I hope that you have been enjoying the weather this week, put on your rubber boots, and have taken some much-needed walks outside in the puddles, meeting friends along the pathways and playing with your kiddos in the beautiful sunshine.
I wanted to share with you some of the ongoing work in our government. As I write this article, we recognize International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Over the past year, we have seen and answered strong calls to challenge racism. The rise of race and hate-motivated acts tears us apart when we need to be working together. I am a proud Albertan and Canadian who works alongside passionate Albertans and Advocates who have made their life’s work, and have influenced my life’s work, to find ways to target the causes of racism and find solutions to prevent and end racism. This responsibility falls to all of us, and we must work to break down barriers so that our communities grow and prosper. This is about valuing and respecting each other, and we will face racism head-on together, showing the world that there is no place for racism in our communities.
I want to share some information on the Working Parents Benefit. Your government provides a one-time benefit of $561 per child under this benefit to those who use childcare until March 31. Applications must be made by that date. These funds come from unused funds from Children’s services that will go directly into the pockets of families who need it most. Working parents fuel our economy, and we are honoured to be able to put these dollars back in your hands. Please check out Alberta.ca for more information and if you are eligible to have used childcare from April to December 2020.
We have introduced legislation this past week as part of our democratic reform package and will strengthen our democracy and accountability. You may remember that I introduced the first Recall Bill as a private member, Bill 206, the Recall Act in 2015. Bill 52, if passed, would give Albertans the power to initiate a process that could lead to the recall of elected officials at all levels of government, from MLA’s to Mayors, municipal councillors, or school board trustees. It allows you to hold us more accountable, and for me, is a critical piece of legislation. Under the proposed legislation, the recall of elected officials becomes an option 18 months after their election. Any Albertan wishing to recall their elected official would need to contact the chief electoral officer, their municipality’s chief administrative officer, or their school board secretary. They would then have 60 days to gather signatures from 40 percent of the eligible voters for their provincial riding, municipal ward, or school ward, and if successful, a recall vote would be held.
Bill 51, the Citizen Initiative Act, also gives Albertans a more direct role in their democratic system. This legislation would strengthen our democracy by enabling Albertans to initiate legislative action on issues that affect them. If enough support is received through a public petition, Albertans would submit proposed bills and policies to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for consideration and submit constitutional referendum questions to the provincial government. These proposed changes would complement our elected officials’ work and be a check and balance if Albertans feel their interests are not being considered.
Under this proposed legislation, if an Albertan wanted to bring an initiative forward, they would first apply to the Chief Electoral Officer. They would then have 90 days to gather signatures in support of their initiative. For legislative and policy initiatives, petitioners would need the support of 10 percent of voter’s province-wide. For constitutional initiatives, they would require the support of 20 percent of voter’s province-wide across two-thirds of Alberta’s constituencies.
Democratic reform and recall legislation were election platform commitments. Both of these pieces of legislation represent promises made and promises kept. The Citizen Initiative Act also builds upon Premier Jason Kenney’s commitment to introduce citizen initiative legislation when discussing getting a ‘fair deal for Alberta’.
More information on both of these pieces of legislation can be found at alberta.ca. Additionally, your United Conservative Caucus is interested in your thoughts on recall legislation. Visit unitedconservativecaucus.ca/recall to have your say.
$13.1 million in funding is being provided for four Indigenous Housing Capital Program projects.
This week, Seniors and Housing Minister Josephine Pon announced $13.1 million in funding provided by Alberta and Canada’s governments for four Indigenous Housing Capital Program projects. Alberta’s government supports housing designed, delivered, and owned by, and for, Indigenous peoples. The Indigenous Housing Capital Program offers flexibility and autonomy for Indigenous communities to build affordable housing. The program encourages public and private developers to partner with Indigenous governments and organizations. These partnerships help build capacity and create economic opportunities. New affordable and seniors’ housing units will be built in multiple communities across Alberta.
An extended producer responsibility program will reduce the volume in our landfills and diversify the economy. Your government is seeking ways to better manage plastics and household waste through a circular economy approach. Under this approach, the cost and management of recycling shifts from municipalities and municipal taxpayers to those directly producing and consuming goods. This encourages companies to have less waste and packaging and develop innovative ways to recycle more materials. Alberta’s government is consulting with municipalities, First Nations, industry experts, and Albertans on extended producer responsibility.
$50 million is committed by Alberta’s government to modernize and improve rural health facilities across Alberta. Your government has committed $50 million to modernize and enhance rural health facilities across the province. The Rural Health Facilities Revitalization Fund supports projects to upgrade and renovate AHS hospitals and facilities, including EMS stations and emergency departments. Rural communities help make our province thrive and grow, and this investment protects the lives and health of people living in our rural communities.
We extend our deepest condolences to the friends, families, and STAR Catholic Community of the student who lost their life in a violent attack on school grounds. We are just devastated about losing a high school student in a violent attack on school grounds. St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic School Division has additional mental health supports available on site for students and staff. Any youth, family member, friend, or school staff needing to talk to someone can reach out to the Mental Health Helpline 24-7 at 1-877-303-2642. Students and youth can also reach out to the Kids Help Phone by texting CONNECT to 686868.
I am so disgusted and saddened by the attack on two women at Princess Island Park this weekend. Can you imagine being yelled at, then pushed to the ground, having an item of your clothing-a hijab-ripped off your head, and then punched in the face and stomach? Most of us will never know what this feels like. In our lives, we are in a moment where we cannot allow ourselves to passively sit by and say it’s not my problem because it is our problem. We cannot just silently watch our province fall into the hands of those that would see us divide, and we must come together and fight against racism, bigotry, and hatred. I am so unbelievably shattered that this has happened AGAIN. Remember that we as a community are stronger together, and we must educate ourselves. We must not just assume this is going to go away. We must take our place in society standing up to these disgusting acts and work towards making sure it never happens to another person in our community
As always, we love to hear from you.