Residents of the Hampton Hills in High River continue to be victimized, but not just by flood waters or sewage backup, but by the Alberta Government.
17 months ago, I attended a meeting in a small room with a number of residents from that neighbourhood and others from the nearby Sunrise community to discuss their ongoing issues with flood recovery with MLA Danielle Smith.
Smith then said that the government needed to fix this, and they need to get it done right. They simply haven’t, and Albertans are now suffering through yet another loss.
The homes regrew mould, only a year after the Alberta Government spent $45 million on a contract with Tervita to remediate them, among other things. Now many are being torn down, and those that aren’t are left with vacant lots dotting their neighbourhood.
It’s not Tervita’s fault. They were placed in a no-win situation. The onus is on the Alberta Government to help these people the first time, and they didn’t.
10 days ago, Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark called on Premier Jim Prentice to show leadership and take an active role to resolve DRP claims. I'm glad to see Prentice answer that call as he makes his way to High River to discuss the issues with that town’s Disaster Recovery Program Advocacy Committee.
But simply resolving claims might not be enough, especially when resolved claims seem to be inadequate, so much so that people keep going back to appeals. These people have been victimized time and time again by the Alberta Government. Mr. Prentice must show he values Albertans and their contributions, and correct the wrongs this PC government has caused.
I'm calling on Prentice to put Albertans first, especially these less fortunate, and provide them with adequate compensation to return to a life of normalcy. This meeting with the DRP Advocacy Committee this weekend, along with Municipal Affairs representatives and PC MLA Danielle Smith is a perfect opportunity to get this done right.
Smith has been having "high level" meetings about this, apparently. What the product of those meetings will be is yet to be seen. However, she had a high-profile meeting 17 months ago, complete with cameras and reporters. She heard these concerns, and even then residents knew that these homes should not be remediated. They should have been razed. I know this, because I was there. If her high-profile meetings didn't produce fruit, why should we expect her high level meetings to be any different?
Any movement forward has been at the hands of volunteers on the DRP Advocacy Committee in High River. We must also acknowledge the hard work and effort to bring awareness to these issues by the Disaster Recovery Program Advocacy Committee, and I strongly believe they already know the best method forward.
The fact that a committee was required to intervene on behalf of people dealing with DRP is disturbing, but these committee members have done an amazing job at keeping the awareness up, and the hope alive. No other representative, even our MLA, has been able to do that.
So now it falls to Mr. Prentice to listen to these advocates. Solutions are possible, but as has been said by many others, "it's going to take some political will to do it."
I expect that when Prentice meets with the committee this weekend, he will have to make some politically difficult decisions about how to help these residents and others in limbo with the DRP process move forward. Decisions that the PCs have avoided for 17 months.
These decisions would show a will to help the least fortunate Albertans, so he must make them, and he must make them now. Only then can these residents truly recover.
This concept of recalling Danielle Smith, my current MLA and former Leader of the Official Opposition now PC adoptee, is a bit of a conundrum.
If she stays, what should we in Highwood, who she represents, expect?
She has done nothing in the past six months on the DRP file, and her latest public statements (first example, then second) have shown that. High River's DRP Advocacy Committee knows far more than she does.
She has done nothing in the past six months for those who feel victimized by the RCMP during the flood. John Barlow, our local Conservative MP and PC Candidate against Smith in the last election, has.
She has done nothing to help Okotoks secure a stable water source for its growth. The Town of Okotoks itself has done all that work.
So if she's done nothing for our constituency as a Wildrose MLA, why would we expect any different as a PC MLA? For that matter, would it be any different if she was in office at all?
It's a fallacy to think she will do anything, as a number of people have suggested while in PC Caucus. For the past year she has either focused on deconstructing a government or else joining it. She argues it is on principle, but it's hard to believe that with over 1000 DRP claims unresolved, no answers from the RCMP, and no help from the province for water licenses. Further to that, Prentice is the only one playing the political game now.
But when you recall an elected official, you are forcing a by-election. That's a costly affair, and it's the taxpayers who fund it.
If you were already a Wildrose supporter, you are already out money, do you want to be out tax dollars too?
On the other hand, if we don't recall Smith, then we have absolutely no chance of getting someone in Edmonton who really will represent us.
But Prentice is likely to launch a snap election this coming month. You can tell, because he is politicking, "calling out" people who can't fight back. What better way to position yourself for an electoral win?
At least if Prentice calls an early election, we'd skip that costly by-election issue.
So what real difference will recalling Smith make?
She is one of the anointed nine, an approved candidate by Prentice. Even in an open nomination process, she has been given a strong chance of becoming the PC Candidate. That nomination, much like the Conservative Macleod nomination, will be the one to watch. I'm not convinced Smith would win, but if she did, she'd be nearly unbeatable in the full election.
So who would run under the Wildrose banner? My money is on Pat Stier, the current MLA for Livingstone-Macleod. He lives in Highwood, and is a well-respected one of the remaining Wildrose five. This code of honour thing he has going on right now would make him a formidable opponent.
However the Wildrose vote will still be viewed as a protest vote. Protest against the floor-crossing, mismanagement of our provincial finances, cronyism, or complete lack of governmental forethought over the past 15 years. While these are all worthy things to vote against, I'm more interested in having something to vote FOR.
The Liberal and NDP parties have little to no chance here. In the last election, one was not even a local candidate, and the other never even showed up. These are two sure-fire ways of making yourself viewed as irrelevant. And Highwood has a long memory, shaking that stigma is not about to happen.
However, the Alberta Party is setting up shop here in Highwood. You know, the little party that scared Danielle Smith into thinking she should cross the floor?
By the way, I'm the most vocal advocate of the Alberta Party around here, so for Smith to be working on the floor-crossing months before the by-elections and to blame it on the Alberta Party is a little flattering, but I won't let it get to my head.
The Alberta Party is all about renewing democracy. They will have a local candidate. They will have regular consultations with their constituents (it's part of the rules of being an Alberta Party MLA). They are also about many of the things that made grassroots voters consider the Wildrose; free votes in the legislature, better fiscal management, equity and equality for all Albertans, to name a few.
More importantly, they are about working for informed solutions, with whomever or whichever party they need to in order to get the best results for their constituents and Albertans.
Sounds like something with voting FOR.
So should Smith Stay or should she go now? It won't make a difference, it will still be the local advocates getting the job done. Therefore it comes down to a matter of principle. Do you support voter recall of MLAs if they have done something egregious, like willfully deceive their party donors or Executive Council, and by extension their constituents?
I do. The Alberta Party does. Democracy does. I had hoped it would never be considered remotely necessary, but I guess my hopes have been dashed.
Am I willing to force taxpayers to foot the bill for a by-election?
No. But as I said, Prentice is gearing up got a snap election. All a recall is going to do is give him further encouragement to get that election going. So I'm not risking anything that wasn't already at risk there.
So, as sad as I am to say it might actually be necessary ... it might actually be necessary. Recall Danielle Smith.
Is the Alberta Party ready for an election in Highwood? Out of completely self-serving interest, we hope Prentice will wait a couple of weeks before making his announcement. Because the completely open and democratic process of selecting a candidate will have begun by then.
And then yes, the Alberta Party will be ready.