Opposition leader chats with Lesser Slave residents, says government taking rural Albertans for granted

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley held a ‘town hall’ meeting via Zoom last week with residents of the Lesser Slave Lake riding. Sitting in with her was Richard Feehan, MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford and former Indigenous Affairs Minister. Both made brief statements – as did former Lesser Slave MLA Danielle Larivee – and then responded to questions.

Lack of proper representation was a major theme – I.e., the Pat Rehn affair.

“We think Pat Rehn should resign,” Notley said in her opening remarks.

Contributions from ‘the floor’ ranged from statements about the difficulties faced by Marten Beach flood victims, to the state of area highways, to worries about government meddling in teachers’ pensions, to internet service, to lake contamination, to government “honouring the spirit and intent of treaties.”

That last point was raised by a fellow named Marcel (last name not given).
“We want to be part of the discussion and part of the solution,” he said, and asked Notley and Feehan what the NDP position is.

Feehan noted that when in power, the NDP adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples “as a guiding principle in every ministry. The UCP has withdrawn almost everything we did.”

Notley: “It’s a big operation. We have to keep at it.”

Another question had to do with what the questioner called “broken trust” between government and public sector workers.

Notley said when the NDP was in power, it had difficult decisions to make, “but we always worked respectfully,” with the workers and their unions. The Kenney style, she said, is “continually looking for enemies, which is all this premier knows how to do.”

One questioner asked for the NDP position on recall legislation. It has pluses and minuses, Notley said. She added if Kenney does put it in place, it wouldn’t take effect until after the next election, which she called “pretty self-serving.”

Getting back to the representation issue, Larivee said she still gets calls from people asking for help or information, as if she’s still the MLA.

“I pass these on to Rachel and Richard,” she said, and promised to keep doing so.

Tammy Henkel of the High Prairie area spoke about deteriorating road infrastructure, and how the NDP would see a solution.

That’s where having a local MLA advocating for investment in his or her area is so important, Notley said, implying Lesser Slaver Lake isn’t getting that sort of representation.

Notley’s closing comments were (partly) about what she sees as the Kenney government’s general attitude towards rural Alberta. They think they’ve got rural support locked up, she said, “so they don’t have to do anything to earn it. I hope rural Albertans will tell them they’re not going to be taken for granted.”

Rachel Notley
Richard Feehan
Danielle Larivee

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