Skip to content

Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock MLA looks back on historic 2019

UCP swept to power in April provincial election
GVD election DSC_5053
Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken poses with his wife Barb April 16 soon after receiving word of his re-election. Since April, van Dijken and the new United Conservative government have repealed several NDP bills and introduced a few of their own as they aim to attract investment to Alberta and create jobs.

WESTLOCK - It has been quite a year for Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken — not only did he retain his seat in the Legislature by a large margin in the spring election, the United Conservative Party also received a convincing mandate from Alberta voters and they now sit in the government benches.

The April 16 election saw the UCP sweep to power, winning 63 seats, compared to 24 for the NDP, while van Dijken won his riding with 68.9 per cent of the vote.

“When the year started, I was sitting as an Opposition member,” said van Dijken. “The first few months of the year there was a lot of work preparing for an election and campaigning during the election and getting to know people in this riding from one side to other.”

After van Dijken won the Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock riding in 2015, the Electoral Boundaries Commission recommended consolidating four electoral districts into three, placing most of Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock and Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater, along with a piece of Lac La Biche-St.Paul-Two Hills, into the new Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock riding.

This meant the incumbent MLA had to connect with many communities that were not in his previous riding, making campaigning that much more difficult.

“My riding was changing at the same time, so it was good to travel from one side to the other. We have a very large riding, so travel does encompass a lot of my time. I was very happy with the results of the election,” said van Dijken.

Besides now having his office in the actual Legislature building, there have been a few other changes to his staff and the workflow as well.

“It was quite a transition, but it went well,” he said. “When you’re in government, there is a lot more work to prepare for a sitting, but it’s good and it’s necessary work.”

With the election over, the work of repealing the former government’s policies and replacing them with UCP legislation, starting with the carbon tax, which now-premier Jason Kenney had promised during the campaign, could now begin.

“First things first, the Carbon Tax Repeal Act. Before the end of May, that was gone. A lot of people said at that time said they didn’t expect it to go, even though we campaigned on it. We had a lot of commitments in our platform and the vast majority of them we hope to implement before the end of the term,” said van Dijken.

He also pointed to the job creation tax cut, which is meant to reduce corporate taxes by a third over the next four years in an effort to attract investment and create jobs.

The introduction of an associate minister of red tape reduction will also be very helpful, he said.

“That’s an important part of our commitment to Albertans, to get a process in place to actually deal with red tape,” said van Dijken.

A very big and complicated issue since entering government has been working on rural crime file, he said, adding he was glad to have a justice minister who recognizes the need to increase rural prosecutors and to provide timely action for rural victims of crime.

Increasing penalties for those caught trespassing on rural land is also a big part of the UCP strategy on rural crime.

“We felt it necessary to send a message that this was not going to be tolerated in Alberta, and we have other provinces looking at our model,” said van Dijken. “Unless we start making moves, it just continues to be a problem.

Repealing the NDP’s farm safety legislation is another UCP campaign promise van Dijken was glad to see fulfilled.

“I look forward to working with the agricultural industry on increased farm safety education, awareness and those types of programs because I truly believe that is where we’re going to have the biggest impact,” he said. “Legislation with penalties and all of that, there’s a place for that, but if our goal is farm safety, education and awareness is going to be key in bringing that about.”

van Dijken said he looks forward to continuing to grow the province in the coming years by attracting investment and creating jobs, which is the UCP mandate.

“The government will continue to do the work necessary to get our province on the track of attracting investment back into the province.”

About the Author: Chris Zwick

Athabasca Advocate editor
Read more