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– Stephen Dafoe
By Al Homeniuk
I attended a meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 21st in Villeneuve. The meeting was organized by the Sturgeon Blue Line Group, a group of concerned citizens who are opposed to the way the current provincial government is changing our laws in order to expedite the installation of high voltage power lines throughout the province.
I went to this meeting because I knew that Sturgeon County formed part of the Primary and Alternate route for the Heartland Transmission Line. As I am running for Councillor in Division 4, I thought it was incumbent on me to become more familiar with this proposal. I am very grateful that I attended this meeting. I learned that my beliefs about the project, and those of everyone else in attendance, were very different from the reality.
I had been preparing myself for my door knocking in Division 4, reviewing the issues and organizing my thoughts around the standard issues.
Roads and taxes, communication and accountability, our relationships with our neighbours. Why is it taking so long to resolve the water line issue with Morinville? Why did we go back on our InterMunicipal Development Plan with St. Albert? I felt these matters would be first and foremost in the minds of the electorate.
Tuesday’s meeting expanded my list of priorities. Don’t get me wrong. Roads and taxes, communication and accountability, and the Morinville and St. Albert issues are still questions that we as constituents of Sturgeon County need to be informed about. But the issue of the Provincial Government changing our current laws, effectively stripping us of our rights to land ownership, and legal recourse really frightens me. I had no idea of the far reaching impact of these changes.
Bill 36 for example says, among other things, that the government has the right to extinguish rights held under licences, permits leases or any form of governmental approval issued by the Alberta Government, a municipality or government agency. This includes land titles. It restricts the rights to compensation, and you can’t appeal it!
Bill 50 takes the responsibilities of the Alberta Utilities Commission away and hands them over to the PC Cabinet members. Prior to this Bill, a Utility Company would have to prove in a public hearing that: the proposed lines are needed; that they should be built and owned by a particular utility company; that the costs are reasonable, and where the lines should be located. What this means is that rather than having the utility companies appear before the AUC to make their case and have their arguments tested on whether or not a line is really needed, the Cabinet now makes that decision and only asks the energy sector.
This highlights the role of an effective County Councillor. Quite simply, the community’s health and well-being, growth and transformation depend upon your representative’s ability to assess current situations, imagine future possibilities and to create opportunities. You must be kept abreast of the issues, what your Councillor is doing about them and the reasoning behind the decisions.
Sturgeon County residents deserve the kind of Councillor who works on behalf of you to make this community better. You must demand a Councillor who is: knowledgeable about the issues; connected with and beyond the community; and has a relationship with his constituents.
To ensure the future health and well being of our communities, the power of local decision-making needs to be rekindled and strengthened.
You need to be aware of the changes taking place that will affect you. If you aren’t currently aware of these changes, at least the people that represent you or those running for Councillor should be aware of this. And they should be doing everything in their power to make you aware of what these changes mean to you.
I plan on working with the Sturgeon Blue Line Group to bring this awareness to the residents of Sturgeon County and specifically Division 4. Town hall meetings will be held and I very strongly encourage you to attend them. Frankly I don’t care if you are from Morinville, Edmonton or anywhere else in Alberta, you are welcome at the meetings. Come out and listen to the subject matter experts. You can make your own decisions after that, but at least you will be making an informed decision.
There are a lot of issues to consider in this election. Please inform yourself and please vote.