By Stan Ashbee
Alta Newspaper Group
A year turned new brings about resolutions and change, as recollection and reflection shines light on a year that was.
As 2020 is in full-swing and 2019 a recent memory, Cardston-Siksika MLA Joseph Schow reminisced about the past year, while looking ahead to a new decade.
Albertans, Schow added, really made their voices heard across the province. From a personal perspective, Schow explained it was a big year for his family.
“It certainly has been a huge transition going from being a candidate to now being elected.”
Something Schow generally understood, being a previous staffer at the Alberta Legislature, was being more visible in the community and being more aligned with the government is a change.
“I’ve really embraced it. My family has embraced it. And we’ve really liked what the government has done since we were elected. We did start off with the carbon tax repeal. Then we basically got to work trying to get the province back on track,” Schow said.
Last year, Schow noted in the riding, there were two or three things done as a government, that were quite memorable.
“One was the carbon tax repeal. Knocking on doors, almost unanimously across the board, people were sick and tired of feeling like this punitive tax on everything wasn’t fair and it needed to go. The second thing, especially from a local perspective, was Bill 6.”
Bill 6, from the previous NDP government, was the Farm Safety Act, Schow said.
“Which we didn’t feel as a constituency or farmers didn’t feel was very much consulted on, so we repealed that and replaced it with Bill 26 – the Farm Freedom and Safety Act. That’s something we did a lot of consultation on through the summer. I met individually with producers, farmers and ranchers across Cardston-Siksika. We had the agriculture minister come down and he did a couple of round-table discussions with him and local producers. This is something we wanted to get right. That was one local producers had felt really strongly about.”
Schow says he has always been a champion of the underdog/vulnerable and was happy to see Clare’s Law passed.
“I spoke on Clare’s Law in the Legislature. I think domestic violence affects everybody,” said Schow. “I’ve seen people abusing others in public and stepped in.”
“It allows people to find out if their partner has a criminal record.”
But 2019 wasn’t all rosy, as the Alberta government also released a provincial budget with cuts, not to the delight of some across the province.
The cuts will affect Horizon School Division and other close-by school divisions.
Another issue moving forward is the Alberta government’s announcement in regards to funding for rural policing, as it will be a struggle for some small municipalities to pay for service.
“We made a campaign commitment to maintain or decrease spending. The budget for education this year is $8.2 million, same as it was last year. We fully funded enrolment growth. With that said, some of the school boards have seen less money than they had in previous years. The financial crisis we’re dealing with here in Alberta is a ‘we’ problem. It’s a problem all of us are having to sort out and get through. We’re asking school boards to come onside with us and help us find savings where possible,” said Schow.
When it comes to education, Schow said he has a tremendous amount of respect for teachers and administrators.
“Our kids have world-class education, I believe they get that. I got that as an Alberta student and I know moving forward, we’re going to continue to see that. But, we also have a dramatic debt to deal with. People need to understand we all have to buy-in and help find solutions and be a part of the solution too.”
As for the government’s recent announcement in regards to municipalities having to chip in for rural policing moving forward, Schow said the rural policing model is an effort to put several hundred more police on the ground.
“We in Alberta are dealing with a serious rural crime issue. This is not something we can sweep under the rug.”
One of the efforts, Schow explained, is to have enough police officers to meet the demands of the rural crime issue.
Schow said the job now is to work with municipalities to make sure they understand, “how important this is and understand the benefits of this.”
“The government is doing everything it can to keep Alberta safe.”
Moving forward, 2020 is going to be huge.
“We’re just going to keep on getting the province back on track, attract new investment to Alberta and create jobs.”
“We can see a lot of new projects,” Schow said. “The reality is, we have got so much to do and we’re going to keep moving forward supporting Albertans and looking to make life easier.”