Clad in cowboy boots, a tan shirt with a bolo tie and a cowboy hat, Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman took part in the Westerner Days parade, waving and marching in support of his party on Wednesday.
It’s a long way from when the leader of the province’s third party was touring the damage and devastation in High River as a result of the June flooding. He said he was impressed with the work of front line responders to the devastation, but said the Redford government hasn’t done enough.
“I’m not so sure the government knows what it is doing right now,” said Sherman on Wednesday in an interview with the Advocate.
He pointed to the major flood report from 2005 that he said the government has been sitting on for eight years.
“Winnipeg regularly gets floods and they invested $300 million in canals,” said Sherman.
He said the problem can be broken down into water management issues, proper mitigation for buildings in the flood fringe area and proper budgeting.
“The government budgets about $40 million for emergencies in the spring,” said Sherman. “We had the Slave Lake fire, we’ve had other floods, there was the pine beetle problem and then the government says, ‘We didn’t see this coming.’ So they come back for a supplementary supply bill in the fall asking for another $500 million.
“The reality is of the natural disaster money spent in this country, 62 to 65 per cent happens in Alberta. The government can’t say, ‘we didn’t see this coming.’”
He said the Redford government is failing Albertans when it comes to properly planning disaster response.
“If we had properly managed the water, had the protective systems in place in low-lying areas — had a good dike or canal system in place — to divert water. We can’t prevent these disasters, but we can greatly mitigate the damage of them,” said Sherman. “The damage to people’s lives, damage to personal property and at the end of the day, the damage to the taxpayer’s wallet.”
Proposed legislation for dealing with future floods indicates any building within a flood fringe area would not receive assistance unless the owners undertake provincially approved mitigation measures.
Sherman also questioned the government’s management of the health care system.
As a young doctor in 1994, Sherman worked and trained at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, delivering babies.
With about 200 nursing positions lost across the province since May, Sherman said the Redford government’s health care transformation leaves him with a bad feeling.
“Their idea of building this province for the future is firing the front-line staff of today,” said Sherman. “Alberta is already so short of nurses in the health-care system and licensed practical nurses and family doctors. All front-line health staff.”
He said the need is to hire more, not fire front-line staff.
“Albertans are waiting longer than ever for health care and part of that is due to lack of front-line staff,” said Sherman. “What they don’t understand is when you delay someone’s care that much, but the time they actually get care they need a lot of it and it costs a lot more.
“Along with that they are demoralizing the front-line staff. They are destroying the productivity of some of the hardest and more fantastic health-care workers on this planet.”