WESTLOCK - About 50 members of the Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock UCP constituency association were on hand for the organization’s annual general meeting last week to choose a new board and to hear from local MLA Glenn van Dijken and special guest speaker agriculture and forestry minister Devin Dreeshen.
The AGM, held at the Westlock Inn Dec. 5, saw the re-election of association president Bill Hall, secretary Linda Hall, CFO Richard Forbes and 26 additional directors. All were acclaimed to their respective positions.
Messages from Hall, van Dijken and Dreeshen took up most of the night with a question-and-answer session to follow at the end.
van Dijken noted, “It’s been quite a ride over the last year and a half, and it wasn’t without a lot of effort from party members, board members and all of our grass roots leadership that helped us to build a party, unite a party and to move into where we were able to put forward a platform that Albertans recognized as being credible; put forward a platform that Albertans supported in big numbers this spring.
“In May last year, we were starting with a new constituency, a whole new party, and we had people coming together from right across our riding to support the establishment of our Constituency Association right from the get-go. I can’t say enough how much we appreciate each and every one that has stepped up – especially those that travel fairly long distances to get to board meetings, and it’s quite a commitment that they are able to do that.”
van Dijken spoke of the success of the new party in the April election, winning 63 seats in the legislature to form the current government.
He noted UCP leader and premier Jason Kenney has done “an incredible job to help us to build a united party, but not only do that, but help us to become the government in Alberta.”
He pointed out that in the first seven months of their four year mandate, his party has managed to push through 162 of the 375 promises and commitments made to Albertans have been met or being met.
“It’s quite an amazing feat, but an incredible focus by our leader and the Ministers in their departments to get to this point,” said van Dijken speaking to a list of new initiatives to help fight rural crime, the new bill to replace the NDP’s Bill 6, skills for jobs, the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation and action to help those struggling with mental health and addictions.
Dreeshen also spoke of the work the UCP has accomplished so far in its mandate.
“We’ve had a great pace, but that’s all set by our premier. He is a workaholic. It doesn’t seem like he sleeps. He travels all over the world trying to sell Alberta and attract investment and create more jobs in the province. It’s tough keeping up with him,” he said.
On his own ministry, Dreeshen noted on the forestry side, there is a Forestry Act review underway in consultation with 20-plus forestry companies in the province, and 2020 it will expand into the public sphere in an effort to unleash the forestry potential in the province, but, as he explained, in an environmentally sustainable way.
On the agriculture side, he spoke briefly on the just-passed Farm Freedom and Safety Act, which replaced the NDP’s Bill 6, with what he described as a more common sense act for agriculture.
He also spoke to Bill 27, the Trespassing Act, aimed at helping reduce rural crime. Dreeshen said other provinces are looking at this, and Ontario is following the Alberta lead on Bill 27.
“It’s nice to see that we are leading other provinces,” he said.
Dreeshen will also be among a group of MLAs going to Ottawa to speak with the Liberal government.
“We’re going there with an olive branch, not a baseball bat,” said Dreeshen. “We’re hoping that we can get some important movements from them about Bill C-69 and C-48. We’re hopeful that they’re going to take western alienation and the frustration seriously and start to take Alberta seriously.
“I’m hopeful that in the next three and a half years of our mandate that we’ll be able to continue to go in the right direction; and hopeful that however long the Liberal minority government lasts that we can try to help. We’re dealt this hand, so let’s try to play it the best we can.”