Vol 15. Issue 7, Leduc – Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer
"The Ministers appear to be strategically chosen for the Wetaskiwin region"
Alberta’s Cabinet ministers were traveling through Central Alberta on Wednesday, February 9th to talk to business leaders, community volunteers and members of the public. As part of their provincial tour, they stopped off in Wetaskiwin following an earlier session in Camrose, answered predictable questions and then continued on to the next community as part of the Cabinet Ministers Tour. These meetings were intended to provide an opportunity for the Alberta Government to listen to regional ideas and concerns.
On February 9th, local MLA, Verlyn Olson hosted Gene Zwozdesky, Minister of Health, Len Webber Minister of Aboriginal Relations, and Parliamentary Assistant of Sustainable Resource Development, Evan Berger. Verlyn was very pleased with the turn out of approximately 100 people who were at the Reynolds Museum theatre to listen to, meet with and question the Ministers.
As MLA Olson diligently took notes of peoples’ comments throughout the session he later reflected, “I feel that there was a very good exchange of ideas, and some excellent questions from the participants. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to participate, and hope that we have the opportunity to host the Cabinet Ministers in our constituency, again.” MLA Olson often supplemented information provided by the Ministers during the session and clearly illustrated his active participation on a variety of committees and his knowledge of issues.
The Ministers appeared to be strategically chosen for the Wetaskiwin region. Parliamentary Assistant of Sustainable Resource Development, Evan Berger was there to put out any fires around the effect Bills 19, 36 and 50 might have on a landowner’s rights. He assured the audience that since he, too is a landowner and, “has worked darn hard to pay for the land from my family and have it for my children.” He went on to explain that if landowners are affected by zoning for a project, such as a transmission line or a highway, the landowner will be continue to be protected by the Alberta Bill of Rights and will be appropriately compensated.
Marilyn Buffalo, Samson First Nations presented her case to the Minister of Aboriginal Relations Len Webber by first complimenting the Government for a leading education delivery agreement. She then went on to state a working group needs to be established with the Federal government, provincial government and the First Nations to create, “terms of reference” on how to provide “care for our seniors and disabled” on the reserves.
The heavy-weight presenter was the Minister of Health, Gene Zwozdesky. He was very adamant that the Government of Alberta in the next budget will maintain “one way or another” a focus on funding for core services – healthcare, education, infrastructure and environment. He then added (and was applauded for) ‘thrown into the mix’ the Government of Alberta recognizes the importance of ensuring care for seniors. “We are adding 1000 spaces for long term care per year for the next five years and by the end of March we will have added 1600 more continuing care spaces.” He went on to state the Government has made a conscious decision to provide five years of guaranteed, committed funding to healthcare.
Minister Zwozdesky clearly stated his focus at this time is on the healthcare budget and until that is complete and presented he is not considering throwing his hat into the ring for the position of Premier. Verlyn Olson and the other Ministers stated they were not interested in the Premier’s race.