City of Lacombe Counsellor Thalia Hibbs spoke at the Goverment of Alberta’s Fair Deal Panel. (Todd Colin Vaughan/LACOMBE EXPRESS)

Provincial Fair Deal Panel comes to Lacombe

Panel asks whether Alberta is getting a fair deal in confederation

The Alberta UCP Government’s Fair Deal Panel come through Lacombe, allowing locals to have their say on whether the province is being treated fairly within Canadian confederation.

The panel, which consisted of MLA for Lacombe-Ponoka Ron Orr, Fair Deal Panel Chair Oryssia Lennie and Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao, specifically focused on many aspects of Alberta society and the economy, but the panel did have nine focus points including:

  • Establishing a provincial revenue agency
  • Creating an Alberta Pension Plan,
  • Establishing a provincial police force,
  • Emulating Quebec’s practice of playing a larger role in international relations, emulating Quebec’s legal requirement that public bodies, including municipalities and school boards,
  • Obtain the approval of the provincial government before they can enter into agreements with the federal government,
  • Allowing the province to appoint their own Chief Firearms Office, opting out of federal cost share programs with full compensation
  • Seeking an exchange of tax points for federal cash transfers under the Canada Health and Social Transfers
  • Establishing a formalized provincial constitution

Oryssia Lennie, Fair Deal Panel chair, said the panel — which she has taken part in 13 of — has heard that Albertans are frustrated.

“The views do vary, but the vast majority do not feel it is not a fair deal,” she said.

Lennie said views have been diverse and have often veered towards economic hardships outside of the recommendations.

In Lacombe, the overwhelming majority of the 15 people who spoke were not in favour of Albertan separation but Lennie said that has varied from community to community.

“There is significant portion of the population that suggest they may be interested in separation. There is another part of the population saying ‘I don’t really want to separate but I am very frustrated’,” she said.

The panel will present their findings to the Government of Alberta on March 31.

“Our report will not only represent what we have heard — we have been asked to reflect the stories of Albertans as well as provide some recommendations,” Lennie said.

She added any action outside the government’s current platform, such as the establishment of a police force or the pulling out of the CPP, will be brought to referendum.

“People have been very thoughtful and have said to us to take a look at the cost. Many have also said sometimes, it is not just the costs. Sometimes we do things for other reasons,” she said

Thalia Hibbs, who is a City of Lacombe counsellor, spoke at the event saying she is favour of the majority of the recommendations

“I think none of these recommendations should they all be implemented makes you any less Albertan or Canadian,” she said.

Hibbs said government best serves citizens when it is local.

“Why are we giving that power off to a federal government which is very far away from us and whom we have very little contact with. Why not bring that to this province,” she said.

She said she was in favour of the tax overhaul, the implementation of the police force and the establishment of the Chief Firearms Office.

“The main thing is why wouldn’t we do those things at this level. Why are we handing that off to a federal government that is very far away,” she said.

Barb Olsen, a Lacombe County resident, said she is Canadian choosing to live in Alberta. She said some of the ideas have merit but Albertans need to be thoughtful approaching these items.

“We must not take any knee-jerk reactions. We need to be thoughtful, realistic and weigh the pros and cons of the impacts provincially, on organizations, on businesses, on non-profits and financially,” she said.

Olsen said Alberta’s small population would make funding some of the larger ticket items difficult.

“We have chosen to keep low taxes and have low royalty rates, so how are we going to finance all of those ideas. It is important to think that through,” she said

Olsen said dialogue needs to be clear and open.

“I would not want to do a referendum without more information. I don’t think referendums are the way to go,” she said.

She added oil and gas will continue to be needed, but Alberta should diversify it’s economy.

“We can’t put all of our eggs in one basket. We have many other resources that we should be maximizing,” she said.

Tany Yao, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA and panel member, said the majority of Albertans recognize the province is getting an unfair deal.

“People are proud of being Canadian, however things have to change,” he said.

More information regarding the fair deal panel can be found on the Government of Alberta website.



todd.vaughan@lacombeexpress.com

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