Mr. Piquette: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Every year thousands of buried facilities are accidentally damaged by digging activities. Services are interrupted in nearly every case, and incidents put our workers, our communities, and our environment at risk. Recently a number of communities have been impacted by incidents involving severed underground lines. In my own constituency the town of Athabasca lost nearly all telecommunications services for a full day. This affects many communities across the province. In 2016 there were 4,305 of these incidents, of varying severity, across the province.
Societal cost research shows that over $350 million in damage is caused every year in Alberta due to damage to underground infrastructure. Average societal cost of a single incident is estimated at more than $80,000. These incidents put a strain on emergency services, require expensive repairs, and result in lost business during service outages.
April is national dig safe awareness month, and many hon. members are sporting the Dig Safe pin here today. The Alberta Common Ground Alliance is reminding all Albertans to visit clickbeforeyoudig.com before any digging project, no matter how big or how small, even when digging a garden or putting a fence in your backyard. Clicking before you dig is a free service. Not clicking before you dig could cost everything.
This year they have also partnered with the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Grey Cup to raise awareness of these issues. Just as football teams have their own playbooks to guide them on the field, the Alberta Common Ground Alliance promotes a safe-digging playbook for excavating around buried utilities. Not to stretch the football analogy too much, Mr. Speaker, but whether we’re going deep on the football field or into the ground, safety should always come
This year’s focus for Farm Safety Week is on seniors. I was happy to speak to this on behalf of our Caucus:
Thank you, Madam Speaker. Recently I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by the Athabasca Coalition 4 Success, and I was so impressed with what they’ve accomplished that I want to share it with members of the Assembly here today.
Madam Speaker, as a parent of a child with special needs I know from direct experience how difficult it can be to find appropriate summer care, especially in rural areas. The partners who make up the Athabasca Coalition 4 Success recognize this and have created a unique summer program in Athabasca to help youth grow.
This initiative allows community partners to work together to help children and youth attend events and activities in their community on a regular and consistent basis, to interact with their peers, develop social skills, and have the opportunity to successfully participate in community events. What’s more, they do this by leveraging existing funding streams and capacities.
Over the course of the summer children who participate have shown amazing progress in achieving developmental goals. As just one example, at the start of the program almost none of the children were able to stay with activities until they were finished, but at the end almost the entire group was able to do so.
I want to thank the many partners who made this initiative happen, including AHS, ACS, ACSS, Aspen View public schools, Athabasca county FCSS, Whispering Hills Day Care Society, and Aspen Collaborative Services.
Although we often speak of the challenges of providing services in rural areas, there are also great advantages, one of the greatest being just how interconnected everyone in smaller communities is. The groups that form the Coalition 4 Success are a perfect example of local organizations working in partnership to answer a local need, and it is a model that other communities might want to look closely at.
Thank you for your time.
As we approach the second anniversary of our government and my own as an MLA, I’d like to take a few moments to reflect on some of the progress that’s been made in my own riding of Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater.
When I was first elected, there were many outstanding issues, some long overdue, that needed to be addressed. For instance, the bridge over the Athabasca River on highway 813 had been in need of replacement since my father was the MLA. Now, thanks to the commitment of our government to make good on years of previous neglect, this is finally happening.
The completion of highway 63’s twinning and the multiple upgrades and curve reductions on highway 28 have made driving much safer for my constituents and indeed for all those who live and work in northeastern Alberta.
Two years ago Athabasca University’s status was uncertain. Now, thanks to our new government, a sustainable future has been assured for the university and for the community that depends on it.
Happily, I would need more than two minutes to list all the improvements to health care facilities, schools, and seniors’ facilities that we have been fortunate to receive as well. These investments speak well to the government’s commitment to the health, education, and well-being of rural Albertans.
The Industrial Heartland is not only of utmost strategic importance to Alberta’s long-term prospects; its local importance cannot be overstated. Thanks to our continued support for the North West Refinery’s phase 1, our petrochemicals diversification program, and, of course, our success in reframing our reputation as a responsible energy producer, investor confidence has been restored and new projects announced. But with increasing development in the Industrial Heartland, traffic has reached critical levels, severely impacting workers, local residents, and jeopardizing future growth. Working closely with municipal and industry partners, we have introduced badly needed intersection improvements to help clear congestion and improve safety.
We’ve made great progress on these issues and on many others, of course, but there’s always much more work that needs to be done, and we will continue towards those goals.
I was very pleased to recognize one of the outstanding organizations in the constituency and the work they do to prevent family and gender-based violence
-PRAAC Athabasca (Prevention of Relationship Abuse Action Committee)