MLA Rick Wilson participating in the Wetaskiwin Canada Day parade. (Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer)

MLA Rick Wilson participating in the Wetaskiwin Canada Day parade. (Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer)

MLA Rick Wilson: The July rundown

Hello again friends and neighbours!

It’s been a busy start to summer! I hope you all took advantage of the beautiful weather and got out to celebrate this great country on July 1. I had a blast handing out candy at the parade in Wetaskiwin, visiting with loads of people, and marveling at the impressive parade floats that came together to form a first-rate spectacle. Those floats take a lot of time and creativity; my congratulations to all the participants who put in the effort to share your love for this country with our community. It’s an enormous task to organize a community event like a parade, and I must recognize the City of Wetaskiwin and the Wetaskiwin and District Heritage Museum for a job well done! And, of course, thanks to all the candy collectors who lined the route and whose smiles and enthusiasm warmed my heart.

I was honoured to speak at the Canada Day ceremony at the Royal Canadian Legion Br. 86 in Wetaskiwin and felt grateful to have the opportunity to show my appreciation for the role veterans have played in shaping this great country. We are so fortunate to live in a country like Canada; I will never tire of singing its praises.

I also made it out to the Reynolds-Alberta Museum to speak at Legacy Run 2022 (Ride for Awareness). The Run started at River Cree Resort and Casino and ended at RAM with a convoy of motorcycles, trucks, and other passenger vehicles. They rode in solidarity to raise awareness of the children who never made it home from Indian Residential Schools, the survivors, and their families. My heartfelt thanks to organizers Bob and Jamie Smallboy, Josephine Small, and their volunteer committee for hosting this important event. Thanks also, to the convoy participants, the drummers, the dancers, the survivors – including my good friend Chief Willie Littlechild – who shared their stories and their hopes for the future. Warmest thanks to those who brought their children – our future. Watching the precious children dance, laugh, and race for bubble gum and stuffies while learning about their history and culture was truly amazing. It was a poignant reminder of why we need to continue to gather, remember, educate, and hopefully help heal, bit by bit, the ongoing suffering from this dark period in Canada’s history.

While I’m on the subject of healing, I’m very excited to share with you that the upcoming Papal trip to Canada will start with a visit to Maskwacis. Pope Francis is scheduled to visit a local church, a cemetery, and the former Ermineskin Residential School, one of the largest residential school sites in the country. Organizers in Maskwacis have been busy ever since the trip was announced planning the details of the visit and preparing for the influx of about 15,000 survivors who are expected to be present for the much-anticipated event. The Pope’s trip comes in response to an Indigenous delegation who went to the Vatican in the spring to speak with the Pope about the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools. This visit is meant to be a meaningful step towards healing and reconciliation for all who suffered and continue to suffer as a result of residential schools. Healing, of course, is a personal journey; while some may be prepared to accept apologies and gestures of goodwill, others may find this whole subject too much to even think about.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to support anyone affected by their experience at residential schools: 1-866-925-4419. Closer to home, Maskwacis Counselling Support Services will be offering Listening Circles in advance of the Pope’s visit. For more information contact 780-585-2268. It is my hope that steps toward peace and reconciliation are the result of many combined efforts.

You may have heard that the United Conservative Party of Alberta is holding an election for a new leader. Whoever wins this election will be declared Alberta’s 19th Premier in October. Official candidates who meet the requirements set out by the Party will be announced after July 20. I am expecting full-out campaigning after that point from a variety of candidates who hold differing approaches to leadership as well as differing approaches to what the priorities should be for Albertans. If you are a UCP member and are eligible to vote in this upcoming leadership race, please take some time to make an informed decision regarding who you want in the driver’s seat of this party and this province. Candidates will be at campaign events throughout the province; please do your best (even though it’s summertime!) to take in some events and get to know the candidates and their viewpoints. If you would like more information about any of the candidates, check online or on their social media platforms. Information about the election and voter eligibility is available from the Party itself (not from my constituency office – which is non-partisan). The Party’s contact information is also available online.

A new commemorative medal has been created to mark the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Accession to the Throne. I am inviting folks from this constituency to nominate deserving individuals for the award! If you know someone who should be recognized for their significant volunteer service to the community, please send my constituency office your suggestion(s) before September 15, 2022. If you have questions, please connect with my office: 780-360-8003 or Maskwacis.wetaskiwin@assembly.ab.ca

I’m scheduled to be in at least three more parades this summer! On July 23 I’ll be at Ma-Me-O, August 27 will bring me to Millet and on September 3 I’ll be at Lakedell. I’ll bring the candy – you bring your smiles and waves! Safe travels everyone.

– Rick Wilson is the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin.