Speaking in the House – Electoral Boundaries Commission – December 13, 2017

The Acting Speaker: Any questions or comments under 29(2)(a)?
Seeing and hearing none, is there anyone else wishing to speak to Bill 33? The hon. Member for Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater.

Mr. Piquette: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yeah. I just wanted to briefly get on the record a couple of points. Of course, I mean, I haven’t made secret my own concerns over the Electoral Boundaries Commission. I just want to respond to some of the things from the people on the other side. As a rural member I don’t feel like my colleagues are throwing me under the bus. I have to say that, I mean, they’re looking at this from a different perspective. I respect that. I understand where they’re coming from when they look at their own ridings and when they look at that we appointed this commission.

That all being said, I’m going to be voting against this on third reading. I feel like I can’t do otherwise. I mean, I did very extensive consultation with members in my riding. I spoke to every individual municipality, and I had unanimous consent. I had unanimous consent not from the municipalities merely but from every single councillor that was a member of every municipality. They all said the same thing, that they were really concerned about the changes. They were concerned about the dilution of representation that the expansion of the boundaries of our riding represented, and they urged me that what they wanted to see was the status quo. Because of this overwhelming voice from the riding, I can’t support the report’s recommendations. I have to give credit, too, you know, that I do have the ability to vote against this, and I intend to exercise it.

Thank you.

Speaking in the House – Agricultural Exports and NAFTA – December 13, 2017

The Speaker: The hon. Member for Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater.

Agricultural Exports and NAFTA

Mr. Piquette: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Last year 40 per cent of our agriculture products were exported to the United States, bringing in $4 billion to the Alberta economy. The North American free trade agreement, or NAFTA, has played a critical role in giving Alberta producers access to the American market. To the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. Farmers in my riding are curious to know: what is the government doing to protect Alberta’s agricultural interests under NAFTA?

The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.

Mr. Carlier: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the question. We understand how important it is for Alberta producers to get their products to market. It makes life better for farm families, makes life better for small communities, small rural communities. It’s important for diversifying our economy and creating jobs that support families. We’re working closely with the government of Canada and with other provinces to defend Alberta’s interests during the review of our trade agreements with the United States and Mexico.

The Speaker: First supplemental.

Mr. Piquette: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. To the same minister: how is the government ensuring that the supply management of agricultural products is protected in any proposed changes to NAFTA?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Carlier: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the question. Our government strongly supports supply management. Together, SM5 commodities accounted for 6.9 per cent, or $891.6 million, of the total value of agricultural production in 2015. The latest demands to scrap the supply management system in the United States are unacceptable to us and industries like dairy. They’ve made unsupportable suggestions like this on other issues before. We’ll continue to advocate for a system that ensures stable access to safe, healthy food.

The Speaker: Second supplemental.

Mr. Piquette: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. To the same minister: what is being done to diversify Alberta’s agricultural exports to make us less dependent on exports to a single market such as the United States?

Mr. Carlier: Mr. Speaker, the world knows our reputation for good, safe, and quality products. Our government will work to open those opportunities for producers. That’s why I’m pleased to participate in trade missions that showcase our amazing products, places like China, Japan, Korea, and Europe. We will continue to monitor developments in the U.S. very closely, and we will take a pragmatic, long view of any proposed changes to ensure that we’re protecting Alberta’s interests. The United States is Canada’s biggest trading partner, and we value that relationship. We also know that we need to diversify our markets so that more people around the world have the opportunity to enjoy amazing agricultural products: beef, pork, grain, and oilseeds.

Global News Edmonton – December 12, 2017 Alberta refinery hits milestone with 1st diesel production

Alberta refinery hits milestone with 1st diesel production

Fletcher Kent

A controversial refinery north of Edmonton has reached an important milestone. The Sturgeon Refinery is now producing diesel.

Two units in Phase 1 of the refinery are still under construction. That means it still cannot refine raw bitumen into diesel but it is converting synthetic crude into fuel.

CEO Ian MacGregor says the milestone means a lot. He likens refinery production with the last spike in the Canadian Pacific Railroad.

“I feel like, you see the picture of Van Horne and the little kid in the back there and this is the closest an engineer can get to feeling like that.”

The Sturgeon project is the first new refinery in Canada since 1984. When complete, Phase 1 will produce 50,000 barrels per day of diesel.

The project has had problems along the way. The completion date has been pushed back. Project costs have ballooned. They jumped from an estimated $6.5 billion in 2011 to $9.3 billion. Former provincial finance minister, Ted Morton criticized provincial involvement.

MacGregor maintains the economics behind the refinery are sound.

“Everyone focuses on how much they cost today. If you think of the channel between Britain and France, in the day, it was more expensive than they thought it would be. No one remembers that now.

“There’s hundreds of problems a day these guys are solving. We’ll work through them and it’ll work in the end.

“Then, 50 years from now, people will never remember anything but how much money and how much diesel comes out of it,” MacGregor said.

MacGregor says the refinery’s real value is not what comes out of it; but what goes in. It will eventually be a place to locally sell Alberta bitumen.

The provincial government also has a stake in the refinery. It can collect royalties from oilsands producers in bitumen instead of money. The province has agreed to refine a portion of that bitumen at the Sturgeon Refinery. There is risk to the province but area MLAs say the risk is manageable.

“This is going to be a real benefit for Albertans going forward. I think we’ll be making our money back and more,” said Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA, Colin Piquette.

Piquette adds the project has helped create jobs in the area. Thirty-six-thousand people have worked on building Phase 1 of the refinery. They collectively worked 40 million hours.

Company officials want to soon expand the refinery and build Phase 2 and Phase 3. Each addition would increase output by 50,000 barrels per day of diesel.

As enthused as the province is with the project, so far it isn’t promising any more royalty commitments to backstop phases two and three.

“Officially, until Phase 1 has demonstrated its viability and it’s up and running, there’d be no official discussions on that,” Piquette said. “They’re open to talking but it’s a bit premature at this stage.”

The refinery will use carbon capture technology, capturing 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 per year, then move it down a pipeline for enhanced oil recovery in central Alberta.

Membership Statement – Athabasca Coalition 4 Success – December 5, 2017

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.

Introductions in the House – Thorhild County – December 4, 2017

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the House for indulging me.

It is an honour to introduce to you and through you 12 members of the council administration staff from Thorhild county.

Here today are Wayne Franklin, Richard Filipchuk, Janelle Cornelius, Chyenne Shaw, and Cheryl Pasay.

They’re all here from Thorhild county to bring Christmas wishes to the government and the members of the Assembly. I would ask you to extend the customary warm greeting of the Assembly.

*applause* 

Athabasca Advocate – December 5, 2017 Bad trucks beware

New vehicle inspection station opened on Highway 63

Local dignitaries gathered to celebrate the opening of a new $11-million vehicle inspection station on Highway 63 north of Atmore.

On Dec. 1 government officials gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the facility, which features advanced equipment for inspecting vehicles that pass through the stretch of highway. The province estimated that about 500,000 commercial vehicles will use the station every year. Executive director of the Coalition for a Safer 63/881 Debbie Hammond said with the amount of traffic the stretch of highway has, the facility was needed.

“There’s absolutely a need to have a state-of-the-art facility that can check commercial vehicles and make sure that they’re safe for the drivers, as well as other road users on the highway,” she said.

The province plans to operate the facility 24/7 and staff it with ten transport officers. The officers will conduct inspections that include checking vehicle equipment, cargo securement and driver credentials. Vehicles that fail inspection are pulled off the road until the issue is resolved, with drivers facing possible fines.

Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA Colin Piquette said the facility is needed for the area to ensure traffic safety. “It’s wonderful. This is badly needed for Highway 63 to make sure the commercial traffic coming up and down here is safe,” Piquette said.

“It’s good, and important that we got it.” Piquette added that the facility should reduce the number of accidents in the area and is designed to not have an impact on traffic flow.

“I can see it making it safer. The fewer accidents you have, the better traffic flow you’re going to have and of course, more importantly, the fewer deaths and injuries you’re going to have,” Piquette said.  “If you look at the way it’s designed, the existence of the station itself should not have any impact on the traffic flow.” The facility features a Smart Roadside Inspection System, which uses thermal imaging to identify various problems with commercial vehicles.

North region inspector Dan McCormack said the technology of the station is some of the most advanced in the province, which is a boon for the officers managing the facility. “It’s huge, because we probably prescan thousands of vehicles on a daily basis,” McCormack said. “You only have so many officers working in the province. So having that technology allows them to free up (time for) what they’re doing.”

In another project aimed at improving traffic safety, the province also spent $1.2 billion to twin portions of Highway 63. That project completed in May 2016. Alberta Motor Transport Association vice chair Chris Nash said the facility’s location ensures it can capture the high amount of traffic in the area.

“It is all about safety. If we don’t have facilities like this, our roads they go sideways,” Nash said. “It’s going to create the accountability which is what we’re looking for.”

Joseph Quigley

 

Athabasca Advocate – December 5, 2017 Helping kids by their powers combined

Community services band together to help children who have special needs or behavioural problems

Athabasca’s community service organizations have banded together to help special needs children with a program like none other in the province.

The Coalition 4 Success presented to Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA Colin Piquette about its unique program on Dec. 1 at the Athabasca County Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) building.

The Coalition 4 Success provides additional supports for children with behavioural problems or special needs during the summer months, hiring extra staff for the Whispering Hills Day Care summer care programming.

Those staff help special needs children integrate with the day care’s general programming while kids are out of school, ensuring parents have a program they can turn to for child care during the summer.

“Athabasca has a lot of community programs for students,” said local school therapist Jenifer Borgen. “But unfortunately, what we were finding was when our students have behavioural challenges, they aren’t able to successfully attend those groups.”

To meet the demand for programming that can better accommodate special needs, a variety of Athabasca organizations – including Athabasca County FCSS, Aspen Collaborative Services, Whispering Hills Day Care and Aspen View Public Schools – came together to form the Coalition 4 Success.

By pooling resources, the coalition was able to fund the new program, which has run out of Whispering Hills Day Care over the past two summers. Childcare licensing supervisor Gloria Vanderburgh said the organizations were able to work together well to create and maintain the program.

“We came to the table talking about what we can do, not what we can’t do,” Vanderburgh said.

The program assisted nine children in 2016 and six children in 2017. The additional staff work with the children to adapt programming as needed to ensure it suits the child. 

“There’s staff that can stay behind and they can plan something specific to what they want to do,” Vanderburgh said. “It provides that flexibility to children.”

According to the Coalition 4 Success, the additional support has resulted in those children being better able to form friendships and work on social skills, as well as reducing the amount of social and emotional support they require in school.

“Making sure that kids are able to take part,” said Athabasca County FCSS manager Debbie Woods. “So those kids aren’t ostracized. They’re part of the community.”

The coalition is unique in the province, although groups in Edson are exploring a similar model, according to regional manager of Aspen Collaborative Services Sandra Zesko.

The program is limited to children six to 12, the same age range for the Whispering Hills Day Care summer programming. The cost for the Coalition 4 Success program is approximately $5,000 for staffing, although Woods said that does not include lot of things provided in-kind, such as the use of the Whispering Hills Day Care facility.

Piquette complimented the program and said it might be a model that would work well elsewhere.

“This is something that if it makes sense here, it makes sense in Edson, (it) makes sense in a whole lot of other communities, especially if you’re leveraging existing funding streams,” Piquette said. “A real success story that can definitely make a big impact on the lives of children (and) their parents.”