, the Prentice PCs allowed Alberta Health Services (AHS) to generate $70 million in revenue and almost $20 million in profit by nickel and diming patients, seniors and their families through parking fees," he said.

"This is nothing more than a user's fee and a tax."

Jean said the issue became personal for him while his 24-year-old son, who recently died of lymphoma, was in hospital.

"I know the price of this first hand, navigating the hospital system for months with my son. Friends, it adds up very quickly. It places a burden on those people that are already burdened," he said. 

The provincial government hiked hospital parking rates in 2013, pushing current rates as high as $10 for a routine hospital visit, the Wildrose Party said in a release.

Prentice questions promise

Jean said a Wildrose government would also establish lower parking rates for repeat hospital visitors and for those with family members and loved ones in long-term hospital care.

PC leader Jim Prentice questioned how the Wildrose would make up for the shortfall.

"We continue to receive no costing from them on how much these promises are going to cost," he said.

A political science professor at Calgary's Mount Royal University, however, says the idea of two hours of free parking is effective and easy to comprehend.

"A lot of the time it's something that people can hold on to — $18 billion is really tough to grasp, even $16 million is tough to grasp," Duane Bratt said. "But two hours of parking so they can visit a sick relative in the hospital is a big deal."

He says the loss of some parking revenue within such a large budget is not that significant.

AHS says its net cash flow is kept as a reserve fund to pay for major maintenance and upgrades of parking facilities and construction of new ones. 

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