Pincher Creek Voice - Chat with MLA Pat Stier

Chat with Pat – MLA Stier talks about spring session and area concerns


Chris Davis, Pincher Creek Voice

 
Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier at CNP Lifestyle Show C. Davis photo

Livingstone-Macleod MLA
Pat Stier at CNP Lifestyle Show
C. Davis photo

Livingstone-Macleod Wildrose MLA Pat Stier dropped by the Pincher Creek Voice office recently for a semi-informal chat about the spring session of the Alberta legislature and also about area concerns such as predators, the Lundbreck railway crossing, the role of an official opposition party, pharmacies, rural doctors, off-highway recreational vehicle concerns, and the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan.

“We talked about the budget process the last time I was here, about a month and a half ago,” said Stier (click here for that story).

 
 ”On March 7 Minister of Finance Doug Horner announced his budget and made his presentation for about 40 minutes in the house. He talked about how he was going to reinvent the way they do budgets, in a manner of speaking and bring a new way they report it and so on and so forth.”

Mr. Stier said the Wildrose party’s “fiscal responsibility in motion” proposal would be one of the measures that would help Alberta repair a budgeting crisis. Presented by Wildrose Finance Critic Rob Anderson, it “would cap annual government spending increases to the rate of population growth plus inflation, would mandate balanced budgets by prohibiting the government from introducing a budget that runs a cash deficit, would allocate 50% of all future cash surpluses to the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund and ensure that annual interest would stay in the Fund to accumulate instead of being spent,” according to a Wildrose press release, available in it’s entirety by clicking here.

“It’s coming in on Bill 12,” said Stier. “When we go back in session, we’ll be starting on that. Simultaneously, every ministry will be questioned by the opposition, in three, and sometimes six hour sessions. The opposition includes not only us, but our colleagues in the ND and Liberal ranks.”

“We will be hammering them on the budget, and we will be hammering them on behalf of a lot of things that have happened since the budget was announced because we have been inundated from a lot of different entities that have been affected.”

Stier said cuts to education and Handibus services were on that list.

“These little things aren’t mentioned in the big budget announcement, but they’re now coming to fruition. You’ve got to wonder why a government that wants to go into debt to build roads and all this other things are hitting seniors and families. What are their priorities? Why are they hitting who they are? What their real thoughts were, when they decided to make their cuts.”

“There are some changes in what funding is going to be going out in terms of seniors. The line items in the budget aren’t that specific, but a lot of people with disabilities are going to be negatively impacted. As the Opposition, we will be asking very direct questions during Question Period, about these specific things.”

“We see this as an opportunity to focus on their budget, and put pressure on them to review and and perhaps accept some of our amendments on some of these things. They have a majority, there is only so much we can do.”

“For ESRD (Environmental and Sustainable Resource Development I have at least sixty questions, and that is just for that ministry. Between Agriculture, Social Services, and all the other ministries, we are sitting down similarly over the next two weeks, so it will be a pretty good review.”

Lundbreck railway crossing

MLA Stier also talked about the local Lundbreck railway crossing grievances.

“A lot of people put together a petition a little while ago and sent it to me. I received this about three and a half, four weeks ago. I started phoning on it right away, and I got a hold of the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway). They got back to me about eight days later, When they checked into it, they realized it’s not the railway’s responsibility, it’s Alberta Transportation’s.”

“I went and checked on the Alberta Transportation side… They had been talking to Ted Menzies (Macleod MP and Federal Minister of State for Finance), who sent a report that found the same thing, it was Alberta Transportation’s responsibility.”

“So a lot of people have been trying to get attention, we’ve done some work to try to help out, we hope it will be resolved in some manner. I’ve been across it numerous times, I go in and out of Lundbreck quite a bit because my campaign manager is there.”

“There are different kinds of crossings. There are ones on the highway that you can cross at 130 k, and other ones. This looks like a slower speed crossing.”

“They’re drawing attention to an issue that has a lot of engineering behind it, and they may not be aware of that. Hopefully, transportation will bring those bits of information to them, and then we’ll see what we can do. We’ve done some work on that.”

“We’re happy to do it, and we hope to do more, if we can help people. There is a lot of things that we will never be able to do.”

“I got back to the people that contacted me about that petition, some others have been in touch since, that didn’t know that I was involved. We are working on things on their behalf.”

“You contact the person who organized it, and hope he has passed the message back.”

“Most of my riding has problems in the sense that there are some people who don’t read the local paper, or the local paper doesn’t cover much of what we do. Without the assistance of guys like you, it’s hard to get the word out. Unless you stand on a street corner every day and wave your flag, they never know you’ve been around.”

“The BearSmart Program over the years has been from my research something that the government has spent a fair amount of money and time on.

“They try to look after the problem from either a culling standpoint, in a vocal area, or they look at actual moves (relocating the animal).”

“SRD is something that I’ve been assigned to. I did question the Ministry about three weeks ago in the chamber about the grizzly bear program, what they’re doing.”

“She answered the usual way, with the great things they’re doing, but that doesn’t necessarily solve the issue we’ve got in southern Alberta, but it was an opportunity that I grabbed onto, and I was able to raise it in the house and bring to her attention that people were concerned.”

“If people need to have a more active voice, that’s what the opposition can do. We can raise questions right in the house. Sometimes a lot of people on the governments side wouldn’t want questions on certain matters raised, but if it’s given to us, we will do so, and we have done.”

Pharmacies

“At the same time, we’re hearing a lot from pharmacists and pharmacy owners. They got hit hard. We have spoken out on this topic three or four times a week on that very topic. The generic price of drugs has gone down substantially. A lot of the small town operators are in dire straits because it really has hit their bottom line. We’ve been very active on that.”

“We’ve been getting dozens of letters, from every constituency. It’s been a hot topic. There was quite a large demonstration of them out in front of the Legislature last week to try to raise the issue to a higher level of attention. Unfortunately it was the day that it snowed like …”
“One of the first guys that got a hold of me in our area was a pharmacy owner in Black Diamond. He is just furious.”

Doctors

The last thing I’d like to mention is that we’re monitoring this doctors contract. We are inundated by people calling and emailing us about doctors. They are really P.O.ed about this thing. They had better settle it soon. Doctors, specially in rural areas, their reimbursement package is to pay their office fees, staff, the whole thing. There are increasing costs in Alberta, and this government seems to be using some pretty heavy handed tactics and the budget situation to act as a huge lever to cut their wages. There is a lot of people saying, ‘Why do we even bother playing in Alberta, when we can go elsewhere?’”

“We’re hearing from anaesthesiologists, we’re hearing from LPN’s, RN’s, and we’re hearing from doctors. They are very, very, very upset, and they’ve been upset for the last six months. This is something that is, I think, really tragic. There’s a lot of people that are in rural areas that have to travel a great distance to go to see their doctor, and for tests, and their doctors aren’t very happy right now.”

“A lot of people are worried. We get emails from individuals asking ‘What is my doctor going to say, when I come see them? Is he going to be there, or is he so unhappy he is just going to refuse to see me, only see so many people, and then go home?’. There is a lot of stuff going on. It’s going to be a difficult few weeks here, after this budget goes down.”

“The vote in the house is predictable, they have a majority. What they want to do, they’re going to do it unless we can get the pressure from the people. To get the masses to put the pressure on is what has got to happen. In the Wildrose, we’re trying to heighten the awareness of the public to all of these issues, to get them to speak out with us, to try to get these guys to change. That’s all we can do.”

South Saskatchewan Regional Plan

The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan is a similar issue. That’s enormous. We understand that the plan is delayed until the fall, before it will actually come out. When the first draft comes out, the first phase has been done, where they’ve brought out the Regional Advisory Councils Report to government, what they think they should do, and that’s what people saw, when they had those public meetings out here and raised the issue up a bit.”

“Now the government is taking that feedback, they’re going to produce something called the ‘real first draft’, then they put that back out for consultation. When that hits, it’s going to be enormous, and there is going to be a lot of people that are going to be p-i-s-s-ed.”

“That’s my baby. I’ve been monitoring that, and we’re going to be asking at these budgets, ‘What is the compensation plan for people who are going to have land use affected, on their land? What kind of processes will they have to follow? The Property Rights Advocate that’s been hired in Lethbridge, is it true that his hands will be tied, and he won’t have the power to do anything?’ We are going to be asking very important questions.”

Off Highway Vehicle/hunting concerns

“There is a lot of guys with off-highway vehicle concerns, too, because there have been a lot of changes in the recommendations from the Regional Advisory Council to the government to change access rules and regulations about who can go into public lands to use ATV’s.”

“There are also clauses in there that suggest hunting should be hunt-by-fee.”

“People should have a heads up, they need to look at the map in the back of the Regional Advisory Plan, they need to look at what the rules will be on that area that are noted by the map.”

“Some areas are blocked off as conservation areas on that map(click here for map).”

“If you are in one of those proposed conservation areas, you will not be able to apply to do a lot of things you used to be able to do. It’s an imposed change, or an imposed re-zoning. You haven’t asked for it, they just suddenly decided that they’re going to do it.”

“Huge tracts of land have been blocked off for conservation reasons.”

“If you were to apply for a livestock feeding operation, or maybe you were going to do windmills, and you owned that land, or someone came along and wanted to buy your place for a wind farm, with this plan coming out, all those guys are running away.”

“They realize that if they acquire that land, and the zoning goes into effect, they won’t be able to do anything.”

“So those guys that own that land, will become subject to a speculation hit. Speculators aren’t going to come and buy land if there’s threat of a new zoning change. So suddenly your land may have had potential value to do different things on it, but now it may be restricted to certain things. That causes you a devaluation in your property and that’s the government taking land and property rights, and there should be compensation.”

“The Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC), which is sister to the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), have published a book on the effects of forced regionalization.”

(You can download a digital version of that document by clicking here).

“It will be very interesting how this all unfolds in the next few months.”