South Peace News
The official fair deal panel tour may be over, but MLAs continue to hold town halls in local communities across Alberta to gather feedback for the provincial government on Alberta’s place within Canada.
Central Peace Notley MLA Todd Loewen, and Peace River MLA Dan Williams hosted a fair deal town hall in Peace River on Feb. 18 at the Peace Valley Inn & Suites.
Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA and Fair Deal Panel member Tany Yao also attended.
The event allowed constituents to discuss some of the same issues raised in the official fair deal tour which ended Jan. 27. Those issues include potentially withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan in favour of a new provincial pension, creating a separate police service, emulating Quebec’s legal requirement that the provincial government approve any agreements between municipalities with the federal government, opting out of federal programs like pharmacare, seeking an exchange of tax points for federal cash transfers, and more.
Dennis Robinson says he is 80 years old, was born and raised in Peace River, and worked on pipelines. He feels eastern Canada is opposing the pipelines.
“I’m mad,” he says. “To see all the years I’ve worked in B.C. and Alberta and to see it destroyed like this.”
Multiple people who spoke through the evening referred to changing equalization.
“That is what’s causing the bulk of the problems within the province of Alberta. When the province is putting money out to other provinces that are probably even in a better situation than we are, and we’re being forced to cut our budgets to the bare bone in a lot of respects, it puts huge pressure on us as a municipality,” says M.D. of Peace Reeve Robert Willing.
However, he is not in support of separation, and would rather see a fair deal obtained through changes to transfer payments.
“I’m a Canadian first and foremost. I love Alberta but I think we really need to be really careful if we want to separate from Canada. There’s huge costs,” Willing says.
Valleyview Mayor Vern Lymburner, who attended the meeting, says the federal government needs to listen to the frustrations of the west and politicians should be taking those concerns to Ottawa despite party lines.
“As Albertans we are a sympathetic people, we don’t mind helping out the rest of Canadians,” Lymburner says.
“But in order to assist them with it, we have to have the ability to do business,” he adds.
However, he thinks the wrong people are having a say in how Canada is governed.
“It’s no longer a country for Canadians. We’re now catering to the minorities. I think as Canadians we have to be proud to be Canadians. We want to stay to be Canadians.”
Deputy reeve of Clear Hills County Amber Bean says she would like to see more made in Alberta products on Alberta shelves.
She says Alberta’s involvement in Canada’s pension plan may not be working.
“These are people that have worked in Alberta their whole lives and they’ve done us proud, and they may not have a secure future,” Bean says.
She is also concerned about federal policies on firearms.
“I don’t remember if anyone remembers history and when Hitler removed the firearms but it didn’t work out so well for the people so I would think that we should take a note from history there.”
Northern Sunrise County deputy reeve Norm Duval says equalization payments need to be reviewed.
“I think the biggest problem now is people are too busy taking up positions and trying to defend their positions. There was a point of time in this country’s history when we helped each other,” he says.
Duval says he doesn’t understand enough about where equalization payments are going and would like to know more so he has more understanding of the issues, but also feels other provinces need to better understand Alberta.
“They don’t understand that we’ve lost a bunch of crops up here in the north. They don’t understand we’re losing a lot of jobs. Welders are going out of work, rig workers are going out of work, service rigs aren’t working. There’s not enough people at the political level as elected officials listening to the voters,” Duval says.
Yao says hearing people’s personal stories adds important background to the report being written.
He says Peace River does have some local representation at the federal level in deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland.
“Premier Kenney confided in us that when he was talking with her she fully admitted to understanding that separation was real and there was a strong voice because people from this neck of the woods who knew her family were e-mailing her and sending her messages, so she got it loud and clear,” Yao says.
He adds people should keep sending messages to federal politicians.
“I have a lot of frustrations as does everyone in the conservative caucus with our federal government, but we’re working toward a fair deal and that means we’re going to have to stop and listen for a bit,” says Williams.
“It means we’re going to have to hear where you guys are coming from and understand it.
“Know that we stand proud with you, that we are very proud of all of you for the work that you contribute to Alberta,” he adds.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this province. I’m proud of all of you for coming out and I’m going to fight for a fair deal and I’m really glad we’re taking these steps to try to find out the right way to get it.”