Wildrose party leader Brian Jean took time last week to meet with City officials and local media outlets to get a feel for the pressing issues of Central Albertans.
Jean spoke with a number of mayors in the region, listening to major concerns to try and develop some solution processes to take forward to other levels of government.
He spoke to a wide variety of issues, from the expansion of the Red Deer Regional Hospital and development of an Sylvan Lake Urgent Care Centre to the issues surrounding the Equalization and Municipal Government Acts.
“The biggest issue here that I heard loud and clearly from every single public official here today is more than anything, they want communication and transparency to know the timing of projects,” Jean said during a meeting with local media.
“The most important part to get these projects going is government will. If the government has no will to even talk about these projects, then we have to exercise our right to change that government. I think that’s what Albertans are going to do sooner or later if they don’t get some clarification from the NDP government as far as what they’re planning.”
Jean recognized the pressing matter of the Sylvan Lake Urgent Care facility, which has been proposed to address the need of a 24-hour care facility in the Sylvan Lake area. Jean said this issue was brought up from several Central Alberta mayors due to its ability to alleviate some of the pressure on the Red Deer Regional Hospital as that facility looks toward expansion.
He said his concern for those projects – as well as other major infrastructure projects across the province – lies in not having a definite plan or timeline from the provincial government for communities to work with in terms of development.
“We heard from Brian Mason in the fall that there was going to be put forth a list of all infrastructure projects, and there is still nothing so we’re very concerned about that,” Jean said.
“We know that people in Red Deer – and all across Alberta – need to know when they’re going to receive less of a burden and more of an investment from the government on the things they need. It could be urgent care, like we’re hearing in this area, or roads and bridges which are becoming big concerns in other places.”
He said this information is critical to municipal planning and provincial development.
Several controversial issues were also addressed by the Wildrose party leader, including the country’s Equalization Program, the Bombardier bailout and the timing of the Municipal Government Act changes and the greenhouse gas emissions review.
“The Wildrose party has been listening to Albertans and we have clearly heard the belief that the equalization system in this country is broken,” he said.
“Not only do citizens believe it in Alberta, but we’re hearing this across provinces and from economists. The system is broken. Right now is an opportunity to change it, and that only comes up every ten years or so. We need to take this opportunity to make sure that Albertans are not penalized as a result of a formula that is archaic to say the least.”
He said the equalization formula is unfair due to the lack of consideration of differences between non-renewable and renewable natural resources. As well, Jean criticized the program for not taking into consideration construction costs and the economic status of Alberta.
“We’re not going to back down from any issue that has to do with the quality of life for Albertans. Equalization is one of the issues that the provincial government has an obligation to tackle and to tackle head-on – not to avoid it and skirt around it,” he said.
Jean also criticized the provincial NDP government on their timing of the Royalty Review and Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) review.
“The NDP should have not called the review – especially not the royalty review and the GHG review – at a time when we have plummeting oil prices and people are losing jobs by the thousands. Alberta lost 100,000 jobs last year and these were good paying jobs. They were some of the highest paying jobs in Canada, and these people paid more taxes than others as well,” Jean said.
“This is going to impact not only Alberta, but right across the country. It seems that people in Ontario and even in Edmonton are just not realizing that.”
Jean will be travelling this week to Ontario for a meeting with the Prime Minister to better articulate the needs of Albertans and to hopefully bring back some solutions for future development.