Category: Provincial Politics

Provincial funding to continue for School Nutrition Program

Some great news for local school districts regarding a program that provides daily nutritious meals for thousands of Alberta students.

The provincial government has announced it will continue funding the School Nutrition Program first implemented by the NDP as a pilot in 2016 and continued over the past two years.

For Red Deer Public Schools, the funding will continue to boost programs already in place at Fairview Elementary School and Normandeau School.

Superintendent Stu Henry says Fairview Elementary School received over $150,000 from the grant in each of the last two years, while Normandeau received roughly the same amount last year after the government increased its investment in the program.

Nicola Golby, associate superintendent for Red Deer Public Schools, says they’re pleased the renewed funding will continue to make healthy foods available to students in hopes of supplementing what they may or may not be able to bring from home.

“At Normandeau, the students will have access to breakfast foods before the bell and then during the morning if students are hungry, they can walk down and pick up muffins between classes,” she explains. “Then lunch will be available for any student in the school daily, so they will have milk, fruits, vegetables and some kind of a hot lunch or sandwiches every day of the week.”

At Fairview, Golby says a grab-n-go breakfast will be available for students after the morning bell.

“They’ll have fruits and vegetables fresh every day, milk fresh every day, kind of special days where they’ll have their smoothie days, special days where they’ll have ‘try something new on your toast’ days,” explains Golby. “Then they’re going to try partnering with the Mustard Seed this year for lunches. We want to see what we can do in terms of expanding our partnership with the Mustard Seed and see if we can get even more students from different schools and the ability to have some extra food before lunches if its needed.”

However, despite the renewed government funding Golby says many schools will likely continue their search for additional community support to help keep the program sustainable.

“With a government grant being year-to-year, we never know if it’s going to come the following year or not,” says Golby. “So any support that we can get to help provide some sustainability for future years is really appreciated.”

At Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, associate superintendent of faith development and division support, Ryan Ledene, says they are happy Alberta Education will continue to fund the program.

“In the 2018-2019 school year, the school nutrition grant was utilized by St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds and St. Teresa of Avila School in Red Deer,” says Ledene. “This year, we will expand the usage of the school nutrition grant to include St. Patrick’s Community School in Red Deer.”

Alberta Education’s School Nutrition Program saw an initial investment of $3.5 million in the 2016-2017 school year as a pilot project, with 14 school authorities across the province benefitting.

A further $10 million was invested in the program through Budget 2017 and another $15.5 million in 2018 for a total of $29 million over the last three years.

Provincial officials have confirmed the School Nutrition Program will once again be funded with $15.5 million in 2019-2020, with each school district receiving the same amount of funding as last year.

Tara Veer returns from meetings with 21 other mayors

Red Deer’s mayor and city manager are returning from this week’s mid-sized mayors’ caucus meetings in Lethbridge with eyes on continuing to advocate for paths to economic growth, jobs, and diversification.

Tara Veer and Allan Seabrooke were in attendance alongside representatives from 21 other municipalities this week to focus on responding to common issues, and pushing for partnerships with the Government of Alberta.

The meetings included a visit from Municipal Affairs Kaycee Madu and Premier Jason Kenney, who highlighted the need for red tape reduction and attracting investment.

“The Alberta mid-sized Mayors’ and Chief Administration Officers’ caucus meeting is just one opportunity we have as local governments to collectively strategize, emphasize and advocate for common issues,” said Veer. “Local governments have a responsibility to represent the needs of citizens and their communities at a local level. It is critical that we, as municipalities, work with the provincial government as they build out and implement strategies aimed at economic, fiscal and social sustainability for the province and cities like Red Deer.”

Veer was also elected to the executive board of the Alberta Mid-Sized Cities Mayors’ caucus.

The Alberta Mid-Sized Cities Mayors’ and CAOs’ Caucus is comprised of 22 cities and towns from across the province with the goal of solutions to respond to matters of common interest and advocates for the needs of Alberta’s mid-sized municipalities.

Red Deer set to host the spring 2020 meeting of the caucus.

Alberta government wants MLAs to be called back early to the legislature

EDMONTON – Alberta’s United Conservative government wants to reconvene the legislature earlier than planned.

Government house leader Jason Nixon says in a statement that he’s sent a request to the Speaker to call members of the legislature back starting Oct. 8.

The fall sitting wasn’t supposed to start until later in October.

“We promised Albertans during the election that we would work non-stop to pursue our platform commitments to bring jobs back to the province, eliminate red tape, improve public infrastructure and restore the Alberta Advantage,” said Nixon. “I think I speak for all of our government members when I say that we are excited to get back to the business of fulfilling those promises.”

Premier Jason Kenney has already said he plans to bring down a budget next month.

He has also said that a report from a government-appointed panel that looked into the province’s finances (MacKinnon Report) would be used as a basis for the budget.

Premier Kenney responds to letter from Amnesty International

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has responded to an open letter from Amnesty International that criticized his government’s aggressive approach in defending the oil and gas industry. Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, warned that the premier’s efforts have put human rights at risk. Read the full text of Kenney’s response below, and Amnesty International’s letter here.

“Dear Mr. Neve,

“Before responding to your open letter, titled “Human rights concerns regarding the Government of Alberta’s “Fight Back Strategy,” I would like to offer a note of sympathy. Honestly, it can’t be easy being the long-time head of Amnesty International Canada (AI), stuck in annoyingly free and peaceful Canada, having to work yourself up into high dudgeon to denounce a democratically-elected government peacefully standing up for its citizens.

“On the other hand, your insistence that the burning human rights threat in Canada right now is – to use your description – the “establishment of an energy ‘war room’ devoted to defending the oil and gas industry in Alberta and a public inquiry into the foreign funding of groups who oppose or criticize energy developments in the province” can hardly pass unchallenged. Relentless misinformed attacks against our oil and gas industry have cost us thousands of jobs and hurt families from every region of our province. The cost in investment and jobs has been incalculable. Our government won the largest democratic mandate in Alberta history in part on a promise to stand up to those attacks. I will not apologize for keeping that promise.

“Again, I understand it must be hard for you. When you look around the world and see the rise of authoritarian governments, civil war, human trafficking, genocide, and other gross violations of human rights, it must be a tall order to find something, anything to denounce here in our gelid but placid Dominion.

“You see your colleagues in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia standing up to a government that “severely restrict[s] the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly” and “extrajudicially executed” and dismembered a prominent journalist (those are all quotes from the AI country profile).

“You see your counterparts in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela facing a regime under which “hundreds of people were arbitrarily detained” amid “reports of torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual violence against demonstrators” and “the Attorney General was dismissed under irregular circumstances.” (That last part rings a bell – you might want to look into it.)

“You see your confrres in Russia fighting “further restrictions to the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” “harassment and persecution” of religious minorities, “torture,” and a regime that systematically sabotages Western democracy, while your greatest challenge is … a provincial government speaking out in defence of its economy and in defiance of an active campaign against it.

“This is a double pity. It can’t be much fun for you and, more seriously, it undermines the credibility of what was once, and still could be, an important organization. As I have written before, when I joined Amnesty International as a teenager it was to defend the rights of political dissidents like Andrei Sakharov and to oppose totalitarian regimes like those currently in charge in most major oil-producing countries. I am disappointed to see that you continue to squander the moral authority accrued in those brave campaigns on smearing the most responsible and rights respecting major oil-producer in the world.

“There was a reason I singled Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela for comparison. They – along with Iran – would be major beneficiaries of a moratorium on Canadian oil production. No one will cheer your letter harder than Vladimir Putin, the Houses of Saud and Al Thani, the caudillo Nicols Maduro, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. OPEC’s oleo-gopolists will be chuckling from their gilded palaces at your navet.

“Demand for oil is not going away soon. Every credible estimate shows several more decades of strong oil demand, and the world is going to get it from somewhere. Shutting down Alberta’s oil industry means more global supply – including much of the oil imported to Canada’s east coast – will be sourced from the world’s worst human rights abusers, instead of from the most ethical and best-regulated industry in one of the freest countries in the world. The net result of the campaign to landlock Canada’s oil and gas reserves, in which (to use an old but apt term) you are playing the role of useful idiot, will be to take money out of the pockets of Alberta workers to line the silk pockets of men who commit enough human rights abuses before breakfast to keep Amnesty International busy for a year. If you are truly concerned about human rights, look at where the world’s oil will come from if we don’t export it from Canada.

“Although your letter is repetitive and scattershot in its criticisms, I will respond to your main points in turn. Not because you raise serious issues, but because your hyperbolic bill of particulars is all-too typical of critics of Alberta’s oil and gas industry. It demands a rejoinder in the interest not just of our province, but of accuracy. Ironically, your letter is a perfect illustration of just why Alberta needs a way to respond to common misconceptions – and the decade-long campaign to discredit the Canadian oil and gas industry – with facts.

“For example, you allege that our plan to correct inaccuracies about Alberta’s oil and gas industry will “have particularly serious implications for advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in the province.” What out-of-touch balderdash. In fact, I received your letter while I was meeting with the leaders of northern Alberta First Nations, whose people have enjoyed prosperity precisely because of their partnerships with Alberta oilsands producers and who strongly support our government’s efforts to respond to the campaign to landlock Canadian energy.

“Shortly after I was sworn in as Premier, I hosted the first Government-First Nations gathering in years, which was attended by 46 of the 48 Alberta First Nations Chiefs. The overwhelming – I would say, unanimous – consensus was that Alberta’s First Nations want to be partners in the prosperity that flows from the responsible development of our shared natural resources. They have seen first-hand that Alberta has Canada’s highest level of Indigenous employment because of our energy sector, and especially our oilsands. And they have had enough of foreign and urban do-gooders telling them how they should steward their traditional lands – a phenomenon BC MLA and former chief councillor of the Haisla Nation, Ellis Ross, and others acidly refer to as “eco-colonialism.”

“That is why we proposed unprecedented steps to partner with First Nations in defense of our shared economic interests through the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (AIOC). This $1 billion commitment, backed with the full faith and credit of the Alberta government, will encourage First Nations participation in resource development. The AIOC will be a first-of-its kind policy, a creative solution to the challenges that many resource-rich but capital-poor First Nations face in owning or co-owning major oil and gas projects. We have heard from dozens of First Nations inside and outside Alberta who are eager to access this support, and the federal government has expressed an interest in becoming a financing partner.

“We have also launched a $10 million Indigenous Litigation Fund to help First Nations defend their own economic development rights in court when they are threatened by government actions like the West Coast tanker ban or the cancellation of the Northern Gateway pipeline – both decisions taken by the federal government without consultation and over the strong objection of many B.C. and Alberta First Nations.

“You may be surprised to hear that I agree that “Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is a Legal and Moral Imperative.” I use the same language myself, calling the need to partner with our First Nations, the first custodians of our rich trove of resources, a “moral imperative.” We know that there are still too many Indigenous people in Canada who do not enjoy the prosperity that natural resources development has brought. In that spirit, I hope that you will join me in cheering the fact that there are at least four consortia of First Nations bidding for a major stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline. Projects like this represent real economic opportunity for Canada and our First Nations and are a step towards meaningful reconciliation of which we should all be proud.

“Separately, I appreciate your concern for vulnerable individuals who you worry will be harmed by government advocacy. I am pleased be able to reassure you that you fundamentally misunderstand the context and purpose of the “fight back” strategy. In fact, I am sure you’ll be relieved to know that you have it exactly backwards: our energy industry and the jobs across Alberta and Canada that depend on it are not threatened by isolated or vulnerable individuals but by well-funded family foundations like the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, whose fortune was made in part from coal mines.

“Those would be the Rockefellers whose fortune was made by the Standard Oil monopoly and the Packards of Hewlett-Packard fame, whose foundation has assets over US$7.5 billion and who recently rewarded Tzeporah Berman, a former advisor with the previous government, with a US$2 million prize for her anti-oilsands activism. When I joined Amnesty International, it was because you fought for prisoners of conscience in dictatorial regimes. Today, you are fighting on the side of foreign billionaires trying to shut down an industry on which hundreds of thousands of hard-working men and women depend. Forgive me if I express a concern of my own: that Amnesty International may have drifted somewhat from its core mission.

“As for your concerns about freedom of expression and association, those rights are not threatened by our government telling the truth about our energy industry. Our intent is to counter misinformation, exaggerations, and outdated information with facts and evidence. You acknowledge this when you say that the “narrative that has accompanied the launch of the ‘war room’ focuses on ‘uncovering the truth’ and ‘tackling misinformation.'” That’s exactly right.

“There is a great story to tell about Alberta’s oil and gas sector. It’s a story of innovation, of world-leading research and development, of decreasing emissions, of cleaner technology. Most importantly, it is the story of an industry that has been an engine of social progress for people of all education levels from across the country, including women, new Canadians, and Indigenous peoples. How you can twist this good news story into a threat to human rights confounds comprehension.

“Speaking of exaggerations, your claim that “by any measure, oilsands development in Alberta is a major source of global carbon emissions” is exactly the sort of distortion that makes this project necessary. Canada is responsible for 1.6% of global GHG emissions and the oilsands account for 8% of that, or about one tenth of one percent of global emissions. Your claim would be wildly inaccurate even if the oilsands were ten times their current size. This is not to diminish the importance of Alberta showing leadership in GHG reductions. Our government is committed to lowering emissions, including by putting a price on large emitters and funding technology that will lower emissions both here and around the world.

“The second part of that plan is particularly important. While we will reduce emissions here in Alberta, our greatest contribution to the global challenge of climate change will be come from developing and exporting new technology and our cleaner natural resources, especially natural gas, to displace the coal-fired electricity in the world’s largest and dirtiest emitters. The reduction in global emissions we can achieve by exporting our know-how and resources to the developing world dwarf any reductions the anti-oilsands campaign could ever hope to achieve. Contrary to your letter, we may not be a big part of the problem, but we are determined to be a big part of the solution.

“As for the rest of your accusations and insinuations, they only make sense if you deny that there is a well-funded campaign against Alberta’s natural resource industry and a concomitant need to rebut it. This would be the campaign that you dismiss as “vague conspiracy theories about the hidden goals of US based foundations.” I assure that if their goals are hidden it is because they have worked hard to keep them that way. One of the original strategy documents of the Tar Sands Campaign, from 2008, actually stressed that “the [Tar Sands Campaign] Coordination Centre shall remain invisible to the outside” (their emphasis). Unfortunately, the Tar Sands campaign is real and anything but vague. Under the heading “Tar Sands Campaign Strategy 2.1,” that same document lays out step-by-step, in precise detail, the “tar sands termination agenda” to “embarrass Canada” and “delegitimize” the oilsands.

“As if that weren’t enough, the North American energy industry is also being targeted by a sophisticated social media and cyber campaign funded and coordinated by Putin’s Russian government. A 2018 report from the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology concluded that “Russia exploited American social media as part of its concerted effort … to influence domestic energy policy” and specifically “targeted pipelines, fossil fuels [and] climate change.” It’s a coalition of the bleeding-hearted and the bloody-minded.

“This is the threat Alberta has faced for more than a decade. It is an existential threat to our economy backed by American billionaires and coordinated through dozens of foreign and Canadian environmental organizations and advocacy groups. Their success can be measured in tens of billions of dollars in lost investment and thousands of lost jobs. That is why in the recent election we told Albertans that “We will fight back against the foreign funded special interests who are trying to landlock our energy.” Having received an historic popular majority, we intend to keep our word.

“Albertans deserve a government that will not roll over in the face of foreign-funded special interests. Our commitment to stand up for Alberta is the furthest thing from a threat to human rights; it is a pledge to meet myth with fact and misinformation with evidence. If Amnesty International Canada really cannot see the difference, then I am sorry – the organization I joined as a teenager had a clearer sense of purpose and a better moral compass.”

Red Deerians talk supervised consumption town hall

Red Deerians talk supervised consumption town hall

Red Deerians came out in droves to share their impassioned thoughts on an issue being hotly-debated not only in our city, but across the province.

Nearly 300 people packed into the Santano Room at the Cambridge Inn and Suites Tuesday night for a town hall meeting on the Socio-Economic Assessment of Supervised Consumption Services (SCS).

Red Deer was the third stop on the town hall tour following Medicine Hat and Lethbridge.

“We’re already seeing commonalities right across the board, and some of the same differences, frankly,” said Rod Knecht, chair of the provincial government’s eight-person committee that is hosting the sessions. “Obviously, it’s a very emotional issue for a lot of people, and I think with emotion comes polarization.”

A temporary overdose prevention site has been operating in Red Deer for nearly a year. Work on a permanent supervised consumption services site was halted earlier this year under order from the newly-elected UCP government pending a review of SCS.

People speaking at Tuesday’s town hall were asked to focus their remarks on two questions – How do you feel supervised consumption services have impacted the community, positively or negatively? What future solutions or ideas should this committee consider that might help address some of the adverse or unintended social or economic impacts (of supervised consumption)?

Many of those who spoke to the committee were there to talk about one thing – crime.

“At night it’s a gong show. People running around naked, shooting up, police nearly every night,” said a woman who lives near The Mustard Seed. “I’d like to take back our city. The more services we’re offering, the more addicts we’re bringing in from western Canada.”

“The city is angry,” another woman declared. “We’ve worked hard to make Red Deer inviting, but this is driving people away.”

“Get rid of these buildings, get rid of them. The government should not be paying for them,” another woman implored. “Stop putting them in our areas. We do not want them.”

“The fact that this saves lives needs to be part of the conversation,” said Shawn Pickett, a Turning Point board member. “(There is) breakdown in communication between city and province that needs to change if we’re going to get anywhere.”

A downtown business suggested to the committee, “Put the money into mental health housing and detox. We don’t need any more band-aid solutions.” The comment drew loud applause from the large crowd.

Red Deerians talk supervised consumption town hall 1

The committee will analyze the evidence gathered from the town hall meetings and submit a report to the provincial government for consideration in future policy decisions regarding SCS.

Those who were unable to attend Tuesday’s town hall meeting can share their thoughts by visiting www.alberta.ca/scsreview or emailing scs.review@gov.ab.ca

Red Deerians talk supervised consumption at town hall meeting

Red Deerians talk supervised consumption at town hall meeting

Red Deerians came out in droves to share their impassioned thoughts on an issue being hotly-debated not only in our city, but across the province.

Nearly 300 people packed into the Santano Room at the Cambridge Inn and Suites Tuesday night for a town hall meeting on the Socio-Economic Assessment of Supervised Consumption Services (SCS).

Red Deer was the third stop on the town hall tour following Medicine Hat and Lethbridge.

“We’re already seeing commonalities right across the board, and some of the same differences, frankly,” said Rod Knecht, chair of the provincial government’s eight-person committee that is hosting the sessions. “Obviously, it’s a very emotional issue for a lot of people, and I think with emotion comes polarization.”

A temporary overdose prevention site has been operating in Red Deer for nearly a year. Work on a permanent supervised consumption services site was halted earlier this year under order from the newly-elected UCP government pending a review of SCS.

People speaking at Tuesday’s town hall were asked to focus their remarks on two questions – How do you feel supervised consumption services have impacted the community, positively or negatively? What future solutions or ideas should this committee consider that might help address some of the adverse or unintended social or economic impacts (of supervised consumption)?

Many of those who spoke to the committee were there to talk about one thing – crime.

“At night it’s a gong show. People running around naked, shooting up, police nearly every night,” said a woman who lives near The Mustard Seed. “I’d like to take back our city. The more services we’re offering, the more addicts we’re bringing in from western Canada.”

“The city is angry,” another woman declared. “We’ve worked hard to make Red Deer inviting, but this is driving people away.”

“Get rid of these buildings, get rid of them. The government should not be paying for them,” another woman implored. “Stop putting them in our areas. We do not want them.”

“The fact that this saves lives needs to be part of the conversation,” said Shawn Pickett, a Turning Point board member. “(There is) breakdown in communication between city and province that needs to change if we’re going to get anywhere.”

A downtown business suggested to the committee, “Put the money into mental health housing and detox. We don’t need any more band-aid solutions.” The comment drew loud applause from the large crowd.

Red Deerians talk supervised consumption at town hall meeting 2

The committee will analyze the evidence gathered from the town hall meetings and submit a report to the provincial government for consideration in future policy decisions regarding SCS.

Those who were unable to attend Tuesday’s town hall meeting can share their thoughts by visiting www.alberta.ca/scsreview or emailing scs.review@gov.ab.ca

Sing O Canada at the Alberta Legislature

Calling all Alberta choir singers – whether you sing in a school choir, a community choir, church choir or seniors choir, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta is inviting you to put your name forward to lead the singing of our national anthem in the Assembly during the fall session.

“The legislature is the people’s house and we want to give Albertans passionate about sharing their voice an opportunity,” said Cooper. “I encourage Albertans to let us know if they are interested in singing O Canada to help MLAs begin the important work they do every week.”

During session, the 87 Members of the Assembly are led in the singing of O Canada every Monday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. Traditionally the song has been led by an anthem singer but this fall the Assembly hopes to see more community participants lend their voices to this important task.

Singers who would like to put their name(s) forward can contact the Speaker’s Office by email at officeofthespeaker@assembly.ab.ca

Alberta union leader wonders what’s wrong with ‘public’ schools

The Alberta leader of Canada’s largest union says taking the word ‘public’ out of the names of public-school districts in the province makes no sense.

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Alberta President Rory Gil says the Ministerial Order by Minister of Education and Red Deer North MLA Adriana LaGrange last month, has such little value that he believes something else must be at play.

In a CUPE news release on Friday, it’s suggested Gill believes the move is a subtle change aimed at getting Albertans ready for more private schools.

“The term public implies ‘open to anyone’ and ‘in the broad community interest’,” and said “There is great value in keeping the term in the names of Alberta school divisions.”

“Who could be against a word that implies inclusion and community benefit?” asked Gill. “Why would a government want divisions to spend tax dollars on rebranding?”

“The Kenney government has already sent strong signals it wants to increase the number of private, elite schools in the province, and this move is clearly a means to hide them among other schools in our communities,” continued Gil.

“Instead of taking the public out of public schools, let’s just be honest about the other schools and call them what they are – schools for the rich and privileged,” Gil declared.

Speaking to reporters in Red Deer on Thursday, LaGrange says the move is part of the government’s new Education Act which went into effect Sept. 1.

“That just means that we are upgrading the School Act,” explained LaGrange. “We’re modernizing it and we’re just bringing things into the 21st century and that we have opportunities now to look at a student-focused approach. Of course it’s been student-focused before but now we’re looking at it in a more in-depth, more practical way.”

CUPE is Canada’s largest union, representing 680,000 members nationwide, including almost 38,000 Albertans.

(With file from CUPE Alberta media release)

Province to review energy regulator, replaces board members

CALGARY – The Alberta government has announced a review of the province’s energy regulator.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage says the review will look at overall changes to the Alberta Energy Regulatory’s mandate, operations and governance.

She says its current board of directors is also being replaced with interim members.

The moves were a campaign promise Premier Jason Kenney made before his United Conservatives were elected in April.

Kenney had said one of his first tasks would be replacing the board, especially member Ed Whittingham, who Kenney accused of committing “economic sabotage” against Alberta’s oil interests.

Whittingham, a former executive direction of the Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based think tank that promotes economically responsible energy development, resigned before he could be fired.

Justice Minister brings rural crime talking tour to Red Deer

Alberta’s Minister of Justice and Solicitor General continued his province-wide tour focusing on rural crime on Friday by visiting with stakeholders in Red Deer.

Doug Schweitzer told rdnewsNOW he’s keen to listen to Albertans who are frustrated by how severe rural crime has become.

“Our campaign commitments are multi-pronged. One of them is making sure our prosecutors have the resources that they need, so we are dedicated to hiring 50 new prosecutors. On top of that, making sure we disrupt organized crime… people are using that money to feed addictions,” he said.

“As well, we’re making sure we come at it from a treatment side by making sure we fund drug treatment courts. Right now, those are only available in Calgary and Edmonton and we’re working to make sure we can expand those types of services across Alberta.”

Schweitzer said the drug treatment courts can have an impact on crime connected to the ongoing opioid crisis and in communities where supervised consumption services are offered.

“I’ve seen the success you can have when you work in tandem with other organizations, whether it’s health, housing or social services to make sure it’s not dealt with in isolation,” said Schweitzer, who sat on the Calgary Drug Treatment Court for five years. “That’s why we’re expanding drug treatment courts, because it has a proven track record of giving people suffering from those addictions the ability to recover. It also keeps people safer in their communities and reduces theft. It works for everyone.”

In spring 2017, the NDP government committed nearly $100 million to a new Red Deer Justice Centre which would replace the current Red Deer Courthouse. The minister said that project is currently in the design phase.

“It was emphasized to me by Red Deer city council how important that initiative is, and I’ve also met with local MLAs, and they’ve stressed to me how important it is that we have greater court capacity,” he said. “It is one of the capital infrastructure projects in the justice world and is one of the highest priority items for us.”

During his conversations with Red Deer city council, Mayor Tara Veer addressed the longstanding ask of The City of Red Deer to provide a more fair funding formula for municipalities that fund their own police, versus smaller communities that have it entirely paid for by the province.

“It’s actually been studied for decades in Alberta and quite often politics gets in the way of finding an equitable arrangement across Alberta,” he stated. “We’re in the process of talking to stakeholders about how we can find a sustainable police costing model going forward, so stay tuned for more details.”

While many initiatives won’t be implemented overnight, especially with a budget on the way, Schweitzer noted that a lot of work is going on behind the scenes in order for the UCP to fulfill its campaign promises.

“You’ve seen the MacKinnon Report that came out; Alberta is in a tough financial position, but at the same time, there are lots of different innovative things that we can do to deliver better services for less money,” he said. “We’re looking at everything we can possibly do here in Alberta to find more efficient ways of delivering services, so freeing up policing time and freeing up court time.”

Schweitzer’s tour continues with stops in Lacombe and Ponoka on September 10 before he heads north and south of central Alberta.