Hello everyone! The recent warmer temperatures have been a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy a breath of fresh air. We’re all feeling the effects of this lingering pandemic; the sunshine and longer days sure are welcome distractions.
A lot has happened in the last month.
You are likely aware that Finance Minister Travis Toews tabled Budget 2021 on February 25. It’s no surprise that lives and livelihoods are the main focus of this year’s budget considering the challenges we are facing. We will spend a record $23 billion on health care and an additional $1.25 billion specifically to fight the pandemic. The budget will also support jobs now and in the future. Specific information on the budget is readily available at alberta.ca/budget.
Covid-19 vaccinations is a hot topic across the province. Albertans are being vaccinated as quickly as supply allows. This is happening in phases so people most at risk get access to the vaccine first. When we opened up the booking system for Phase 1 of the roll out on February 24, we did experience a bumpy start. The bugs have been worked out and things are running much more smoothly now. We’re grateful for the patience of Albertans as we improved the system to work as it should. We are currently in Phase 2 of the roll out. For detailed information about timelines and eligible groups, please visit Alberta.ca/covid19. There’s even a place right on that webpage where you can sign up for an email notification as soon as new groups become eligible for vaccinations.
March 1-5 was Constituency Week. I always look forward to spending dedicated time in Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin. We are blessed with many engaged constituents who are willing to share thoughts and ideas around a multitude of current issues. It is my pleasure to hear your concerns, to answer your questions, and to support your needs.
I am thankful, too, that all four county councils as well as village CAOs made time to meet with me during Constituency Week. The valuable information and feedback they provide is critical to being able to make informed decisions at the provincial level.
Food security is an ongoing concern in this constituency. We are fortunate to have some amazing non-profits whose staff and volunteers work diligently to meet those needs. These folks understand so well that people just need a little help sometimes. A little kindness really is a great benefit to everyone. I was pleased to spend time learning first-hand about our local food banks. If you are in a position to offer help or donations, please consider contacting a local food bank. These are especially tough times and your support would be most welcome. Food Banks Alberta provides valuable support both across the province and to our local food banks. I was able to have a great discussion with their Board and Executive Director, and remain so appreciative of the work they do to ensure every Albertan has food security.
Constituency Week also gave me a perfect opportunity to visit and support local businesses. Beef’D is an amazing new sandwich shop right on highway 2A in Millet. Moe’s Barbershop is up and running in its new location on the auto mile just south of the water tower. I’m a fan of their friendly atmosphere and great work…my wife likes my hair, too! Pasta Kulture is one of Wetaskiwin’s newest eateries; it’s close enough to Moe’s to stop by after a haircut for dine-in or take-out. Donairs N Delights is a brand-new addition to the Wetaskiwin Mall that I can’t wait to visit next time I’m in town. I’m told they feature 100 per cent Alberta beef, locally grown vegetables, and fresh, handmade pitas. And Fizo Automotive at 5301 49 Street in Wetaskiwin just opened and is ready to deal with all your automotive repair needs.
As a very productive and busy Constituency Week drew to a close, MLAs across the province prepared to head back to Edmonton to reconvene the Spring Session in the Legislature. For the past two weeks, we’ve been working hard answering questions in the House, introducing and debating new bills, and keeping up on committee work. The Recall Act (Bill 52) has attracted lots of attention since it was tabled in the legislature on March 15. This proposed legislation would allow voters to remove their elected politicians from office. If passed, the bill would spell out the different processes by which MLAs, municipal representatives, and school board trustees could be fired by voters. There is still work to be done on the details of this legislation, but the hope is that this election promise will be ready to go by the end of the year. Bill 51, The Citizen Initiative Act, is another part of our democratic reform legislative package. If passed, it would allow Albertans a more direct role in the democratic system; Albertans would ultimately be able to submit proposed bills and policies to the legislative assembly for consideration, and submit constitutional referendum questions to the provincial government. Information on all new and proposed legislation is available at alberta.ca/new-proposed-legislation. There’s lots to read up on; we’ve been very busy!
One last thing I’d like to talk about is some terrific news specifically for our constituency. As part of our government’s commitment in Budget 2021 to “Revitalizing Rural Health Facilities”, the Emergency Department at the Wetaskiwin Hospital and Care Centre will be receiving a $3.8 million renovation. A further $2.1 million has been made available to renovate the Medical Device Reprocessing Area. This much needed and much appreciated investment will go a long way to ensure rural Albertans have access to first class health services.
I’m hoping to take a few moments to enjoy the sunshine and go for a short walk. I hope you will, too. Stay safe, everyone!
— Minister Rick Wilson
Rick Wilson is the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin. His constituency office can be reached by emailing email@example.com or by calling 780-360-8003