photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta

photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta

Minister Rick Wilson: Be kind to one another, keep going

Hello Friends and Neighbours:

As many of you know, I am a pretty optimistic, glass half full kind of guy. If there is a bright side, I will look for/find it. I love my family, my friends, my colleagues, my community, my province and my country. And I really love helping people. It makes me feel good.

Lately, it’s been hard. For everyone. Really, really hard. We are all frustrated and tired of this pandemic. I know this because I am hearing from people in record numbers – a lot of scared people, angry people, sad people and frustrated people. Occasionally, I even hear from someone who wants to thank me for something they think we got right. That really chokes me up.

My job is to represent the constituents of Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin. It’s an honour and a privilege I take seriously. However, and this is where my job gets interesting – there is often no consensus among my constituents. This constituency, like most, has a lot of really passionate and engaged people on both sides of many issues. We also have what I refer to as the “slightly less vocal” majority who lean towards a more moderate, balanced approach. That’s usually where I land, too.

I have been asked repeatedly to address a couple of issues that have been quite polarizing and the focus of intense media (particularly social media) attention. Most days, I don’t want to add to the negativity by publicly flogging someone – there are plenty of others to do that. However, due to the sheer volume of correspondence and phone calls I have received, I feel compelled to provide my position.

I will start with the fencing/closure of GraceLife Church. Firstly, I am a Catholic. I love my church. I love the fellowship and the comfort my faith gives me, especially in trying times. My church and hundreds of other places of worship have continued to operate within the rules. They have successfully offered both smaller in-person and virtual services to their parishioners. These sacrifices are made to protect one another and also because it’s the law. We have to follow the law, even if we don’t agree with it or see it as necessary. Yes, even a church. And if repeated requests for voluntary compliance are ignored, closure is not religious persecution or government overreach. It’s a last resort used to enforce an important public health measure. It’s that simple. And easily avoidable.

Going forward, I would dearly love to see the GraceLife Church open and operating within the rules that we are all living by. We are so close to the end of this, let’s get to the finish line in a spirit of love and cooperation.

Secondly, there has been a lot of chatter, including a peaceful protest at my office, about a public letter signed by some of my colleagues, condemning the return to Step 1 restrictions. First, I want to be clear that I have a great deal of respect for the signatories on that letter. They work really hard for their constituents and for the province. I am sure they wrote/signed it after much soul searching and with the best of intentions. However, I did not sign it, I do not agree with it and frankly, I was a little annoyed by it. It’s divisive and it undermines the public’s confidence in the government’s ability to manage the pandemic. The last thing we need right now is more division.

I need to expound on this subject and say that these are truly torturous decisions. There is a mountain of medical, social and economic data, often conflicting and always evolving, related to COVID. As MLAs, we sift through it, study it and discuss it at length. We also rely on current assessments and recommendations from a variety of experts. We bring forward our constituent’s concerns and share our own personal experiences. Sadly, I have a lot of personal experiences to share. I no longer need to be convinced by science that we are dealing with a very serious and very contagious virus, often with dire consequences and/or serious long-term effects. We also go over multiple scenarios and discuss the implications of each one. Everyone, especially the Premier, understands that the “costs” are so much more than financial. So, we talk it and sometimes battle it out, but once the decisions are made, I think we need to be united. I think Albertans expect and deserve that.

In addition to COVID, there is a lot of other government business taking place. We are in the middle of a busy legislative session and are engaging in public consultations on issues that are important to Albertans such as the future of coal mining and the new K-6 curriculum. There is a ton of information at www.alberta.ca on the latest happenings and information on the current bills can be found on www.assembly.ab.ca If you can’t find something, contact my office at 780-360-8003 or by email at Maskwacis.wetaskiwin@assembly.ab.ca You can also check out my Facebook page for frequent updates.

Just a reminder that COVID-19 vaccines are our best defense – not only do they help prevent you from getting infected, they also protect you from getting severely sick if you do get it. All of the vaccines are safe, effective and save lives. The benefits far outweigh any small risk. They will not be mandatory but we strongly urge you to take part in the vaccine program as soon as it’s your turn. I recently qualified under the AstraZenaca program and was thrilled to get my first shot!

If you know someone who is struggling emotionally because of the pandemic, there are many resources that can be accessed through https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx

I will be in the constituency for most of the last week of April and would love to hear from more constituents! Please call or email my office to arrange a phone call or virtual meeting – these can be private or group meetings.

Spring is here – let’s take advantage of the beautiful weather and spend some time outside – walking is a great for your mental and physical well-being! It’s also an easy way to spend time with friends and family while still socially distancing. Thanks to everyone for your cooperation and your support, it’s truly appreciated.

— Minister Rick Wilson, MLA Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin

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