Since having been elected as leader of Alberta’s New Democrat Party in 2005, Brian Mason has continued to gauge the public asking what they feel the big issues are.
With a provincial election expected to be called at any time, Mason recently made a stop in Red Deer to speak to locals about what they feel are the concerns of Central Albertans.
“Healthcare is certainly one of the issues,” said Mason. After Premier Alison Redford changed and restricted the public inquiry into the healthcare system, Mason said it has brought about some major concerns for the province. “It was promised that doctor intimidation and the abysmal waiting times would be looked at and they’ve failed to do so.”
In relation to healthcare, he said a concern of many people he has spoken to is that of the long-term and nursing home strategies.
“We have a shortage of almost 1,100 beds so many of those people are occupying hospital beds which are then not available to the hospital patients in the emergency rooms making waiting times as long as they are.”
Mason said that healthcare is even noted as being a local concern here in Red Deer especially with closing senior’s facilities both here and in neighbouring municipalities.
“One of the things we have picked up on through some of our public hearings is that places like Red Deer feel that people don’t have enough control in their healthcare system and that decisions and facilities are being centralized too much in Calgary and Edmonton.”
Mason said the NDP is looking at offering a solution to the “centralization” problem by proposing elected advisory committees.
“We wouldn’t break the health authority up into regions again because there were too many issues with that, but we want people to have more of a say as to how their health care is being run.”
Mason said that other concerns he has heard voiced included electricity prices.
“The NDP is the only party proposing to regulate electricity rates so that they don’t go up and down like a roller coaster and so the public isn’t being gauged by power companies.”
People have also raised concerns regarding how education is being delivered and whether or not there are the kinds of services in their part of the province that they would like to see. “We know an election is coming so we’ve been organizing these meetings at coffee shops for people to come in and express their views and ask questions. That’s very helpful for us and it gives us a chance to listen to our province.”
Jobs have been a frequent topic of conversation for Mason with the public and he said there are definitely some ardent concerns surrounding Alberta’s economy.
“People don’t want to live in a boom and bust type economy — they truly want a long-term economy.”
As expected, the environment is another concern of the public’s including putting a stop to clear-cutting in protected areas, grizzly bear protection and cleaning up the tailings ponds in the oil sands.
Mason said public meetings have been very helpful in providing a multitude of ideas for the NDP to look at as well as providing feedback on the concerns they have plans in place for.
“We are going to be running a strong campaign. The public needs to have a voice in the legislature to keep other parties honest on things like health care.”