Pat Stier, Livingstone-Macleod MLA, in Pincher Creek for town hall and local Wildrose AGM
  1. 1297624609967 ORIGINALJohn Stoesser, QMI Agency

Road trips are part of the job for the provincial representative of the Livingstone-Macleod.

So far, Pat Stier, MLA for the region, has logged 6,423 kilometres between April 1 and June 30, according to his expense reports. He added to his odometre last weekend, travelling to Pincher Creek for the local Wildrose constituency association’s annual general meeting and to hold a town hall meeting for the public.

Stier explained that he needs to multi-task when representing a riding with such a large land area.

"We take advantage of these kinds of gatherings because some people drive for an hour-and-a-half just to get here," Stier said, noting that he meets with 22 communities and 14 councils on a regular basis.

Stier alluded to the difficulties of keeping on top of every topic when representing such a diverse area after he was asked about the changes in emergency management between the MD and town of Pincher Creek.

"When you travel this whole constituency and all the other stuff we have to do as MLAs some pages in the binder don't get to be looked at too often," said Stier.

However Stier applauded the efforts between the two municipalities in their push for renovations at Crestview Lodge.

"I've been working with the two guys here, both the reeve and the mayor, on trying to get the Crestview rebuild going," he said. "They have quite an ambitious plan going. They've put together a heck of a good design."

Keeping other such infrastructure and institutions is key to success for small rural communities according to Stier.

"You cannot lose your local library, you cannot lose your local hospital, you cannot lose your main high school. As soon as those main anchoring things go the town will not grow," he said.

"One of the groups I work with on a regular basis is called the Alberta Southwest Alliance,” Stier said about economic development in the area. "They’re doing marvellous work in trying to promote southern Alberta. Second to virtually none in Alberta, I would say. They’re doing a fabulous job all the time. The more we can promote and get more people to Alberta to see what wonderful things we have the more our tourism capacity expands."

The MLA, who is from the De Winton, Alta. region, says a number concerns specific to this area are always brought to his attention.

"We're a group of mayors and reeves, and I'm the only MLA on it, that are trying to lobby government for a little bit more attention for Highway 3 improvements from a safety standpoint as well as for the twinning of the highway, for wildlife concerns and a number of other reasons that come into it associated with building local economies," Stier said.

He says that the province has recognized that work on the thoroughfare needs to be done, especially in Coleman which acts like a "major chokepoint", but that nothing is specified on a construction list for 2014 to 2017.

"It's a huge bottleneck... We're looking at trying to get those improvements done sooner than later," Stier said.

The Wildrose MLA also mentioned Highway 774, specifically the unpaved section south of Beaver Mines that leads to Castle Mountain, is due for an upgrade.

"(Residents) have been wanting to see that paved for years," Stier said. "The information that I've been given by the municipality - that's the MD of Pincher Creek - is that they have a letter from the Ministry of Transportation that says yes they're going to do it. But there is that little sort of caveat, when budget permits."

According to Stier the issue has been raised on multiple occasions but there's no new information.

During a question and answer period many of his constituents were keen to ask about his stance on improving health care, seniors care and patient transfers in rural parts of the province.

Stier presented some ideas, like starting local or regional health committees that provide quarterly feedback but admitted, “it’s a long road to get there.”

He said that individuals working in emergency services have brought concerns about patient transfers to his attention.

"There's a large amount of those people who really care about what's going on in Alberta and they are frustrated by the system," Stier said.

"It was my key target in the legislature last year, I spoke on it many times and I will continue to speak on it."

Around the Pincher Creek area Stier says he also hears a lot about environmental concerns.

"When you come down south into the ranching areas we have a lot of people that are more involved with things about the cattle industry, things about property rights, those things are always on the forefront," said Stier, who grew up raising cattle, horses and growing crops. "And when you come down here to this zone there is always the environmental stuff, there is the power line stuff, there is always the windmill stuff."

Stier also talked about the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, a comprehensive document released last July that will oversee land use of a large portion of southern Alberta.

"I think in this document we're finding a reasonable balance from where we were at it to where we are now but there is still lots of work to do," he said, adding when public lands become conservation lands a lot of things can no longer be done on those lands.

"That's huge, thousands of acres where things are going to be more restricted, that's a big change," he said.

When the final copy of the SSRP was released a Wildrose party statement called the document's conservation measures "long overdue" and the entire plan "too complex, too intrusive into the property right of landowners".

Stier, a first-time MLA, was elected in 2012 after defeating the incumbent PC candidate at the time, former agriculture minister Evan Berger. Stier said he would not be surprised if the province held an election as early as spring 2015 to get ahead of the upcoming federal vote that fall.

The Wildrose Party recently released a new look in what some call an attempt to update the party's perceived association with mainly with rural roots and values.

"As we have evolved, we have a lot of people joining us, bringing us more ideas and solutions all the time," Stier said. "We're organic, we're always trying to adapt and change and make sure we're addressing the needs. So you can't just be fixed on one set of values and stick there for years and years, it doesn't work. And similarly with our logos and branding we're trying to keep up with times."

"We're getting younger and younger in the terms of membership and we want to make sure we're addressing the needs of those people, even in the way that we look," he said. "So we think it's an exciting time."

Another overhaul could be seen right at the top of the Wildrose leadership. After the party's poor performances in the four recent byelections members will review the leadership of Danielle Smith next month.

Smith said she called for the leadership vote and is confident she'd receive more than the 77 per cent support she believes is the minimum threshold.

The vote will take place in Red Deer Nov. 13-14.

With files from the Calgary Sun

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