By Lethbridge Herald on May 28, 2015.
Now that theyâ€™ve been declared elected, Lethbridge MLAs have been summoned to Edmonton. How will citizens get an opportunity to speak with their new representatives in the legislature?
For Maria Fitzpatrick and Shannon Phillips, thatâ€™s just one of the questions theyâ€™ll have to answer as they settle into their new roles in government.
Albertaâ€™s new environment minister, Lethbridge West MLA Phillips was sworn into office alongside Premier Rachel Notley and 10 more cabinet members on Sunday. Fitzpatrick (Lethbridge East) and dozens more first-time legislators witnessed the event on the legislature buildingâ€™s plaza â€” along with thousands of cheering citizens.
â€œThere was an incredible number of people there,â€ she says. â€œIt was so emotional for everyone who was there.â€
A swearing-in ceremony for opposition members and the balance of the NDPâ€ˆcaucus has been set for June 1, Fitzpatrick says.
After that, MLAs are expected to get ready for a short sitting of the legislature. A speech from the throne and the new governmentâ€™s first legislative bills will be on the agenda.
Unless the legislatureâ€™s sitting schedule is altered, she says, it will continue to meet Monday to Thursday each week, allowing MLAs to spend a full day Friday in their constituency.
â€œI want to spend as much time in Lethbridge as I can,â€ she says.
Exactly where Fitzpatrickâ€™s constituency office will be located isnâ€™t decided yet, she reports. For now, sheâ€™ll be using the 5 Avenue North location that was leased by newly retired MLAâ€ˆBridget Pastoor.
Even though sheâ€™s not yet officially in office, Fitzpatrick says sheâ€™s been contacted by many groups and individuals.
â€œA number of people have dropped by the office with file folders,â€ anxious to update her on their issues. For now, she can read them but she canâ€™t take any action.
The governmentâ€™s first sitting is scheduled to end before Canada Day, but Fitzpatrick says she expects to spend most of the summer in her constituency.
â€œI had planned to visit a friend on Cape Breton Island,â€ but thatâ€™s not looking likely just now. In part, she says, that will depend on what assignments Notley asks her members to complete over the summer.
As for the premier, Fitzpatrick says, sheâ€™s expected to visit Lethbridge several times as well.
Last summer, she notes, Notley took part in the Lethbridge PrideFest parade with the LGBTQ community as well as the Whoop-Up Days parade. This month, a number of openly gay candidates won seats for the New Democrats.
Says Fitzpatrick, â€œChange is certainly in the air.â€