Great ideas from Budget 2017 Sherwood Park consultations

By Annie McKitrick, MLA for Sherwood Park.

I hope many of you were able to enjoy our unseasonably warm weather on Monday and take in one of the many Family Day activities our community had to offer. I had the pleasure of attending the Strathcona County Museum and Archives Family Day pancake breakfast.

Wednesday of this week was Pink Shirt Day, which was an opportunity to take a stand against bullying. We all have a responsibility to end bullying wherever it is happening - whether it is in our schools, our workplaces, our homes or in our communities. To prevent bullying, we must promote healthy relationships by demonstrating respect, empathy and inclusiveness. I applaud Elk Island Public Schools and Elk Island Catholic Schools, as well as New Horizon Charter School and École Claudette-et-Denis-Tardif, for their involvement in Pink Shirt Day.

Constituents have let me know that even though there is now a ban on door-to-door sale of energy products and services that they have still been approached by persons going door-to-door. Recently, the Minister of Service Alberta reminded Albertans "that no one should feel pressured or tricked into making a purchase on the spot." Please let my office know if you have any concerns.

I recently held a round table discussion on the budget and will be sending the feedback from participants to the Minister of Finance. Thank you to everyone who participated. Some of the ideas that emerged included: reallocating funding from acute care to long-term care; being mindful of how rural residents and organizations are affected by budget decisions (e.g., rural residents do not usually have access to public transit); and establishing a rural allowance in the same manner as the Northern Allowance for persons living in the three northern territories.

I want to thank residents who have taken the time to participate in the budget teleconference calls, filled out the online survey, participated in an in-person consultation, or written to the minister or me.

Other propositions brought to the table included: increasing royalties from the oil and gas sector (to be more in line with Norway); better long-term planning; exploring joint-use buildings to contain the cost of infrastructure projects; investing in NWR Phase 2 instead of Keystone XL; involving the public in strategic long-term planning; being mindful of what is affordable when planning; and establishing a sales tax with protection for low-income persons.

Participants also suggested the government keep investing in infrastructure; raise alcohol and tobacco taxes; increase car license fees based on their engine capacity; have a universal drug plan; and establish a system in health care so that there is no repeat of medical procedures such as MRIs.

I want to thank residents who have taken the time to participate in the budget teleconference calls, filled out the online survey, participated in an in-person consultation, or written to the minister or me. All ideas and suggestions are important and your input is appreciated.

Next Thursday, March 2, is the Throne Speech and commencement of the Spring Session of the Legislative Assembly. The Throne Speech sets the agenda for the government for the Legislative Session and the budget. Should you wish to watch the proceedings, they will be available to view on "Assembly Online" at www.assembly.ab.ca.

Annie McKitrick is the Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Sherwood Park Constituency. If you have any questions or comments about this column or any other provincial government issues, she would like to hear from you. Please contact McKitrick’s constituency office at 780-417-4747 or by e-mail: Sherwood.park@assembly.ab.ca.

First published in the Sherwood Park News, Feb. 24, 2017.