By Cole Parkinson
Southern Alberta Newspapers
With the fall sitting over the halfway point, Cardston-Siksika MLA Joseph Schow is reporting things are moving in the right direction as they head towards Christmas.
“It’s been going really well. Certainly, it has been evolving just as numbers in the public with COVID have changed. Just like back in the springtime, we haven’t decided to pack it in like some legislatures might. We’re still pushing forward and fulfilling campaign promises that we made to Albertans and we’re getting it done,” said Schow.
Since the six-week session began on Oct. 20, the government has been analyzing 20 different bills.
Schow says while the rapid pace at which legislation is being brought forward means a lot of hard work, the UCP government is committed to keeping promises made during the previous election.
“It seems to be the MO of this government that we aren’t wasting any time getting to work. Every sitting in the legislature has seen tons of legislation put forward and at a breakneck pace but I wouldn’t have it any other way. This session, I am pretty happy about all of it, but in particular a couple of pieces. One is the Heroes Fund,” he said.
“We’re creating a fund where first responders on the job, if they happen to pass away performing their duties, there’s a one-time tax-free payment of $100,000. I think this is a two-pronged approach — one, it’s about making sure that those who are putting their lives on the line every day when they go to work know their families will be protected if something tragic happens. And two, it’s about respect. I think it really comes down to respecting front line workers, first responders and the job they do. These are men and women who put on a uniform every day and they may not come home. It respects the work they do and it respects the sacrifices they make. I think this is an indication of that.” As the sitting continues as COVID-19 numbers rise in the province, the UCP government is focusing heavily on economic recovery.
In speaking with Cardston-Siksika constituents, Schow says he is hearing they are happy with how the UCP is dealing with the pandemic while also keeping the economy open during an unconventional time.
“I think they are quite happy with the approach we are taking. There are two parts to this — one is creating an environment where the economy can be diversified through our red tape reduction and that’s something we put a lot of emphasis on,” said Schow. “The other is — not putting restrictive measures in place like other provinces have on the economy as we are seeing COVID numbers increase. If you look at other jurisdictions like Ontario for example, I know everyone is doing the best that they can but we are limiting contact where we are seeing the most amount of spread. Between us not shutting down the economy and locking people down, like we said we wouldn’t, unlike other jurisdictions, we’re also putting in measures like the accelerated job creation tax cut, the red tape reduction bill that is coming out. This is a dual-pronged approach where we’re keeping the economy open so people can continue to create wealth and do amazing things in this province. Also, making it a more attractive province to come to and invest in by reducing red tape and introducing the job creation tax cut.” While the challenge presented by the pandemic has made things tough for large portions of the Albertan population, Schow is committed to keeping in touch with constituents to allow them to present any issues they may have.
On top of the pandemic, weather has also been a challenge in southern Alberta as heavy snowstorms hit the area in early November which has led to a few cancellations.
“As I always say, I’m honoured to represent the good people of Cardston-Siksika. I continue to meet with them on a regular basis. The weather has been a little tough recently as we did have that big snowstorm. I had a town hall booked in Picture Butte that I had to cancel but the week before we did one in Cardston and there was a lot of really good feedback from our constituents. They are very concerned with the direction the federal government is going, and as the provincial government, we are doing everything we can to defend Alberta. We’ll keep doing that and I’ll keep fighting for the good people of Cardston-Siksika.” In the beginning stages of November, as the chair of the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices, Schow tabled the annual Auditor General Report.
“We did table the Auditor General Report and I am the chair of the Legislative Offices Committee. We had a conversation with the Auditor General and went through the whole process there but the Auditor General Report was brought up in the question period and it’s an annual report,” explained Schow.
The 2020 report contains results of the audit of the 2019-2020 Consolidated Financial Statements of the Province of Alberta, and more than 100 entities within the government ministries.
It also reports on whether the collection and disbursements of public money have been accounted for, and are reflected properly, in government accounts.
“Based on our work, we concluded the 2019-2020 financial statements are presented fairly in accordance with Canadian Public Sector Accounting Standards. However, in our report, we highlight several significant findings that resulted in adjustments to the province’s financial statements,” reads a statement from Auditor General Doug Wylie.
With the report, there is a $637 million adjustment to expenses relating to 11 Crude-by-Rail contracts, a $100 million adjustment to assets and liabilities of the Keystone XL pipeline agreements, a $795 million adjustment to expenses for the Alberta Petroleum and Marketing Commission related to the Sturgeon Refinery and a $102 million increase to the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) program expenses, and a $50 million increase to the Income Support program expenses.