Ministers visit, serve up some BBQ

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Three ministers of the Government of Alberta spent time in Slave Lake on Tuesday of last week. On Wednesday they spent time in Red Earth Creek and on Fridayn were scheduled to hit High Prairie.

The ministerial blitz was part of a barnstorming foray into the Lesser Slave riding by one full minister (Prasad Panda of Infrastructure) and two associate ministers (Dave Nally of Natural Gas and Tanya Fir of Red Tape Reduction). Not coincidentally, the visit came shortly after Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn was invited back into the United Conservative Party caucus. He had been kicked out by Premier Jason Kenney back in January – evidently for not doing his job properly. A ‘pandemic holiday’ in Mexico may have been part of the story.

But all appears to be forgiven now, and Rehn has been notably trying harder and been more present and responsive.

Fir was another of the government members to have been chastised early this year for taking a holiday when most people were locked down by COVID-control measures. She was stripped of her committee duties in a ‘demotion,’ but has since been given the red tape reduction portfolio.

It’s not Panda’s first visit to town. He was in Slave Lake as a Wildrose Party opposition member, the ‘shadow minister’ for economic development and trade.

The first stop for the trio was Northern Lakes College, which consisted of a brief tour of the facility. The college is the beneficiary of an Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) grant, to help it improve its energy efficiency.

A community barbecue followed, at the Royal Canadian Legion. Working the grill was Barry Sharkawi of High Prairie, who is the Chamber of Commerce president in that community. Speaking about Rehn’s reinstatement by the UCP, Sharkawi told The Leader the MLA is with us for two more years, so it only makes sense to work with him. Relying on Peace River MLA Dan Williams to pinch-hit for the government in Lesser Slave Lake was not a workable arrangement, Sharkawi said.

The ministers and MLA did not make speeches or announce anything; the format was for them to mingle and have private conversations with constituents. All we know about that was that a Marten Beach property owner spoke to the ministers about the lack of government help on flood mitigation.

“I think it went great,” says Rehn’s Slave Lake assistant Martine Carifelle. “There was a pretty good turnout.”

Speaking of ministers, Slave Lake town council was expecting to have a private session with Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon on Monday, July 26. That has been rescheduled to take place on Aug. 10, which is also the first town council meeting after a break of almost a month.

Mayor Tyler Warman says council wants to talk about the beach specifically, and the provincial park generally, with Nixon. It’s probably fair to say council favours more maintenance on Devonshire Beach, so as to make it as attractive to visitors as possible.

Meanwhile Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu was in Wabasca on July 26, meeting with the Bigstone Cree Nation. According to MLA Rehn, Madu discussed rural crime and First Nations self-policing.

Rehn called the discussions “productive.”

On the same northern road trip, Madu visited with Lakeshore Regional Police Chief Dale Cox, in Driftpile, “to discuss how the province can better support the force in their duties,” said Rehn on Facebook.

Paul Chaulk of Northern Lakes College (right) explains heating systems to ministers Prasad Panda, Tanya Fir and Dale Nally, plus MLA Pat Rehn.

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