HOME / ASSEMBLY OFFICE / 1999 ANNUAL REPORT
1999 Annual ReportPublic Education and Reporting Services: Public Information Branch
Gary Garrison, Director
In addition to providing reliable transcripts of proceedings, public information, regular services to visitors, and a variety of other services, the Public Information Branch (PIB) facilitated and assisted with a number of successful special events. Among the highlights were Canada Day, once again drawing over 6,000 visitors, December evenings with over 15,000 visitors, and the first Mr. Speaker's Alberta Youth Parliament. Visitor numbers overall increased by 16 percent, and gift shop sales were up by 15 percent.
Hansard staff continued to provide timely and accurate service for the Assembly. The workload this year was similar to that of 1998 except that in the fall the night sittings went considerably longer than the previous year. The evening sitting on December 7 concluded at 4:38 a.m. December 8. Despite these long hours, Hansard staff consistently produced high quality transcripts. The only Hansard issue delayed because of the very long sitting was the December 8 issue, which was published on December 10, two days after the fall sittings ended.
Hansard staff remained busy throughout the year preparing training materials, producing transcripts for committee meetings, and revising guidelines for editors. A number of new input editors were trained early in the year. As in the past, a Hansard editor proofread private members' bills before the spring sittings opened. Prior to the fall sittings, staff implemented a number of Hansard manual revisions, among them a number of macros to make the editorial comments regarding House procedure more user friendly. An input editor received training as a copy editor in the fall, and prior to the fall sittings, a competition was held and seven new input editors hired, with training scheduled for January.
In July the director participated in the triennial Commonwealth Hansard Editors Conference in Ulundi, South Africa, where he made a presentation on editorial style and measuring the quality of Hansard transcripts. Following the conference he was seconded to the provincial Legislature in Mpumalanga, South Africa for a week, and submitted a report to the Speaker of Mpumalanga based on his observation of Hansard operations. In August the director and two staff members attended the Canadian Hansard association annual conference in Yellowknife. The director continued to serve as the secretary-treasurer of that organization.
After using the same custom software program to sort and retrieve Hansard index data for almost 10 years, Information Systems Services (ISS) purchased new Cindex software in 1998. When PIB staff tested it prior to the opening of the 1999 session, Cindex met all performance expectations. This made possible a number of format changes to the index to make it easier to use. ISS staff also assisted in testing and implementing new software to manage subscriptions, since the subscription data management system that had been in use for several years was no longer compatible with the network and needed replacing. Renewal invoices for year 2000 subscriptions were accurately generated in the fall using the new system. In addition to these improvements, staff continued to handle a steady volume of telephone and e-mail information requests throughout the year and to provide congratulatory scrolls at a rate comparable to the demand of previous years.
The total number of visitors welcomed by Visitor Services was up 16 percent from 1998. The biggest increase was during the Christmas season when visitors came in the evenings to see the lights, listen to choirs in the Rotunda during lunch hours and evenings, and walk through the pedway to look at gingerbread houses and Christmas trees. Once again Visitor Services conducted a gingerbread house contest, this year with 38 entries from Edmonton area schools. School groups were also invited to decorate the Christmas trees in the pedway using items they created or obtained for the purpose. This year guides were on hand seven days a week to meet and greet visitors and offer them hot chocolate from December 2 through December 23; in 1998 guides were on duty only on weeknights. As well, more choirs performed this year than previously.
The number of visitors on booked tours in 1999 increased, but the number of walk-in visitors declined. The number of visitors admitted to the galleries to observe the Assembly in session was virtually unchanged from 1998. The volume of sales in the gift shop increased by 15 percent.
Alberta hosted the 10th annual Visitor Services national conference in June. Representatives from most other Legislatures attended, including, for the first time, someone from Nunavut. Staff organized a number of professional development activities, including a half day with program staff at the Provincial Museum. The program also included a luncheon hosted by the Speaker and attended by the Clerk and LAO managers. The Assembly continued to be a leader within this organization, as it has been since Alberta hosted the first conference in 1990.
The head of Visitor Services was an active member of the Canadian Capital Cities Organization (CCCO) and played a key role in organizing the Canada Day family exchange program, which Alberta participated in for the first time in 1999. This involved the families meeting with the Speaker and lunch in the pedway on June 30 as well as lunch with the Minister of Municipal Affairs at Government House on July 1. This program was a successful complement to the Canada Day festivities at the Legislature, which in 1999 involved staff from several LAO branches. As in 1998, over 6,000 visitors came into the Legislature on Canada Day.
In May the pedway was the site of the Edmonton Regional Heritage Fair. There were 209 exhibits in the pedway on May 14 and 15 and programs for 369 students from grades 4 through 9. The organizing committee was pleased with the success of the fair, and the attractiveness of the venue led to hosting the National Heritage Fair in the pedway in July. Many of the Heritage Fair exhibits were displayed for the remainder of the summer as part of an Opportunities for Youth exhibit in the pedway. By November these exhibits had left to make room for a series of exhibits publicizing millennium projects and celebrations that will be occurring across Alberta in the year 2000. As well, in the spring a new permanent exhibit on Alberta emblems was created with the generous support of the Provincial Museum.
In the spring Visitor Services staff presented a teacher workshop at an Edmonton area school. This involved conducting a Mock Legislature program with a group of teachers and giving them a general orientation to the Legislature and the Assembly's on-site programs. Because of the success of the Mock Legislature program and interest expressed in it by other Legislatures, a member of the staff was invited to run the program in Ottawa with a group of about 20 teachers participating in the Teachers' Institute on Parliamentary Democracy.
The School-at-the-Legislature program also continued in the spring, and plans were made at year's end to extend the pilot project into 2000. In the meantime, with the support of Infrastructure and Community Development, classroom space was developed on the ground floor of the Legislature Annex in late spring. A number of potential corporate sponsors were approached in the fall, and the plans were made for the program to operate through the entire school year once sponsorship is secured.
In July Visitor Services staff supported the Klondike Days breakfast on the south Legislature grounds instead of organizing a breakfast on the north grounds, as occurred the previous three years.
In late October the annual Halloween-o-rama took place on the north grounds and in the pedway, attracting 6,773 visitors. In mid-November the fourth annual craft sale took place in the pedway in front of the interpretive centre. Twenty-six vendors took part, and the response from vendors and visitors alike continued to be positive.
A staff person who had served as reservations co-ordinator for over nine years vacated the position in October. An open competition was held and a new person hired for the position in mid-December.
The branch produced numerous publications in 1999. During the first half of the year, the director submitted two articles for publication in parliamentary magazines. An article on Mr. Speaker's Alberta Youth Parliament appeared in The Canadian Parliamentary Review; one on MLA remuneration was published in the Parliamentarian. Other publication work during the year included production of the 1998 LAO annual report; speechwriting for the Speaker and other officials; co-ordination of the program design and display panel production for the Famous Five portraits unveiling in December; production of a number of programs, flyers, and other printed materials for the Speaker's Office; revisions to the Members' Guide; redesign of corporate documents, including a fax cover sheet; production of the semi-annual staff newsletter and bi-monthly events bulletin Preview; and a variety of other projects. PIB staff also co-ordinated the design and production of a new Mace image for use as a visual identifier on Assembly documents. At the end of the year the director was working on preliminary plans for commemorative plaques.
As chair of the steering committee, the director collaborated with the Clerk, Sergeant-at-Arms, and the procedural clerk in planning the first annual Mr. Speaker's Alberta Youth Parliament. Table Officers, Hansard staff, and Visitor Services staff also participated in the project. The program was made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Alberta-Northwest Territories Command of the Royal Canadian Legion. This event involved 83 grade 10 students, one representing each of Alberta's constituencies, as well as 15 grade 10 social studies teachers. It was designed to give students direct experience of the parliamentary democratic process and to enhance the teaching of the parliamentary system in Alberta. Feedback from all participants, MLAs, and the Legion was enthusiastically positive. The proceedings were broadcast live on Access television, thanks to the support of the Access Network and CFRN television.
Six teachers from the Alberta Teachers' Association's Social Studies Council served on the teachers advisory committee, helping with all areas of planning: Linda-Rae Carson, Phyllis Schumacher, Bill Shostak, Bill Smolak, Arlene Cairns, and Craig Wallace. Their assistance ensured that the program was relevant and interesting for the participants and was a major factor in the program's success. By the end of 1999 planning was well under way for the second edition of the youth parliament. In October the annual Social Studies Council conference included a session with the Speaker in the Chamber and a group of 40 social studies teachers where they heard about the youth parliament and the Speaker's interest in furthering the teaching of responsible citizenship in schools.
In addition to the youth parliament, PIB collaborated with staff of other LAO branches on a variety of projects. Branch staff participated in the ergonomics committee, the United Way committee, the staff recognition dinner organizing committee, and the new web site committee. For the second year the branch assisted with co-ordination of a successful Speaker's Cup golf tournament, which again involved 140 golfers and nearly 200 dinner guests.
The electronic copy of the Legislative Assembly Office Annual Report is UNOFFICIAL and is provided for information purposes only. The printed version is the OFFICIAL Annual Report.