by Calli Stromner
with files from Ashley Janes
Morinville – About two dozen area residents braved slippery roads and frigid temperatures to attend a Meet and Greet event with Wildrose Danielle Smith at the Morinville Rendez-Vous Cen-tre Tuesday night. While the event was billed as open to the public, the majority in attendance were party supporters who travelled from as far away as Barrhead and Bon Accord.
“A lot of the issues that come up when I do these kind of town hall meetings are issues around infrastructure,” said Smith in her opening address to the crowd. “Is there a need for schools? Is there a need for hospitals? Are there intersections or highway upgrades that have been put off? We’re here to listen so that there’s another voice in the legisla-ture to speak for this community.” Wildrose MLAs Kerry Towle (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake), Gary Bikman (Cardston-Taber-Warner), Ian Donovan (Little Bow), and Blake Petersen (Medicine Hat) were also in attendance.
Smith explained the Wildrose positions on balanced budgets, the protection of personal property rights, public sector accountability, health care services, and local empower-ment during her opening comments. “Albertans deserve a better government than we’re getting,” she said “We’ve seen more centralization, not just in health care, not just in education, but at the municipal level as well.”
A number of questions came up from residents during the question and answer portion of the meeting, but the Cardiff Corner announcement and the government’s plan to sig-nificantly change public sector pensions drew the most discussion. Of the Cardiff Corner decision, Smith said that the government should have consulted with residents about the proposed options and asked the community for additional options.
“I don’t think you can make changes to pensions without negotiating with the members (in the pension), said Smith about the recent decision to alter four of the public service pension fund rules, a move which impacts nearly 750,000 Albertans. “From a taxpayer perspective, I’m concerned about there being a run on the plan. One of the unintended consequences of the government’s action could be that a disproportionate amount of people taking early retirement could make the pension plan unsustainable and could make it insolvent.” She added that it was promising to see the public sector unions combine forces with all of the Opposition parties on this issue and hoped that the pres-sure would force the government into a “constructive negotiation with pension members.”
While the event was billed as open to the public and local municipal representatives had been invited, only Morinville Rob Ladouceur, a former Wildrose Party executive board member was present. Five of the seven members of Council were attending the annual Alberta Urban Municipalities convention in Calgary, according to Mayor Lisa Holmes’ Facebook account. “We are trying to build a stronger support base in this area for the 2016 election,” said Smith.