Members of the legislative assembly take their seats Tuesday in Edmonton, and there’s high expectations in central Alberta, including the creation of a better business environment, progress on the long-awaited expansion of Red Deer hospital and clarity on education funding.
Rick More, CEO of the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce, expects the government will not waste any time getting to work, starting with removal of the provincial carbon tax by the end of the month.
“It looks like they’re going to hit the ground running for sure. It’s going to be the summer of repeal,” More said.
Mayor Tara Veer has previously said city council will keep up its advocacy for the expansion of Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, a local addictions treatment centre, a homeless shelter and preserving historic Parsons House, which is adjacent to the proposed justice centre.
School administrators, meanwhile, want to know the level of education spending, including whether the government will fully fund enrolment growth.
“I have expressed concern with the deputy minister and minister that we would like to see a little bit more clarity,” Kurt Sacher, superintendent at Chinook’s Edge School Division and president of the College of Alberta School Superintendents, said in advance of MLA’s return to the legislature.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce is asking its members to provide their opinions as the government creates new panels to look at Alberta’s finances and the impact of past increases to the minimum wage, as well as its red-tape reduction plan.
More said the UCP’s plans align with many of the chamber’s policies. It hopes to meet with Red Deer MLAs in the next few months to discuss how they can work together.
The United Conservatie caucus will be sworn in at 9 a.m. Tuesday. MLAs will elect the legislative speaker at 1:30 p.m., followed by elections of the deputy speaker, chair of committees and deputy chair of committees.
On Wednesday, the legislature session begins at 3 p.m. with the speech from the throne. The assembly reconvenes for the first day of business Thursday at 9 a.m. with question period at 1:50 p.m.
Newcomers include Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan, Red-Deer North MLA and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, Drumheller Stettler MLA Nate Horner, and Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin MLA and Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson.
They will join local fellow UPC MLAs starting their second term in office: Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr, Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper, and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA and Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon.
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen, who is minister of agriculture and forestry, was first elected in a 2018 byelection.
More said the drought is definitely over for central Alberta, as far as ministerial posts go.
Edmonton only has one minister, while 12 out of 22 ministers or associate ministers come from Calgary.
More said it’s a bigger cabinet than the former NDP government had, but believes having associate ministries of red tape reduction and natural gas make sense, as does separating mental health and addictions from health.