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UCP candidate Chelsae Petrovic – smiling woman with long, straight, light-brown hair, wearing a grey sweater

United Conservative Party candidate Chelsea Petrovic

Six candidates are vying for your vote on May 29, hoping to be Livingstone-Macleod’s next MLA. All were invited to submit a piece outlining their election platform for publication in Shootin’ the Breeze.

The people of Livingstone-Macleod deserve conservative representation that truly understands and values their needs. We have unique challenges, from growing our economy to preserving our precious natural spaces. Our access to health care and education must improve, and we need strong advocates who genuinely care. It’s crucial that we elect a government focused on the well-being of Albertans in Livingstone-Macleod.

This upcoming election is one of the most pivotal moments in Alberta’s history. The UCP and Danielle Smith are unwavering in their commitment to moving Alberta forward by fostering economic growth and further diversification. This means more jobs, more prosperity.

We will safeguard the services and values dear to Albertans, unlike the NDP who would drag us backward. We cannot risk their failed ideological policies that have already hurt so many Albertans before.

 

 

As a nurse, charity worker and mayor, my experience has prepared me to serve you, my fellow citizens, as an MLA. I intimately understand the importance of health care, economic development and community support. I firmly believe that a good job is the best social program. Through my volunteer work, I’ve witnessed first-hand the significance of caring for the vulnerable and fostering a sense of unity among us. I will be the elected official and public servant you deserve.

I humbly ask for your votes, my neighbours in Livingstone-Macleod, so that together we can be part of a government that truly helps and uplifts our community.

Today, Alberta proudly leads the nation in economic growth, and all indicators predict a continued upward trajectory. This accomplishment is the result of the UCP’s diligent efforts, and it’s crucial that they remain in government to build upon this success.

 

 

We are witnessing a historic influx of new Albertans, as families from across Canada embrace the renewed Alberta Advantage. The UCP made this possible, while under the NDP, people were leaving our province. With the UCP at the helm, major international companies have invested in Alberta, propelling us forward.

Electing the NDP puts all of these achievements at risk.

This is why we must re-elect a United Conservative government to continue the remarkable progress we’ve made. Alberta must remain the economic engine of our great country, ensuring that our hard-working citizens thrive. Together, we’ll preserve Alberta as a beacon of opportunity for generations to come.

I humbly ask for your vote and your support.

 

Albertans head to the polls Monday, May 29.

Advanced voting is open May 23 to 27.

For voter information, including polling stations, see pages 9 to 11.

View Crowsnest Pass election forum videos here: Part 1, Part 2

Individual candidate statements:

Dylin Hauser – Alberta Liberal Party

Kevin Van Tighem – Alberta New Democratic Party

Kevin Todd – Alberta Party

Erik Abildgaard – Independent

Corrie Toone – Independence Party of Alberta

Chelsae Petrovic – United Conservative Party

 

 

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UCP Candidate Calls Out Heart Attack Survivors

Claresholm Politician Enters UCP Nomination Race For Livingstone-Macleod

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UCP candidate Chelsae Petrovic – smiling woman with long, straight, light-brown hair, wearing a grey sweater

UCP candidate calls out heart attack survivors

Chelsae Petrovic, an ER nurse and United Conservative Party candidate for Livingstone-Macleod, is refusing media interviews after flirting with “political suicide” by suggesting that heart attack survivors should bear accountability for their poor health. 

Petrovic offered her remarks, first reported by Global Edmonton’s Saif Kaisar, during her guest appearance on a podcast episode of The Canadian Story published to YouTube on Feb. 21, roughly three weeks before she swept the UCP’s nomination in Livingstone-Macleod.

Social media response to reports on this issue has been overwhelmingly negative. 

Speaking as a hopeful nominee and the mayor of Claresholm, Petrovic also disparaged unions, including her own, and made it plain that she would rather be ejected from the UCP’s legislative caucus if she felt supporting the party line would go against the riding’s best interests. 

Petrovic’s campaign responded to Shootin’ the Breeze’s request for comment with a statement saying her remarks about heart attack survivors had been “taken out of context.” 

A statement attributed to the candidate reads: “I understand my comment could be offensive when removed from the longer interview, and I should have chosen better language. I believe we should be a province that not only focuses on reactive health for those in need but also one that teaches our kids to practise healthy living, which includes taking care of our physical and mental health.”

“No interviews or additional statements will be made regarding the situation,” her campaign team wrote.  

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Accountability, dependence and heart attacks 

Telling podcast hosts David Parker and Zach Gerber that she’d seen “a lot of similarities” between her roles as a nurse and a small-town mayor, Petrovic started talking about hospital patients.

“Everyone comes in with their problems, and how do you fix it? How do you go about being polite to them when you’re trying to save their lives in a high-stress environment?” 

It’s a matter of “balancing saving their life and doing it with a smile on your face as they’re bleeding out,” she told Parker, who founded the right-wing populist movement Take Back Alberta, according to TBA’s website. 

Asked where she saw “a lack of accountability and responsibility playing out in our Canadian society right now,” Petrovic told Parker that what she was about to say “might be political suicide … which is fine with me, because it needs to be said.” 

Canadians have become “so dependent on being saved” by the government, they no longer take responsibility for themselves, she said.

“And I see it in health care,” she continued, dressing down a hypothetical patient. 

 

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“You know, I’m going to say it: Maybe the reason why you had a heart attack was because you haven’t taken care of yourself. You’re extremely overweight. You haven’t managed your congestive heart failure. You haven’t managed your diabetes and there’s no personal accountability. 

“But they come into the hospital, and all of a sudden, it’s everyone else’s problem but their own.”

Petrovic went on to say that she wanted to rally behind one of her neighbours she said had recently suffered a heart attack. 

“Well, let’s start shovelling his driveway,” she suggested.  

Kevin Van Tighem, the NDP’s riding candidate, issued a statement Tuesday calling on Premier Danielle Smith and Petrovic to apologize for Petrovic’s comments “blaming Albertans for cardiac disease.” 

“Last year, Danielle Smith said Albertans are responsible for developing cancer. Now her candidate blames Albertans for having a heart attack. This is a pattern of cruel and hurtful language that kicks Albertans when they’re down,” Van Tighem said.

Kevin Todd, the Alberta Party’s riding candidate, wrote in a prepared statement, “People of our constituency shouldn’t be made to feel as though their access to medical care is predicated on whether or not they ‘deserve’ help in one of life’s challenging moments.”  

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

‘All the nurses are going to hate me for that’

On the subject of front-line nursing, Petrovic said during the podcast, “We have the unions who butt in [to the nursing process]. Let’s be honest, the unions only have [their] best interests at heart and how they make money.”  

“All the nurses are going to hate me for that,” she went on, adding, “Union reps are going to come after me for that one.” 

Livingstone-Macleod above all else 

Petrovic went on to say she’d represent the interests of Livingstone-Macleod if they conflicted with her party’s policy agenda. 

“I promise that I’ll never cross the floor, but I can’t promise that I will always be a UCP representative,” she said, telling Parker and Gerber that she understood that the UCP, like most parties, would boot her out if she won her riding and then voted against the party as an MLA.  

“If that means that … someone says, ‘You have to vote this way, otherwise you’re kicked out,’ and it’s not in Livingstone-Macleod’s best interest — well, I guess I’m no longer a UCP representative.” 

Petrovic several times stressed that she valued Claresholm’s “very diverse” council, and that effective leadership meant honing the ability to change one’s mind. 

The candidate will face the NDP’s Kevin Van Tighem and the Alberta Party’s Kevin Todd when Albertans head to the polls in May.

Travis Toews, man with short grey hair and glasses, and dressed in a blue suit jacket, white shirt and blue tie, speaks to reporters

UCP unveils Budget ’23 ahead of spring election

Finance Minister Travis Toews tabled Alberta’s 2023 budget Feb. 28, predicting a $2.4-billion surplus through a fiscal plan that relies heavily on oil and gas royalties to swell Edmonton’s coffers.

The budget, released roughly 90 days ahead of this spring’s provincial election, contains a massive bump in health-care spending and a plan to boost policing. 

Speaking to rural journalists the next day, Toews touted the United Conservative Party’s “fiscal responsibility” since taking over from Rachel Notley’s NDP in 2019. The UCP has done much “heavy lifting” to curb the government’s per-capita spending, which had been roughly $10 billion higher in Alberta than in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, the minister said. 

Fiscal responsibility remains “a key theme” in this year’s budget, with Toews outlining legislative steps to rein in deficit spending in the years ahead.

 

 

“Those fiscal rules will require a balanced budget, with appropriate exceptions [for heavy revenue shortfalls, sudden emergencies, etc.], and the fiscal rules will provide a strategy and a framework for surplus management.” 

Budget 2023 projects roughly $71 billion in revenue by the end of next March, $18 billion of which is expected to come from oil and gas. 

“The fact is, Alberta has a volatile revenue structure. We do still depend to a significant degree on royalty income [from non-renewable resources] to cover operational spending,” Toews acknowledged, qualifying in the next breath that Alberta’s economy was rapidly diversifying. 

Vowing that “support levels for our most vulnerable cannot be dictated by globally set commodity prices,” Toews highlighted several commitments to boost health care, many of which had been announced before budget day. 

 

Ad for Creekview Dental Hygiene clinic in Pincher Creek

 

To that point, the budget provides nearly $1 billion to shave ambulance wait times, plus $4.2 billion over the next three years to boost health care in rural and Indigenous communities. 

The budget meanwhile provides 13 per cent more for the ministries of Justice and Public Safety. Toews said he would hold Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis accountable for putting 200 extra law enforcement officers on Alberta streets, mostly in the form of provincial sheriffs. 

Toews did not say how much money the province has spent on exploring the possibility of replacing the RCMP with an independent Alberta Police Service, echoing Ellis’s comments last month that the government hasn’t made up its mind. 

“We’ve obviously made no decision as would be reflected in this budget. But we have made a decision to increase enforcement in the meantime,” Toews said.

 

 

Notley’s NDP panned the budget, pouring scorn on Danielle Smith, who succeeded former premier Jason Kenney last fall.   

“Frankly, the best news in Danielle Smith’s first budget is that it could be her last one because, very soon, Albertans will have a choice to turn the page,” Notley said. 

The Opposition leader swung at Smith’s contentious revamp of the province’s RStar program that rewards petro companies for meeting their legal obligations to reclaim spent oil wells, calling Budget 2023 “a fraudulent budget designed to buy votes ahead of the election and then spring the costs on Albertans after the polls have closed.”

 

RCMP Sgt. Ryan Hodge speaks into a microphone at Pincher Creek town council

RCMP patrols in Pincher Creek to be scaled back

A policy change by Alberta RCMP (K Division) will shave an hour off Pincher Creek Mounties’ regular patrols, likely at a cost to the town, according to Sgt. Ryan Hodge.

“It will specifically impact our detachment,” Hodge told town council on Feb. 13. 

K Division announced the policy a week earlier, citing the need to protect Mounties’ safety, he explained. Pincher Creek RCMP will either scale back regular patrols by an hour in the early morning or start patrols an hour later, he added. 

Coun. Mark Barber asked if this would increase the town’s annual policing costs, now budgeted at over $200,000. 

“I believe there will be a cost increase,” Hodge answered.

 

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The new scheduling policy will not take away from the detachment’s ability to police the community, and may increase the number of officer shifts, Hodge explained.

Hodge said he hoped to explain the policy change and hear from town residents more generally at an open house before the town’s police advisory committee meets on March 15.

The detachment is currently at full strength, Hodge said.

The United Conservative Party under former premier Jason Kenney voted to phase in policing costs to Albertan municipalities under 5,000 residents starting in 2020. 

 

 

Pincher Creek’s new policing budget has steadily risen from $74,000 in 2020 to just over $217,000 in 2023, according to finance director Wendy Catonio. 

Premier Danielle Smith, who succeeded Kenney last fall, instructed Justice Minister Tyler Shandro in a Nov. 8 letter to “finalize a decision on establishing an Alberta Police Service,” but Public Safety Minister Ellis said no decision had been made as of the new year.

K Division wasn’t immediately available for comment when Shootin’ the Breeze went to press Tuesday.

 

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Blue mailbox with envelopes spilling out of it in the breeze symbolizing letters to the editor, op-eds and submitted content

Who is minding Alberta’s fish and wildife?

Probably by the time you read this, your search will be endless for fragments of the old Fish and Wildlife Division. It will not exist under any recognizable name or department.

This was the Alberta government agency that inventoried and assessed fish and wildlife populations, allocated opportunity for hunting and fishing, determined species at risk and their recovery, ran fish hatcheries, provided hunter training and conservation education, enforced fishing and hunting rules, and, most importantly, provided advice on proposed land uses to ensure fish and wildlife populations were conserved.

The UCP government has been stealthily engaged in the final gutting of what was left of the Fish and Wildlife Division. Fish and wildlife allocation has been hived off to Forestry, Parks and Tourism, under the auspices of a minister who coincidentally has one of the largest guiding and outfitting companies in Alberta. I’m sure that isn’t a conflict of interest.

The fish culture section (all the hatcheries) has been sent to Agriculture and Irrigation, leaving the species-at-risk function behind in Environment and Protected Areas.

Previous conservative governments transferred enforcement (the Fish and Wildlife officers) to the Solicitor General’s department. Much of the fish and wildlife inventory and habitat development function went to the non-government Alberta Conservation Association. Resource education was privatized under the Alberta Hunter Education Instructors Association. 

 

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The UCP touts grass roots democracy and red tape reduction. Yet, none of these recent changes have had any public consultation, let alone input from conservation organizations. As to red tape reduction, how parcelling out the functions of fish and wildlife management between four government departments and two non-government organizations makes things more efficient defies logic.

These changes are the equivalent of sending hospitals to Municipal Affairs, family health to Education, trauma and emergency services to Transportation, and diagnoses to Public Safety. It’s hard to imagine any successful business that would operate on such an unco-ordinated and non-integrated approach.

Like a successful business the delivery of government programs, in the public interest, need to function in an integrated way under the umbrella of one departmental administration with a similar purpose and direction. 

For fish and wildlife to be managed well, there needs to be adequate, timely inventories of populations; an assessment of what the allocation should be to hunting and fishing interests; ways to monitor population responses to harvest; robust habitat protection; policy development to ensure biodiversity is always part of government agendas; responses to the legal (and moral) requirements for species at risk, with necessary recovery actions; provision of additional recreational angling opportunities through fish hatchery operations; and a level of enforcement to ensure rules are followed.

 

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These functions are not divisible, hinge upon each other, and can only work as a unified whole.

How fish and wildlife management and conservation will happen, in such a fractured way, between four departments, all with differing mandates, priorities and directions, is a question unanswered (it may be the question was never thought of at all).

The real risk is that our fish and wildlife populations will slip through the bureaucratic cracks, the intents for conservation will be weakened, and red tape will increase with interdepartmental conflicts over mandates, budgets and staff levels.

I admit some bias in this assessment as I was a part of the Fish and Wildlife Division before the hemorrhaging began, when it was still considered one of the elite fish and wildlife agencies in North America.

Like selling provincial parks and throwing the eastern slopes open to coal exploration, gutting fish and wildlife management is another example of how out of touch the UCP is with Albertans over the conservation of resources considered as provincial treasures. It speaks to a most extraordinary and dangerous hubris.

Lorne Fitch, P. Biol.

Lethbridge

 

Shootin’ the Breeze welcomes submissions about local issues and activities. Personal views expressed in Mailbox articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect views of Shootin’ the Breeze management and staff. 

 

Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River in southwestern Alberta

 

 

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UCP candidate Chelsae Petrovic – smiling woman with long, straight, light-brown hair, wearing a grey sweater

Claresholm politician enters UCP nomination race for Livingstone-Macleod

Chelsae Petrovic, a licensed practical nurse outside of town chambers, told Shootin’ the Breeze on Jan. 31 that she wants to return provincial politics to its grassroots within the riding. 

“As politicians, we need to take our orders from and listen to our constituents,” she said. 

She’d been generally uninterested in politics until she decided to run for council in Claresholm in the run-up to its October 2021 civic election. 

Her husband, Cody, suggested that she aim higher, so she went for the mayoral spot and won.

 

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“My specialty is advocating for people,” she said, adding that she resolved to run for the UCP’s riding nomination after some heart-wrenching conversations with local moms and dads last Christmas. 

“When I heard from parents who said they had to choose between buying presents for their children and filling up their gas tank … that’s what put me over the edge.” 

She wants to run under the UCP banner because, in her words, “I’m a mom; a wife; a Christian. I resonate more with the party’s traditional values.”

Petrovic said Premier Danielle Smith needs MLAs who will hold her to account while supporting her policy initiatives, including and especially Smith’s controversial Sovereign Alberta Within a United Canada Act.

 

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“I truly believe that’s a good thing for Alberta,” she told the Breeze

As an LPN at Claresholm General Hospital and the emergency department in Fort Macleod, Petrovic said she “lives and breathes” health care. Fixing health care has to be about listening to front-line nurses and doctors and getting them what they need to stay in their jobs, she said. 

Petrovic said she planned to submit her finalized application to the UCP’s constituency association in Livingstone-Macleod within the week.

She will have to contend with a number of other hopeful nominees, including Don Whalen of nearby Parkland. 

 

Ace of spades card on ad for Chase the Ace at the Pincher Creek Legion

 

The UCP reopened riding nominations on Jan. 26, roughly two months after the party disqualified Nadine Wellwood over her social media posts wherein she compared Canada’s Covid-19 measures to public policy in Nazi Germany. 

The party will close nominations in the riding Feb. 9, with the contest to be decided sometime in March, Petrovic said.

 

 

 

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‘No decision’ on Alberta Police Service, says Ellis

Danielle Smith announced last June that she would set the plan in motion if she won the United Conservatives’ leadership campaign, which she did in October.

Premier Smith instructed Ellis in a November mandate letter to “launch an Alberta Police Service” with Justice Minister Tyler Shandro and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. 

Smith further mandated Ellis, himself a former police officer, to work with local law enforcement and municipal governments to “establish a regional approach to policing in Alberta.” 

“There’s no decision that’s been made to establish an Alberta Police Service,” Ellis told Shootin’ the Breeze at a virtual press conference Jan. 24.

The minister said all options are on the table when it comes to curbing rural crime, pointing to Alberta Sheriffs’ success in pulling about 2,220 suspected impaired drivers off provincial highways in the last year and a half. 

“The reality is that the RCMP are struggling to meet the needs of Canadians when it comes to policing,” Ellis said, later adding, “The problem is that the RCMP just do not have enough human beings to provide their contracted services.”

 

 

Local heads of government disagree — forcefully, in some cases. 

“I can’t see how making changes in our provincial policing will have a positive effect on our community,” Crowsnest Pass Mayor Blair Painter told the Breeze.

“We’re 100 per cent behind the RCMP,” Reeve Rick Lemire said on behalf of the Municipal District of Pincher Creek. 

Town mayor Don Anderberg preferred not to stake a position at all, citing that town council hadn’t deliberated the issue. 

Previous councils had expressed concerns about low staffing levels at Pincher Creek RCMP, but Anderberg said the town has always had “a great working relationship” with the detachment. 

The Rural Municipalities of Alberta, which represents 69 rural counties and municipalities, including Crowsnest Pass and the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, wrote in a winter 2023 policy statement that “The creation of a provincial police force should not take place unless a detailed feasibility study proves that such an approach will reduce provincial and municipal policing costs and enhance service levels across the province.” 

 

 

The government’s own findings show that it would cost an estimated $366 million to create an APS and move away from the RCMP. The same report, published by Price Waterhouse Coopers in 2021, concluded that it would cost between $24 million and $49 million less to operate an established APS per year versus the RCMP’s current annual costs, assuming a 20 per cent pay bump in the RCMP’s new collective bargaining agreement with the federal government.

Regional crime is already down considerably across the region, according to the most recent statistics from Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek RCMP. As the Breeze reported in the new year, reported incidents of property crime and so-called persons crime (which accounts for assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, muggings, uttering threats and criminal harrasment) are at five-year lows, according to Pincher Creek RCMP’s Sgt. Ryan Hodge. 

Crowsnest Pass RCMP’s Sgt. Rendell Guinchard reported similar drops across both categories over the summer. 

Both commanders regularly consult with municipalities in their jurisdictions.

Minister Ellis repeatedly praised members of law enforcement, especially Alberta Mounties. 

“As a former police officer, myself, I personally didn’t care what uniform I was wearing,” he told reporters. “I just wanted to make sure that I was providing good service to the people that I was representing.”

Alberta government 2022 highlights from MLA Roger Reid

Our communities have received significant levels of investment and support from the Alberta government, and I am proud of the role I have been able to play in this. Alberta is leading the nation in job growth, which means our neighbours are going back to work and providing for their families again. And with investment pouring back into our province across a variety of sectors, I anticipate more growth ahead.

Our government is committed to tackling this affordability crisis, fixing our health-care system, maintaining our economic momentum and making life better for all Albertans.

Even though our economy is strong, far too many Alberta families are struggling to pay their bills right now due to inflation. To help families cope with these costs, we have passed a landmark inflation-relief package that will make life better for all Albertans, but particularly our most vulnerable.

This package includes targeted relief payments to seniors and families with dependent children under 18 whose household incomes are under $180,000 per year, as well as to Albertans receiving AISH, PDD and Income Support.

We have also introduced inflation relief that is non-targeted and benefits a wider segment of Albertans through making fuel and electricity more affordable.

We are cutting the full 13-cent fuel tax on gas and diesel between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2023, regardless of oil prices. This will ensure Albertans continue to pay among the lowest fuel prices in Canada.

 

 

In addition, we are providing $500 in electricity rebates for 1.9 million households, farms and small businesses. This will help Alberta households cope with high electricity prices at this challenging time of year. 

We can provide this substantial relief because our budget is back in balance and our fiscal position is strong. Alberta is succeeding again, and our United Conservative government is committed to reinvesting that success into everyday Alberta families, so they can grow and thrive. Our government has continually prioritized a balanced budget and strong fiscal policy, which has led to our thriving economic position.

Additionally, we have continued to focus on our resources and the economic growth that comes from diversifying and supporting these large industries. I am proud that our government has embraced these industries that help make Alberta the wonderful and successful province we all know and love.

Another major focus of our government is health-care reform. We have heard repeatedly from people across our province that changes need to be made to our health-care system. This is one of the reasons that our government is working to take immediate action to have AHS improve EMS response times, decrease surgical backlogs and cut emergency room wait times.

Additionally, our government knows that rural health care is unique and requires a different approach. This is why we are working to address health-care staffing challenges, particularly in rural areas, through improving health workforce planning, evaluating retention policies, leveraging the scope of allied health professionals, streamlining immigration and certification processes, and further increasing the number of training seats for health-care professionals in Alberta.

 

 

We are also working with municipalities, doctors and allied health providers to identify strategies to attract and retain health-care workers in rural Alberta.

These steps are just a part of the more long-term changes that will strengthen our health-care system and ensure that everyone has access to timely high-quality care.

One of the steps we are taking to do this is looking into creating more spots in post-secondary institutions for health care related fields. This will help ensure that more Albertans are able to pursue this valuable education closer to home. We are also looking into continued long-term consultation with front-line workers to improve the decision-making processes in our health-care system.

I am hopeful that these steps will be the foundation of ensuring our province and our people continue to have world-class health care for generations to come. 

 

 

These are just a few of our major government accomplishments this past year. Our government is committed to continually taking steps to improve life here in Alberta. We are doing this by introducing legislation that is beneficial to Albertans in the most valuable ways while maintaining a strong fiscal position.

These types of policies have helped to stimulate our economy, which has led to our continued economic success. I am proud to be a part of a government that prioritizes not only what is best for our province but what is best for our people.

I look forward to seeing the continued success of our wonderful province and communities over the upcoming year. I know that this success would not be possible without all the wonderful people who call our communities home, which is why I would like to extend my sincerest wishes of a happy holiday season to you and your families. 

May 2023 be a year of health, happiness and prosperity for all!

Roger Reid
MLA, Livingstone Macleod

 

Shootin’ the Breeze welcomes submissions about local issues and activities. Personal views expressed in Mailbox articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect views of Shootin’ the Breeze management and staff. 

UCP promises extensive affordability measures heading into winter

“Work is underway to get the system set up and running, and we will provide a more detailed update before the holidays if this legislation is passed,” Affordability and Utilities Minister Matt Jones told reporters at an Edmonton press conference.

Reporters grilled Finance Minister Travis Toews about the timing of monthly payments to seniors, families with children, and people receiving disability benefits, now set to end one month after May’s provincial election.

Toews said the government’s massive budgetary surplus allows the UCP to help Albertans. The government will reassess Albertans’ needs after the six-month time frame is up, he added. 

“The average Alberta household with or without children, with or without seniors, or vulnerable Albertans will receive up to an estimated $900 in broad-based relief alone,’’ Jones told reporters last Wednesday.

Jones made a similar statement in a Nov. 29 tweet, in which he quoted himself telling the Calgary Herald that “The broad-based relief alone will provide the vast majority of households — with or without children, with or without seniors — with up to $900 or more in relief.”

 

 

Jones then reiterated commitments Smith made when she publicly unveiled the plan on Nov. 22. The plan promises $100 payments to seniors and people receiving Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) and Persons with Developmental Disability (PDD) payments for six months every month for the first half of 2023. Families that make less than $180,000 per year will get the same payments for every child. The income eligibility would see monthly payments go to 80 per cent of families in the province, Jones said. 

 Albertans already receiving core support programs like seniors benefits, AISH, PDD and income support wouldn’t have to apply for the plan’s monthly payments. Families with children would have to apply through a government website, where they would be asked to provide income information.

The payments will be non-taxable, Jones said.

The government will boost AISH, PDD, income support and seniors benefits by six per cent starting in the new year, which Jones said would match inflation for 2022.

 

 

The plan would defer a portion of winter electricity bills for consumers on regulated rate option plans for the first three months of the new year. Charges above 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour will be spread over monthly bills starting in April. This includes municipalities and energy suppliers not covered by the Alberta Utilities Commission. 

Seventy-five-dollar rebates will go to 1.9 million electricity consumers in January and February, with $25 rebates in March and April. Credits will carry over where electricity bills come in below $75, Jones said. 

The government will halt the province’s 13 per cent fuel tax on gas and diesel from January through the end of June, costing the treasury an estimated $600 million in lost revenue. The plan also increases provincial income tax exemptions and provincial tax brackets by just under 2.5 per cent. 

“I don’t have information on timing,” Jones said when pressed on the rollout for the proposed regulatory framework. The minister said he hoped to see permanent “natural gas price protection” starting in the new year, but again balked at providing a hard timeline.

 

Grey-haired man with glasses, wearing blue suit speaks

Toews speaks to Sovereignty Act

Premier Danielle Smith’s proposed Sovereignty Act, introduced Tuesday in the Alberta legislature, won’t hurt foreign investment by triggering constitutional battles with Ottawa, Finance Minister Travis Toews said Wednesday.

Toews told a roundtable of community newspaper reporters in southern Alberta that the UCP government is eyeing volatility now affecting international commodity prices, especially oil. 

“When we take a look at the uncertainty right now that we see in the economy globally, which always has an impact on commodity prices and creates volatility in those prices, we have to always budget with that in mind here in the province of Alberta,” Toews said.

But the Sovereignty Act, he said, will ensure “certainty and predictability” because it upholds the rule of law and the Canadian Constitution.

Toews was openly critical of Smith’s Alberta Sovereignty Act during the recent UCP leadership race, in which both were candidates, when Smith said the act would empower the province to override federal laws, policies and programs the legislature determined to be unconstitutional or hurtful to Alberta’s economic interests.

 

 

“I’ll just be really transparent,” he said Wednesday. “My concern was that (the Sovereignty Act) certainly would have the probability of creating unpredictability or a lack of certainty within our business environment.” 

But Toews now says the UCP’s rebranded Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act (Bill 1) shouldn’t worry investors that the province might upend the status quo.

The overwhelming bulk of Alberta’s budget surplus, now on track to hit $12.3 billion for the current fiscal year, comes from energy royalties and corporate tax revenue. Toews said his ministry anticipates “solid surpluses” of $5.6 and $5.3 billion in the next two fiscal years. 

The minister said he’s confident the province’s political stability will continue to make Alberta a smart place to invest, but he won’t unconditionally vote for the new Sovereignty Act.

“Look, I can support this act if it, in fact, respects the rule of law; if it’s constitutional, and if it can be implemented in a way that’s not going to create uncertainty and a lack of predictability in our business environment.” 

 

 

Toews stressed that the act “won’t and can’t” compel Albertans or businesses that operate in the province to “disregard federal law.” 

As it now stands, Bill 1 gives Smith’s cabinet the authority to direct Crown corporations and a host of provincial entities, including post-secondaries and school boards, not to follow federal laws the legislature deems unconstitutional. The law is silent on what would happen to these bodies should they refuse cabinet’s direction.

“We’re talking hypotheticals here,” Toews said, adding, “There’s a lot of assumptions that we would have to make in order to answer that question. My concern is that, whatever we do with this legislation, we do it in a way that’s going to continue to provide certainty and predictability within Alberta’s economic environment.” 

“It won’t undermine the rule of law and it will be constitutional,” he said. “And those two pieces will be important as we continue to attract investment for our economy.”

MLAs will deliberate Bill 1 between now and Christmas, as the legislature works through its fall session.

 

Grey-haired caucasian male wearing dark suit speaks into microphone

Don Whalen seeks Livingstone-Macleod nomination

Don Whalen, an entrepreneur and lay preacher from Parkland, Alta., announced Sunday, Nov. 18, that he will seek the United Conservative Party’s nomination to represent Livingstone-Macleod in the next provincial election. 

In his first media interview Wednesday, Whalen said he would file his papers as soon as the party reopens the nomination, probably after Christmas. 

Incumbent MLA Roger Reid announced Nov. 1 that he would not seek re-election. The UCP later rejected a nomination bid and subsequent appeal by former People’s Party candidate Nadine Wellwood, citing recent social media posts in which she likened vaccine passports and other pandemic health measures to Nazi Germany.

Next spring’s election would be Whalen’s first run for public office, he said. The nomination hopeful aligns himself closely with Premier Danielle Smith, calling himself “a lifelong conservative” and a former Wildrose voter.

“I’m liking what the premier is doing: She’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes in.” 

Whalen said he wants to serve in the legislature to be the voice of disaffected voters in the riding. 

 

 

“I’m really concerned about the direction our province and country have been going in over the last two to three years. People are being marginalized and they’re not being heard.” 

Taking aim at the federal government and former premier Jason Kenney, Whalen said pandemic health measures had gone too far. 

“Our personal rights and freedoms were just trampled on, and the Charter (of Rights and Freedoms) was just a piece of paper for a couple of years.” 

Whalen said public health policy should be informed by medical science, but lamented that pandemic measures had been overtly politicized. 

“During Covid, Deena Hinshaw,” Alberta’s chief public health officer until Smith fired her Nov. 14, “was the most important person in Alberta, and we had non-elected officials basically deciding everything for us,” he said.

Looking ahead to Smith’s long-promised Alberta Sovereignty Act, Whalen said the province doesn’t need legislation to assert its jurisdiction over things like natural resources. He was also highly critical of pending federal legislation he said would “confiscate” hundreds of local gun owners to give up their guns, but stopped short of advocating separatism.

 

 

“I’m an Albertan. But, I’m also a Canadian. I am concerned that it’s going to be very hard to change things with Ottawa, so I’m stepping up to be a voice for that change in a positive way.” 

On climate change, Whalen said he opposes the federal carbon tax, but supports the development of clean-burning energy. 

Whalen said he co-owns a small buy-and-sell business with a friend. He is also a lay preacher, taking the pulpit about once a month at Fort Macleod’s House of Prayer.

 

Male youth pins poppy to Remembrance Day cross held by female youth, while another male youth stands at attention, on the front page of Shootin' the Breeze. Alberta news from Pincher Creek area and Crowsnest Pass.

Nov. 9, 2022

We will remember them

Peter Van Bussel and Abigail Rigaux receive a poppy from Walker Anderson at the MHHS Remembrance Day assembly in Pincher Creek.