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Alberta

Kenney’s Leadership Review is a Circus – Red Deer South UCP MLA Jason Stephan

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This opinion editorial submitted by Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan

Alberta’s legislature begins with a daily prayer asking leaders to “never lead the province wrongly through love of power”.

Our political system does require reform, concentrating too much power in the hands of the Premier.

Other than elections, leadership reviews are vital checks and balances against autocratic ambitions. It is a serious matter to meddle with the few checks and balances for the public that remain.

The UCP leadership review has become a spectacle and a circus.

Fundamentally moving goalposts, after deadlines, destroys trust and integrity of process. It provides opportunities to cheat.

The party executive first chose a process that suppressed member participation. Many grassroots members and CA boards raised concerns about this, which the executive ignored and rejected.

Many are concluding the leader was losing his vote, under his preferred rules, so he metaphorically grabbed the ball and ran away.

Many are concluding these fundamental changes in process, after deadlines, seek to manipulate the outcome of the vote.

Many do not trust this new process has not, or will not, be rigged.

Last week I stood in the legislature and said:

“Some politicians label those who agree with them as the mainstream; while those who disagree with them as fringe minorities, extremists, or threats undermining stability.”

Kenney is doing what he condemned Trudeau for doing.

“Some politicians say of course we can have unity – if only you would agree with me!

That is not unity. That is ridiculous.

We are governed by laws, not by individuals, and our paramount loyalties are to principles, not office holders.”

Kenney says those who vote to change him as leader undermine unity and stability.

That is self-serving. “Stability” was also used by Trudeau as a self-serving excuse to justify his pact with the NDP.

Some politicians say vote for Kenney or there will be divisions in the party!

They are too late – divisions are upon us and sometimes this leader has increased, rather than decreased, them.

We have seen too much dividing, too much labelling, sometimes change in leadership is required to heal, to unite and move forward.

Some politicians say vote for Kenney, we cannot risk the NDP getting back in!

Albertans are tired of politicians using fear as a tool.

Conservative policies, regardless of the leader, increase economic prosperity. With oil over $100, a conservative government budget would be balanced, with or without Kenney.

The ends do not justify the means and so this leader does not enjoy the trust of most Albertans. This recent development only amplifies and reinforces those feelings.

Kenney is less popular than the party. Is it in the best interests of our party, our province, to go into an election hoping to win, in spite of the leader? Isn’t that too much to risk, as we cannot risk the NDP getting back in!

Some politicians say vote for Kenney, we need him to get Alberta a fair deal! What has he accomplished so far? If he is not fair, where his moral authority to demand Ottawa to be fair?

With Trudeau forming an axis with the NDP, we do need to prepare ourselves for the real possibility of further hostile, targeted attacks that harm Alberta businesses and families.

The Premier of Alberta needs to be respected and trusted by Albertans to fearlessly defend our interests. The current Premier does not have that.

Some politicians say vote for Kenney or you get someone worse!

More fear. To assume that any one person is the only one who could be the leader of our party is a false assumption.

There are many honest and principled Alberta men and women who would be great leaders of our party.

 

Politics should not be a career. It is a special opportunity to serve and having contributed one’s experiences and talents, one should step aside and allow others to do the same.

The Premier’s leadership, and now his unprecedented efforts to full out campaign and control the results of his own review have become a circus, a distraction, and a liability to the province and the party.

Confidence is lost, and for the good of the party, for the province, the Premier should be gracious, resign and support a positive leadership race for a new leader to unite the party and the province.

“Dividing and labelling others only produces contention and destroys trust.

That is not leadership.”

This is true.

“Great leaders lead in love and inspire the best in those they serve.”

This is what we need.

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Alberta

Alberta announces combined $187 million in addictions and homelessness funding

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By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton

The Alberta government has announced more than $124 million over two years for addiction and mental health services in Edmonton and Calgary, with another $63 million aimed at reducing homelessness in the province over the same period.

The funding for Edmonton and Calgary will go toward increasing treatment spaces while expanding addiction services, with $70 million earmarked for capital spending and $54 million to assist operations.

A 75-bed, co-ed long-term treatment facility is planned to be operational in Edmonton by the end of 2023, while a similar facility is to be built in Calgary by early 2024.

The $63 million is to support steps outlined in the government’s action plan on homelessness.

Premier Jason Kenney stressed his government’s recovery-based approach to the addictions issue when he announced the funding Saturday, calling British Columbia’s recent move to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of hard drugs in January “reckless.”

“In the area of addressing addictions, there are many that believe recovery is a false hope. It’s not possible, and instead what we should do is actually to facilitate dangerous addictions rather than to offer an off-ramp to freedom from addiction,” Kenney said during the announcement at Edmonton’s Herb Jamieson Centre.

“The whole point is to give people a fighting chance to escape from the grips of addiction so they have the opportunity to build a new, safe fulfilling life.

“Recovery works. It’s not a new concept or an untested Utopian theory,” he said.

Under the Alberta plan, the number of winter shelter spaces will be expanded in communities like Edmonton, Wetaskiwin and Lethbridge, and in rural communities where there is an urgent and unmet need.

All provincially funded shelters will also provide round-the-clock access seven days a week, while funding will be equalized between community-based organizations in Edmonton and Calgary.

The funding will include $5 million to create up to 450 additional shelter spots in Edmonton, bringing the number of emergency spaces in the city to over 1,000.

The plan also includes $2.5 million in 2022-2023 to test the so-called service hub model in two pilot programs in Calgary and Edmonton. These six-month long programs will connect people directly with support and services such as addictions recovery, housing and emergency financial support, beginning this fall.

Meanwhile, the addictions funding will be used to increase the ability of direct outreach teams through Edmonton police and Alberta Health Services to provide support and overdose prevention services. The same expansion of services will also be carried out in Calgary.

Edmonton police chief Dale McFee lauded the fact that housing options include support for mental health and addictions as he personally thanked Kenney for the new funding.

“This is the biggest single investment that I’ve ever seen over the course of my career in actually addressing the system versus putting more money into silos that are actually generating a lot of the problem,” McFee said at the announcement.

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said the funding would tackle the root causes of homelessness, and also praised the fact the province was delivering on a request to provide enhanced plans when prisoners are discharged from corrections facilities.

In July, the city requested a hub where social workers, firefighters and peace officers could work together to reduce crime and address a spike in violence downtown, in nearby Chinatown and and on the transit system.

“These investments show our collaborative approach is working, and together we are making life better for struggling Edmontonians,” Sohi said at the announcement.

But NDP Critic for Seniors and Housing Lori Sigurdson said in a news release that Kenney’s government has cut funding for housing, noting buildings that could have opened months ago are sitting empty because the government hasn’t provided operational funding.

“The money announced today does not even begin to address the deeper need for permanent supportive housing, social housing and affordable housing in this province,” she said.

According to the province, over 6,400 Albertans were experiencing homelessness— including nearly 4,000 using emergency shelters or on the streets — as of Jan. 31.

Alberta saw more than 1,600 opioid-related deaths in 2021.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 1, 2022.

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Alberta

Five years later: Waterton Lakes National Park plan considers fire recovery

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Waterton – Like the land itself, a new management plan for Waterton Lakes National Park is marked by a powerful wildfire that tore through the southern Alberta park five years ago.

The 2022 plan, tabled in Parliament this summer, sets the park’s direction for the next decade. It includes dealing with climate change and invasive species and considers ways to strengthen Indigenous relationships and connect with Canadians.

The Kenow Wildfire, however, led to a major change from the previous plan. The fire burned more than 19,000 hectares — approximately 39 per cent — of the mountainous park in September 2017 and damaged many popular picnic areas, campgrounds and hiking trails.

“We’ve been pretty fortunate,” Parks Canada’s Locke Marshall, who’s the superintendent in Waterton, said in a recent interview. “We’ve had a lot of support from the federal government.”

Marshall said some of the damaged infrastructure was already being replaced before the fire, but other areas required a complete rebuild.

“There’s been a lot of work that has been done,” he said. “Initially, when the fire went through, our parkways were not available, so we had to work on them to get them ready to go.

“We lost our visitor centre, but we were already in plans to build a new one. Many of our picnic areas got damaged. We’ve done a lot of work on our trails.”

Some areas, such as roads and bridges around Red Rock Canyon, are still being rebuilt and the Crandell Mountain campground is still under construction, he said.

Mike Flannigan, a professor of wildland fire at Thompson Rivers University in B.C. and Canada Wildfire’s scientific director, said the fire also affected a lot of the park’s natural landscape.

“It burned a good chunk of the park with high-intensity severity,” he said. “The effect on the vegetation and the soil was severe because it was hot and dry.”

Flannigan said he’s interested to learn more about how the ecosystem has recovered in the park in the five years since the fire.

“I’m hoping Waterton uses this as an educational opportunity to inform the public about fires and regeneration and biodiversity and wildlife,” he said, noting there can be positive changes.

Marshall said Parks Canada has learned a lot and will continue to learn from the wildfire through various research projects.

“This has probably been an opportunity that we really haven’t seen in the past — and that’s just to see what the effects of a widespread fire, a fairly intense fire, has on a landscape and how the landscape itself recovers from it,” he said. “And also how that recovery may be affected by changes to the climate that we’ve seen in the last several decades.

“So, it’s a really good opportunity for science.”

The research, he said, could take decades to complete. He noted there’s already some visible changes in the forests.

“There has been a bit of a transformation,” he said. “A lot of the forests were predominantly conifers — pine, spruce, Douglas fir. In some places … we’re seeing more aspen trees, shrubs and in some places … because of a drier, warmer climate, we may see areas that were once forested will be open meadows now.

“There’s definitely a change in the landscape.”

The plan notes the fire also revealed more than 70 new archeological sites and expanded 170 known sites in the area that burned.

“It was a really good opportunity for some of that archeological work to be done,” Marshall said.

“We’ve been able to involve our nearby Indigenous communities, in particular members of the Blackfoot Confederacy — the Kainai and Piikani — in looking at that landscape and seeing it in the context of their traditional knowledge of the use of the place.”

Marshall said they continue to work with the communities to document the sites, which the plan suggests will be complete by 2025.

Overall, he said, the new management plan shows the agency’s ongoing commitment to protecting the park.

“It deals with the fire,” said Marshall, “but it also deals with our day-to-day operations related to visitation and how we manage the ecological and cultural integrity of the place.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 1, 2022.

— By Colette Derworiz in Calgary. Follow @cderworiz on Twitter.

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