June 21st, 2018

Busy month at the Legislature


By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on April 13, 2018.

March was a busy month as we returned to the Legislature for the spring 2018 session, spent some time meeting with constituents for “constituency week,” and we now have begun our debates on budget estimates and new bills in the Legislature.

Normally, MLAs from all parties rise in support (or against) bills, or offer amendments which may allow them to support a bill during debate. Tuesday, second reading of Bill 9 – “Protecting Choice for Women Accessing Health Care Act” – began, I was dismayed to see only one member of the official opposition speak on Bill 9 (after which she immediately left the chamber). One’s impression was that she was thrown under the bus by her own party. It was sad to see there was no “courage of your own conviction” evidenced from the official opposition during the debate on Bill 9.

This legislation would establish access zones for women’s reproductive health service facilities and providers. The proposed legislation would make it an offence to: Protest, harass, interfere with, impede or intimidate patients and staff while they are in an access zone; photograph or record without consent within an access zone; distribute photographs or recordings taken within an access zone (for the purposes of dissuading a person from accessing or providing women’s reproductive health services); place oneself close to patients or staff and persistently request that they refrain from accessing or providing women’s reproductive health services.

This legislation, if passed, also provides for penalties for such offences on an individual and corporate level. I was very pleased to rise and support this bill to ensure safe access to women’s reproductive health services. If you have the opportunity please go to Alberta Assembly online (http://assemblyonline.assembly.ab.ca/harmony/) and view the afternoon session on April 10 (at about 5:45 you can hear my statement on Bill 9).

Another bill being debated is Bill 5, “An Act to Strengthen Financial Security for Persons with Disabilities,” I will speak in support of this bill as well. Many of you may remember consultation which happened last year here in Lethbridge on Henson Trusts with my colleague from Calgary-Currie, MLA Brian Malkinson. This bill addresses those concerns and amends the AISH Act so Albertans can establish trusts for family members and loved ones who are receiving AISH benefits without impacting their AISH eligibility.

I certainly recognize that there are other issues in this area which also need to be addressed. I continue to work in forwarding these issues on your behalf and I encourage you to bring me your ideas on how we can improve this system. Thank you to all of those who have come to meet with me, and my staff, and provided excellent examples of the issues and possible solutions. All of these have been shared with the ministry and discussions continue.

Bill 6 – “Gaming and Liquor Statues Amendment Act,” which will update the Gaming and Liquor Act through a series of amendments. These changes can generally be broken in to three categories: strengthening enforcement tools, updates to the AGLC board’s governance and new liquor industry opportunities. Many of these needed amendments are driven by the impending legalization of cannabis this coming summer and will help to further protect public health, keep cannabis out of the hands of children and limit the illegal market.

Other things in the news for the Government of Alberta is the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. The premier issued a statement through the media on April 8 and answered questions daily on this subject.

An announcement by the Advanced Education Minister, Marlin Schmidt advised that under the compensation framework, excessive post-secondary salaries will be brought in line with the national average and eliminating perks such as golf club memberships. New contracts for post-secondary presidents must adhere to these new rules as identified under Phase 3 of the Agencies Boards and Commissions (ABC) review. Existing contracts will have a two-year transition period before their contract is brought in line. Bonuses for non-bargaining staff will also be eliminated.

Now to debate on estimates, I sit on Alberta’s Economic Futures committee and I am pleased to say that during the session on Economic Development and Trade I was able to put forward a question specific to southern Alberta. That question was about what the impact of the twinning of Highway 3 would be in relation to the development and diversification of our economy across Lethbridge and all of southern Alberta.

This past week has been an emotional and difficult time for so many Canadians, as we learned of the tragic traffic accident in Saskatchewan involving the Humboldt Broncos. It is difficult to find the words to adequately express the deep sadness that we all are feeling right now as we are brought together in collective mourning. Our own community was not left untouched with several of the players having a connection to Lethbridge.

I offer my deepest and most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Logan Boulet. Logan, a 21-year-old defenceman for the Humboldt Broncos, grew up right here in Lethbridge and touched the lives of many here at home. A celebration of Logan’s life will be held this Saturday, April 14 at 1 p.m. at Nicholas Sheran Ice Centre. I hope that you will join us on Saturday afternoon to honour Logan and give support to his family and friends. You may also wish to honour this young man’s life by making a donation to KidSport – Logan Boulet Fund (Lethbridge and Taber Chapter) 1001 3 Ave. S., Lethbridge, Alberta, T1J 0J3.

Finally, come out and enjoy a Taste of the Caribbean April 27. Tickets are $12 for children and $20 for adults, and it starts at 6:30 p.m. The event takes place at the Multicultural Centre (421 6 Ave. S.).

My office is open for walk-in service Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., or at other times by appointment. You can also reach us by telephone at 403-320-1011 or by email at lethbridge.east@assembly.ab.ca.

Maria Fitzpatrick is the NDP MLA for Lethbridge East. Her column appears monthly.

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