Pincher Creek Voice- Conversation with MLA Pat Stier

 

A conversation with Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier


Chris Davis, Pincher Creek Voice


Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier
C. Davis photo

Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier was in Pincher Creek last Thursday, August 23 to have a private meeting with members of the Pincher Creek Foundation board, which manages Crestview Lodge.  After that meeting he sat with me in the Crestview Lodge atrium, and we discussed a variety of topics. The questions I asked him are synopsised in bold italics, with his full responses in regular text.

Why were you visiting here at Crestview?

"Crestview is another one of these issues throughout the region that has come to us, looking for assistance.  And when I say assistance, I refer to where they have been trying to deal with the province in terms of trying to get upgrades and or new capital funding, and are running into extremely difficult situations, where their buildings are essentially no longer meeting code, they're out of date, they're overcrowded, and they can't seem to get any funding, because the government  doesn't seem to have it as a priority.  And when I say 'it' I mean seniors facilities.  It's definitely not a priority, that's my observation." 

And you think it should be?  

"Certainly.  When you look at the capital grant system that is on the website for the provincial government, they did have a system for 2012, that was cut off in March.  Only three projects made it to the table, I think.

So we have a whole bunch of towns in southern Alberta that are way behind in many of the facilities in terms of not only being up to code, today's code, that is, but way behind in renovations and repairs and maintenance.  There are some sad situations in many of the towns I visit.

It's a common problem in every town.  In the past month I think I've been approached by three different facilities here in Southern Alberta here in my own constituency, for exactly the same thing."

MLA Pat Stier (second from left) with Pincher Creek Foundation 
CAO and Facility Manager Millie Loeffler, Chairman Neil Stewart,
and MD of Pincher Creek rep Rod Cyr at Crestview Lodge
C. Davis photo

Solutions?

"There is a huge problem that I can perceive, where a lot of things are changing in the health system, that are going to affect the extended care, assisted living system.  I'm not an expert in any of these things, yet, but I'm getting fairly immersed in it. 

It's actually opening my eyes to a lot of issues.  I think you've heard of the health system  where they want to get a lot of the seniors that are occupying beds in the major hospitals,  they want to shift them out to other facilities, but those facilities are way out of date.

I just toured a room today that's a hundred and fifty square feet, and it doesn't even have a bathroom.  They have one shared bathroom for twelve rooms down that hallway.  Can you imagine, if your pushing a walker, or are handicapped in some regard, having to share that room with others?  And that room, by the way, doesn't have a door separate from the assisted bathing facility to the toilet.  So if you're there, while your doing your cleaning process, if someone is in dire need to use the bathroom, they can't.  These are abhorrent conditions. 

It's typical in southern Alberta in some of these older facilities that were built in the early 70's, where there are ramps like in this place that have an extremely dangerous angle to it.  These things are not meeting code whatsoever today.

Basically, I've had my eyes opened to a lot of issues.

How are you adapting to your new position? 

I was a councillor for Division 6, which is around the DeWinton area, the Davisburg area, and I was on various planning committees, and sub-divisor appeal board was my favorite one, I suppose, I was co-chair and chairman of that. And the assessment appeal board,  and the planning committee, I was on that for a year and a half when we were putting together a new municipal building plan."

"Well, despite the fact that I've been on the various boards, and committees worked with Foothills for approximately 15 years, prior to being a councillor, so I can say that I have almost 20 years in Municipal government, in a manner of speaking.  There is an enormous amount of added responsibilities, and an enormous amount more than I'd ever imagined in terms of the scope, and the depth and the breadth of what an MLA deals with on a daily basis, let alone a monthly basis, let alone a yearly basis.  It's enormous.  So it certainly opened my eyes to that.  It's been an adjustment, but it's certainly coming together now, because we've just opened a new office in Nanton, and we've gotten a lot of the main organizational obstacles out of the way.  Finally, after three and a half to four months now, we're settling down to dealing with issues rather than organizational issues.

I'm a farm guy, so it's definitely an occupational change."

Other big issues facing your constituency?

We've had a number of different things come across the plate that are not new issues, they're ongoing issues.

There is the Castle logging, and the Atlas Road Closure, I'm just getting my feet wet on that one.  We still have property rights issues, and the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) is coming up.

Today they just finished announcing the Athabasca Regional Plan, so we expect the SSRP to be coming up right away.  There will be a number of issues there that will have to do with property rights, that we'll definitely have to be going to the public about, and make sure that they are informed about what those will be.  How controversial those will be is anyone's guess, but I expect that they will be very worrisome for a number of people.

When it comes down to this regional planning stuff, there's so many policies and changes in the way land use will be dealt with in the next little while because of that regional plan.  There will be a lot of changes in property values because of that regional plan.  There will be a lot of people who have had certain rights, that will no longer have those same rights."

There is one significant difference between being an opposition MLA and a government MLA.  I don't have to make excuses.  I only have to go there and fight for my residents, for what they need, and what they want, and try to look out for their interests.  That's part of the tour I'm doing now.  I'm trying to find all the concerns and all the issues, as much as I can prior to the fall session.  So that I can do an informed job of representing them in the next session.  So I actually sent out a request to every municipality, every council, every school board, every major stakeholder that we knew of and asked them for meetings to ensure I could get that information." 

Are property rights being eroded?

"No question about it.  Even in the case today. When the Athabasca Regional plan came out, they actually went ahead because of these new rules, and policies that came out with the Bill 36 Land Stewardship Act that we call ELSA, they cancelled 19 oil and gas leases with that announcement.  How are they going to compensate those leasees?  How are they going to look at not only what they paid for those oil and gas leases for open-pit bitumen mining, but how are they going to compensate them for revenue streams after they were developed and running, and making money for their shareholders?  How's that going to be dealt with?

We don't know, and they're not saying either.  They are saying 'Oh, energy will make those decisions', and that's what SRD is saying.  I'm saying to myself, there is billions of dollars being spent by oil and gas exploration companies everyday on leases... and we have yet to figure out how we're going to pay those people back.  We spent that money. 

The province did a budget last March that you folks in the media said was questionable.  It wasn't just us.  It was based on oil and gas prices that we felt were a little bit generous, if not a bit of a pipe dream.  Where are those monies going to come from to pay these guys, if the budget was already in the red from revenue-based data that didn't seem to have a lot of back-up?

I'm worried that it's going to be a problem in every respect, in the whole budget for the Province, whether it's in respect to seniors housing, or health, or for education, or whatever.  If they based their budgeting on revenue streams that were predicted to actually increase, by 41 or 42 percent, according to the media write-ups?

Nevertheless, gas has been in the tank for the past three years.  It's three bucks, not 13, as it used to be, when I was working there.  Oil has been up and down like a yo-yo as it always will be.  What's going to happen now with these new costs to compensate these oil and gas companies?  Where is that money going to come from?  Was that in the budget?  These are the questions that we have to find answers to."

Perception: who is this guy?

"Part of my mandate is to show that I can do the job.  There's been a lot of conversation of 'What can an opposition MLA do?'   Well we can do an awful lot more than sometimes a government MLA can, in two ways.  Every day, in question period, we can bring topics up on behalf of our residents and ratepayers.   We can bring their matters right to the light, in front of the cameras in the Legislature and say 'Mr. Speaker, the community of Pincher Creek has brought to my attention that the senior center there at Crestview is years out of date, the building doesn't meet code. When is this government going to start bringing dollars in to address these horrendous conditions in Southern Alberta of these seniors centers?', and a government MLA wouldn't do that.

Trust me, I will be bringing forth similar situations for Claresholm, Fort Macleod, Crowsnest, I'm hearing the same thing, over and over again.  And you will hear it.

As an opposition MLA, everyday our 17 MLAs will be asking questions of the government about all of these issues and more, whereas a government MLA wouldn't be doing that.  He'd either be answering questions, or he'd be not raising them at all.  So this is a unique situation for southern Alberta, I think for a change they will have someone fighting for them.

There are an awful lot of topics coming up.  My assigned role from our leader is SRD critic, and I'm happy to say that I have been digging into that fairly heavily to do with land use in my own background with land use planning.

I understand the Municipal Government Act fairly well.  I understand most of the issues concerned about the regional plan and the land use framework.

I will be going about digging and rooting into these things to try to insure that property rights are protected, and that a number of issues that the people of southern Alberta have elected me to do are properly addressed."

Subdivisions/acreages...

"When the new SSRP comes up there will be some direct policies that will be applied, should that get passed in it's current form, that will negatively impact a lot of that activity.  I agree with a lot of things that are in the SSRP, and the land use framework about how we need to preserve farmland, without question.

However there are also some things in there that will have a big negative impact on the land owners where those lands next to large urban areas like Calgary will be forced to no longer be able to develop as they could, because the city wants an easier time of annexing the land so they want to put land freezes on around those areas.  Municipalities, ie Foothills, Rockyview County, and Wheatland, are  very much opposed to being controlled by the city like that.  So you are going to see some controversy over that.  That hits me right in my main areas.  Priddis, Red Deer Lake, DeWinton, Okotoks too.  All the areas that are close to the city of Calgary."


Calgary's growth into the surrounding rural areas...

There is, in land use planning, the need for those kind of transition areas from agricultural to urban.  The Go Calgary plan was to develop up, not out and that doesn't necessarily work.  They're still developing out.  In previous planning systems, those areas were allowed to become acreages, then eventually become urbanized.  The cities are trying to extend their fingers out and say 'no, don't allow those acreages, we want to take over the land easier, and take over farmland, that's empty so we can get it cheaper'.  That doesn't work. There's a natural transition there.  The SSRP will contain some things that a lot of people will be adverse to."

Cowley's pre-election Candidate's Debate

"Cowley was interesting kind of confrontation.  That was the first one I've ever done in that type of an atmosphere.  There were a lot of significantly disturbing issues raised.  There was plotting and strategy involved in some of the questions.

I hoped I came out of that one relatively unscathed.  There is a lot of stuff I'm sure that Evan (Evan Berger, formerly the Conservative Livingstone-Macleod MLA) and I would agree on.  I know Evan from the past when I used to attend the AAMD & C (Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties) conventions in Edmonton, and I would see him on occasion.  We weren't thinking differently on a lot of things."

Regarding Evan Berger's appointment as a senior policy adviser to Deputy Minister of Agriculture John Knapp...

"It's curious, to me what's happened.  He's put himself in quite a position now.  and accepted that position, and he's paying for it in the press, lately it seems.

I'm wondering what he's up to.  A lot of people say he's campaigning.  He claims to be having an office in Lethbridge as well, of late, I've read.  It makes me wonder when I read in the press that he's going to probably run again. I wonder 'Why would he?  He's got a great job now, its going to have a transition allowance, and a great salary.

He's getting raked over the coals on this.  Did he not think about the implications?  Who was behind that decision?  The Ethics Commissioner, what's he doing? What's he talking about, when it's fairly plain that these guys aren't supposed to be involved in anything for a year, or something like that.

We've had even in our own office a lot of people calling, mad as hell wondering what is he doing, and why doesn't the Ethics Commissioner step in and do his job? 

It's honestly beyond me why Evan would get involved in something that's going to be so controversial to his own reputation.  He and his family must be going through an awful lot of grief right now over this thing.

It's a non-issue to me, actually.  I do have some questions about it though.  It hardly seems fair that someone is going to be in a job, there shouldn't be a competition for it.  Is he the best man for it?  What is the job description?  What is he going to be doing?  He admitted in the interview that the Nanton News had done that they hadn't fleshed it out yet.  How do you get a job like that?  I'd like to have it." 

Great conversation with Chris Davis of the Pincher Creek Voice!

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