Hello friends and neighbours!
On June 17, 2021 we met the requirements to begin Stage 3 of Alberta’s Open for Summer Plan on July 1. This means that almost all restrictions will be lifted, including the ban on indoor social gatherings. Well done Everyone! Of course, confirmed cases of COVID-19 will still require isolation, some protective measures in continuing care settings may remain and masks may still be required in specific settings. Details will be released prior to July 1.
It’s worth noting that the steady decline of hospitalizations we are seeing as our vaccination rate goes up shows that they do work! Our active case rate has declined faster than any other province in Canada since May 1. These vaccines are safe, effective, and save lives. If you haven’t booked your first or second dose, please do it now so that when we do open, it’s for good!
The Government of Alberta has introduced some incentives to encourage folks to sign up for both the first and second doses of the vaccine. The Open for Summer Lottery opened for voluntary registration on June 14. Any Alberta resident over 18 who has received a first dose can sign up to enter for the first $1 million prize. Two additional prizes of $1 million each will be awarded (one in August and one in September) and will be open to Albertans over 18 who are fully vaccinated with two doses. This lottery is helping us get the vaccination rates we need to lift the public health restrictions and get back to normal.
The cost of these prizes is not nearly as large as the cost of ongoing health restrictions for our economy, nor does it even compare to the cost to our health system of dealing with ongoing Covid-19 cases. Please note that you must receive your first dose of vaccine and register by 11:59 pm on June 24th to enter the first round. For details of the lottery or to opt-in, please visit www.alberta.ca/lottery.
As you are probably aware, the Wetaskiwin City Council has given the 24/7 Integrated Response Hub and emergency shelter 90 days to find a new home. I know this was not an easy decision for Council to make. There are very real issues and safety concerns for both the clients and the residents who work, live, shop and access services downtown.
However, the Hub and its integrated services have also allowed us to see, maybe for the first time, the overwhelming need we have for this type of facility. Since opening, they have supported over 360 unique, vulnerable individuals. None of us were prepared for those numbers. Certainly not Council nor the incredibly committed and passionate staff who are working tirelessly trying to meet the needs.
Nonetheless, it was a heartbreaking decision, especially for our large homeless population, many of whom experienced several months of relative stability, safety and amazing care, for the first time in their lives. I have met many of the individuals who use the Hub’s services. Many struggle with both mental illness and addiction. Most have chronic and often untreated serious medical conditions. All have suffered a trauma. Usually multiple traumas. Many have been victims of physical and/or sexual abuse. Many are disabled. They often use alcohol and/or drugs to self-medicate an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness. This is an impossible cycle to break when their basic needs are not met; physiological needs such as food, shelter, clothing and health. No Albertan should be in this position. No Albertan wants to be.
Over the past several months, The Open Door has coordinated an extraordinary and unprecedented integrated response to meet these needs. They have successfully partnered with Alberta Health Services, local and regional physicians, RCMP, Maskwacis, Provincial and Federal governments and several local businesses and non-profits. Every day they provide life-saving medical interventions and treatments, life and cultural supports and other basic needs.
I know it can be difficult to see from the outside but the results have been really impressive –saving a lot of lives – significantly reducing property crimes – greatly reducing the use of emergency room services – they are making a huge difference!
Let me close this topic by saying that homelessness, high crime and addiction are not new issues in Wetaskiwin. Closing the Hub will not result in a mass exodus of these vulnerable individuals. They live here, it’s their home, they have rights and are entitled to access services and supports that they so desperately need. We need to do everything we can to facilitate that. If you have ideas on how to help – I am all ears!
On another note, a very busy session in the Legislature has just wrapped up. I was particularly pleased to see Bill 52, The Recall Act, pass. Albertans now have a way to remove elected officials they feel are not upholding their responsibilities. Bill 51, The Citizen Initiative Act, will also give Albertans a more direct role in the democratic system by enabling eligible voters to propose legislative, policy or constitutional action on issues that affect them. You can keep up with the status of Bills by checking out updates at www.assembly.ab.ca.
There’s something very hopeful and rewarding about this time of year; there’s nothing like seeing the joy and pride of kids finishing up another school year and planning camping trips or summer jobs or lazy afternoons at the beach with friends. I think we’re all ready for a summer like no other. I know I am! Besides the promise of warm weather, I’m looking forward to having more time to connect with constituents. If there’s an issue that’s important to you, I want to hear about it. If you’d like to have a conversation, please contact my constituency office to arrange it.
One last word of thanks for your cooperation, your patience, and your support; it’s truly appreciated!
— MLA Rick Wilson