As 2015 comes to a close and 2016 dawns, many Albertans are scribbling down a few New Years resolutions: lose weight or learn a second language, things like that. But while you may be reviewing the promises that you made to yourself in 2015, I am reviewing the promises that I made to you in 2015.
I’ve gone back through all of the articles that I wrote in the Brooks Bulletin, Strathmore Times, Strathmore Standard and Bassano Times to recount as many of those promise as I can fit in this article and report on them to you.
Now, my only disclaimer here is that as an opposition MLA, I can only push the government on policies, and cannot force the NDP government to do anything due to their majority.
Financial Accountability: On March 16th, I committed to fixing the PC accounting system that allows the government to keep billions in spending from being reported in the annual deficit. This allowed the former government to spend most of the $17 billion Sustainability Fund and take on $14 billion in new debt without reporting on it as a deficit.
I personally met with the Finance Minister to push for a restoration of accountable finances. He made clear to me that the old system suited him just fine and that no changes would be made.
I continued to push for this however in the legislature. I introduced amendments to the NDP’s new budgetary framework that would have fixed some of the government’s accounting practices. Unfortunately, the NDP voted each of these amendments down.
Recall Legislation: On March 17th I committed that I would push to give voters ‘recall’ legislation to hold your MLA accountable between elections. This legislation would allow citizens to collect enough signatures to force a by-election in a particular constituency if they felt that their MLA no longer represented them.
Our neighbouring Wildrose MLA for Chesteremere-Rockyview, Leela Aheer, introduced Bill 206, the Voter Recall Act as a private members bill in November. Unfortunately, Wildrose was the only party who spoke in favour of the bill and the NDP recessed the house before it could come to a vote.
Get Big Money out of Politics: On March 23rd I promised you that I would fight to get the influence of big money out of politics. For too long, corporations and unions would make the right donations to political parties and have those favours returned in the form of subsidies, contracts and other forms of special treatment.
In June, the NDP introduced a bill that would ban corporate and union donations. The Wildrose, Liberals and Alberta Party all supported it, however my colleagues and I argued that the bill still left several major loopholes open.
Cut Spending Before Raising Taxes: On March 25th I promised that I would never raise taxes on everyday Albertans without first doing everything possible to ensure that your money was being spent wisely. This followed the former government’s budget that raised taxes on the average Alberta family by $2,400 without any significant reduction in government expenditures.
Well as you know, we have an NDP government in power, and raising taxes, debt and spending at the same time is what they do. The NDP kept many of the PC tax hikes, and added plenty of their own on top of that including a $3 billion carbon tax, a 20% increase in business taxes and a 50% increase in personal income taxes on some earners.
I’ve spent many hours arguing against doing this in the legislature, but in the end, the parties favouring higher taxes outvoted us.
Health and Seniors Care: On April 20th I committed to make seniors care and health care infrastructure a top local priority if elected. I’ve reached across the aisle to try and work with the NDP with mixed results, but some progress.
We received final commitment from the government in the fall budget for the provincial portion of funding for the Bassano Project, which will help to provide a broad range of seniors care servicing the entire Brooks and Newell region. Final sign-off from Alberta Health Services (AHS) is still outstanding, but I am confident that it will come soon.
I’ve been repeatedly pushing the government privately in letters, and publicly in the legislature to finally move forward on the desperately needed upgrade to Strathmore’s busy emergency room. While no progress is assured yet, we are beginning to see glimmers of hope. More information will hopefully be coming soon.
As well, I have been working with the Brooks and Region Health Foundation to secure the government’s portion of the funding for a Brooks Dialysis Centre.
I’ve made several visits to most of our seniors homes in the constituency to speak directly to those receiving and delivering services on the front line. While many are happy with the care they receive, some are not, and I am taking those concerns directly to management. I will continue to closely monitor the state of seniors care in our constituency.
Stand Up for Rural Alberta: On April 20th I promised that I and the Wildrose would make rural Alberta a priority and that we would stand up for it when pushed around by the government.
When the NDP introduced Bill 6 and tried to ram it down the throats of farmers and ranchers without any consultation, my colleagues and I did everything in our power to slow it down. We filibustered the bill from the morning sitting of the legislature until the early hours of the next day’s morning to try and force the NDP to send the bill to a committee to listen to farmers before passing it into legislation.
In the end, the NDP invoked debate closure, which effectively shuts the legislature down and automatically passed the bill without further debate. Still, we managed to force major amendments to the bill, which removed some of its most extreme and objectionable parts.
Resolutions for 2016
Space does not permit me to go through every promise I made to you in 2015, but I have done my best to stay true to the trust that you placed in me last year. It has truly been an honour to represent you in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, and I will work as hard as I possible can to do that as best as possible in 2016.