Like the NDP or not, they are carrying out their program

Dan Dibbelt
Smoky River Regional Economic Development

There seems to be some dissatisfaction with the Alberta government, and surprisingly it’s not just coming from the opposition’s side.

As of late a lot of people seem to take exception to the strong “green” initiatives of the NDP and their lack of movement on more of the social programs that they promised prior to being elected.

Many question what happened to the promises of full-time daycare, shorter hospital wait times, easier access to a physician, and elimination of school fees.

When questioned about these promises, the government representatives normally reply that the dramatic drop in oil prices and the direct impact on the provincial economy simply made it impossible for the government to implement those benefits.

I have to say that on the whole the NDP government is largely following what it promised to do in its election platform. The NDP promised to increase minimum wage to $15 per hour and they are.

They promised to review linear assessment and the Municipal Government Act, which they did. They promised to phase out coal powered electricity and they promised to revisit the oil sands royalty review and they did both of those things.

It is all there and it is easy to access, simply by googling Alberta NDP Platform. Hopefully the 3,694 people in the Dunvegan-Central Peace Notley riding took the time to read the platform before they voted for Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd in the 2015 provincial election.

Minister McCuaig-Boyd beat out the Wildrose Party candidate by about 550 votes and the Conservatives by more than 900 votes, a pretty outstanding win. Almost 67 per cent of eligible voters, or 9,593 voters came out to vote.

Many people like to say that the vote was actually an anti-conservative vote, not an NDP vote. That is like the old saying about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Could so many people really have thought they would send a message by voting against a party? Is it possible so many people decided to send a message or is it possible people wanted a change? Regardless, the voters spoke and they elected an NDP government.

I have to give Minister McCuaig-Boyd credit for actually getting out and meeting constituents. I run into Marg on a regular basis and I think she does listen to those who take the time to chat with her. I think she cares about the region and I believe she wants to make a difference. I’m not sure I can give that same credit to the government itself, however.

Rural Alberta seems to be forgotten by the NDP government. The Northern Alberta Development Council (NADC), based out of Peace River, has been without a chair since the election in 2015. The NADC is an important and strategic council that provides policy and program recommendations to the government concerning northern Albertans. How can the important position of Chair be left vacant for 18 months?

And why would the government allow the position of executive director, a position that heads the Council and provides front-line liaison between northern Albertans and the government, to be moved to Edmonton, which isn’t even in Northern Alberta.

I was the executive director for the NADC for seven years, and like all the other executive directors over the past 50 years since its inception, I lived and worked out of Peace River. I loved the job and much as the travel could be exhausting, I do not believe I could not have been as effective living outside the NADC region. No chair and the top position moved to Edmonton, is this a message from the government?

It seems a lot of policies being implemented by the government have adverse effects on rural Alberta, but admittedly most of those policies were promised in their election platforms. They won the election based on their platform and they are delivering what they said they would.

The government does seem to recognize the value of the regional economic alliances. PREDA (Peace Region Economic Development Alliance) along with all the other alliances will have access to additional funds. There is also a new grant available for economic development projects – also a good move, and all benefitting rural Alberta.

The government appears to have a large urban focus. It’s only been a year and a half. Let’s hope they are still getting their house in order and the best is yet to come for rural Alberta.

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