Hello Chestermere Readers! Happy Canada Day! We hope you had a chance to meet up and greet fellow Chestermereians and join in on the celebrations at John Peake Park as well as other festivities around the city. We also celebrated Chestermere’s second annual Pride weekend which was kicked off by repainting the cross walks in front of City Hall. Thank you to all the sponsors, volunteers, and organizers who worked so hard to create such wonderful celebrations for both events! It was an honour to participate along with all of you! A special shout out to my wonderful Constituency staff, and to my family to help make sure that all parts of our constituency had provincial representation for the various Canada day celebrations. Thank you so much to Peter, Vicki, Akesh and Malkeet for helping me to be in more than one place at a time and for taking time out of your long weekend to be present for these wonderful celebrations. A very happy 4th of July for our American brothers and sisters as well.
I wanted to update you on some of the legislation that has been debated and passed as well as update you on some of the changes that are coming with respect to getting rid of red tape. One of the first changes you will see is with AISH. We will be automatically enrolling AISH recipients who have turned 65 into Seniors financial assistance programs. This will remove stress, excess paper work and it will speed up the process. Previously, seniors had to apply for provincial Seniors benefits. This is unnecessary red tape, as the government has the required information. This removes barriers and improves access to services. This summer, department staff will begin adjusting processes and communicating with AISH recipients about the transition.
Private members Bill 201 received royal assent this past week! MLA Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk put forward Bill 201 to protect our students who require an Epipen by ensuring that all Alberta schools have them on the premises. They are now mandatory in schools staring in the winter of 2020. The Bill gives more legal protections to teachers and helps create safer schools for our students with severe allergies. Congratulations Jackie, and thank your for advocating for our kids!
I also wanted to update you on the Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT) for Class 1 and 2 drivers. Class 1 and 2 drivers who got their commercial driver’s licence between October 11, 2018 and February 28, 2019 must pass the MELT knowledge road test before March 1, 2020, while school bus drivers, farmers, and farm workers can apply for an extension to comply. Today, our government extended the deadline for school bus drivers and farmers to become MELT certified to July 31, 2020 for school bus drivers and November 30, 2020 for farmers and farm workers. Several impacted stakeholders communicated their concerns with the NDP’s rushed implementation of MELT and fast approaching deadline. Unfortunately, the NDP ignored concerns from several groups that MELT deeply impacts such as school bus driver and the farming industries who need more time to adjust to the MELT requirements or they would have faced a serious shortage of drivers. Our government is committed to consulting with farmers and school bus drivers to create a robust driver training system in place that works for industry and that is safe.
Let’s chat about the Government of Alberta Annual Report which outlines the past fiscal year. “Yikes” is the word that comes to mind when you see the previous government’s overspending. I’m certain that you are not surprised! The total debt skyrocketed to $80.8 billion (around $20,000 per Albertan!) which is more than a 65% increase over the previous year. This is not sustainable. We have a responsibility to take a hard look at Alberta’s fiscal health and be responsible with how the government spends your precious and hard-earned tax dollars. I am looking forward to seeing the results of the MacKinnon panel which is taking a deep dive into our fiscal situation to better understand how to spend thoughtfully and with compassion and consideration for the people of Alberta. Our investment income was $500 million below projections, and the debt was higher which translates to: zero growth to Alberta’s revenues. Somehow the previous NDP Government still managed to grow expenses by 8 billion. Albertans deserve better than having this debt. We are aiming for balance, and we will work hard to get Alberta there!
Finally, the crude-by-rail fiasco! What a mess! Our government has chosen to deal with this by working with the private sector, not by creating a government owned crude-by-rail program. We are working with CIBC Capital Markets and the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission to have the private sector take this project over. This is how it will work: CIBC will advise on the divestment of the project to make sure you as the tax payer get fair value for the investment. This process will hopefully be finished this fall. The NDP signed a $3.7 billion contract just before the last election, one of the largest expenditures in Alberta’s history. This was to lease railcars, and for a mere 3 years! We will get this program back on track (no pun intended) so that we can get value for our dollars! We have relaxed some of the curtailments and Alberta is now producing 3.74 million barrels per day, and we are hopefully heading towards exiting the production limitations in the near future. We have arranged for meeting space in Chestermere and as always we love to hear from you. My office may be reached at 403-207-9889, Chestermere.Strathmore@assembly.ab.ca.