The one thing St. Albert area politicians can agree on about this year is that COVID has made things difficult for Albertans.
In a year-end review, MLAs Marie Renaud and Dale Nally, and MP Michael Cooper took a look back at the year that was, and also a look forward to what they hope to work on in the year to come.
Renaud has big concerns
St. Albert NDP MLA Renaud struggled to come up with positives for the second year of the pandemic with a government she believes has been mired with controversies.
“I think back to the first day of the year … New Year's Day 2021. Where we had [Premier] Jason Kenney sort of defending his ministers and chief of staff for going on tropical vacations, while most of us had virtual get-togethers with our families,” she said.
Christmas 2020 was difficult for many Albertans. The government introduced restrictions prohibiting indoor and outdoor social gatherings in December and asked people to avoid non-essential travel as the second wave of COVID-19 ripped through the province.
It was discovered that Tracy Allard, former minister of municipal affairs, had spent Christmas with family in Hawaii. She wasn’t the only UCP member to travel outside of Alberta for the holidays. The CBC reported that altogether nine UCP members had left the province.
Renaud's biggest concerns are the way the pandemic has been managed, the destruction of public trust, the lack of transparency, and the focus on UCP politics, she said.
“We've seen their attacks on health care, whether it's driving doctors out of the provinces, fights with doctors, fights with nurses. And then we've seen time and again, the [COVID] waves come close to completely crashing and overwhelming our health-care system,” she said.
Renaud couldn’t think of any high points in the year, but she said there were some small victories surrounding coal mining and the curriculum.
“A few times we have seen the government sort of pause and take a step back, because there has been enough public pressure. That felt good, that enough Albertans were working together toward the same goal,” she said.
As for the coming year, Renaud said they are anticipating the budget.
“That'll come out fairly quickly in the new year when we go back. That's always a lot of work to try to understand sort of what that means for St. Albert, what that means for education and health care. And then the critic portfolio … we're always pretty overwhelmed with case work.”
Nally celebrates key accomplishments
St. Albert-Morinville UCP MLA Nally said it has been a tough year for Albertans but there have been some big accomplishments.
“I'm encouraged by the direction that we're going and what I see happening and building on for next year and years after that,” he said.
Nally said some of the high points he’s had are the economic developments he has worked on for the province and also specifically for the region.
“The biggest example, of course, is Dow Chemical, which announced the world's first net-zero ethane cracker. And while Dow has not announced the CAPEX yet on this investment, I do know that it will be one of the single largest private sector investments in our province’s history and the fact that it is a net-zero ethane cracker is extremely exciting,” he said.
On Oct. 6 Dow Chemical announced a long-term agreement with Capital Power Corporation that aims to provide clean power capacity, replacing about 40 per cent of the energy demand at Dow's Prentiss site for polyethylene production in Fort Saskatchewan.
“It is going to be thousands of jobs, and many of them going to our constituents right here in Morinville and St. Albert. So that was an absolute highlight to be able to close that deal,” he said.
Nally said some of the big issues this year included COVID but also COVID-19 perpetuated violence in the home.
He said getting $1.1 million in a one-time grant to Jessie’s House in Morinville back in May was a significant milestone.
In the coming year, Nally said he will continue to work with Jessie’s House, and he will also continue to work on advancing the petrochemical industry, advancing hydrogen, and drive as much investment as he can to the province.
“I will continue to focus on what our government's priorities have been, which is taking care of Albertans and getting them back to work,” he said.
Cooper proud of legislative victory
St. Albert-Edmonton Conservative MP Cooper said he has had a busy year with an election in the middle of it and also the two pieces of legislation he has championed.
“In Parliament, I have been raising many of the issues that are important to St. Albert-Edmonton constituents including standing up for the energy sector, standing up and calling on this government to return to a fiscally responsible approach when it comes to Canada's finances, and just standing up against this government's soft-on-crime policies,” Cooper said.
Highlights of the year for Cooper include what he calls a legislative victory in the first four weeks that Parliament returned after the fall election with the passage of Bill C-6 — the juror mental-health bill — which passed the Senate unanimously.
Cooper introduced the bill to the House before Parliament was adjourned.
“I expect that second reading debate will take place in February or March. And I was pleased to have Alister MacGregor, the NDP MP from British Columbia, as a seconder of the bill. I think it underscores the non-partisan spirit of the bill,” Cooper said.
Another highlight for Cooper was introducing the Canada-Taiwan Relations Framework Act back in June.
“I've been one of the leading champions ... of strengthening relations between Canada, Taiwan. Taiwan is an indispensable ally of Canada. It is one of our largest trading partners … there are many opportunities to strengthen trading [our] relationship between Canada and Taiwan,” he said.
Cooper said some of the big challenges he sees in the coming year have to do with the economy, jobs, the cost of living, and COVID-19.
“All those challenges, those are all real challenges,” he said.
In the coming year, Cooper said he will continue to work on issues around criminal justice and work with his colleagues to stop the government's reckless spending and restore fiscal responsibility.
“I am continuing to stand up in terms of fighting against the Liberals' attack on the energy sector, including the prime minister's latest attack — being a hard cap on emissions,” said Cooper.
Cooper is optimistic about one thing.
“I'm optimistic that we are turning the corner on COVID. That needs to happen.”