Assembly Lines: rural education students supported, water deals cheered, ports-and-trains labour discussed, better Indigenous consultation sought


Provincial funding will allow an intake of education students to maintain their rural bonds while taking bachelor’s degree classes, the legislative assembly heard May 15.

Martin Long, the UCP member for West Yellowhead, said funding worth $1.7 million means more students in rural, remote or Indigenous communities can do most of their studies from home. The arrangement will allow them to continue working and living beyond the big city.

“Alberta’s government is helping address the challenges of recruitment and retention,” said Long, the parliamentary secretary for rural health. “This is critical for the success of the province’s education system, because we know that when students can study closer to home, they’re more likely to remain in their community after they finish their education.”

The University of Calgary receives more than $1 million for 35 students in a community-focused program. Meanwhile, the University of Alberta’s Aboriginal Teacher Education Program receives more than $700,000 for 24 students.


If you’re forced to evacuate because of a wildfire or other emergency, be sure to make use of the services available to you.

That’s the message Nicole Goehring, the NDP member for Edmonton Castle-Downs, sent to her fellow Albertans via the legislative assembly May 15.

“Our hearts go out to those in this province who are facing the threat of wildfire season, especially those who have gone through this before and are experiencing trauma or painful memories from previous fire seasons,” said Goehring.

Those evacuated for seven days or more may be eligible for financial assistance and should call the 24-hour Emergency Income Support Contact Centre at 1-866-644-5135 or by email at Online applications are accepted at

Goehring noted that outside communities rise to the occasion by setting up evacuee reception centres, providing supplies and services such as food, clothing, pet daycare and health care. The Red Cross helps arrange emergency accommodations: call 1-888-800-6493.

Supports for businesses can be found through the Alberta Chambers of Commerce. Visit

Alberta 511 provides updates on road closures. The Alberta wildfire app and wildfire status dashboard contain up-to-date information on where wildfires are burning in Alberta and how they impact communities, their residents and their visitors.

Guides for building an emergency kit and an emergency plan can be found at Public Safety Canada will walk you through the creation of an emergency plan at

Evacuations can be stressful and overwhelming, particularly for those who have faced these situations before or have family members who may be at risk,” said Goehring. If you need to talk, call the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642 or Health Link at 811.

“The stress and fear of having to evacuate on those impacted is significant, and we all must work together to ensure that they are supported during this time,” Goehring concluded.


Whether you’re turning on your tap in Edmonton or setting sprinklers in the southeastern corner of the province, water access is critical to life and success in Alberta.

But as the threat of drought looms, the Alberta government is making the most of a difficult situation through historic water-sharing agreements signed last months, the UCP’s Garth Rowswell told his fellow members of the legislature May 15.

“All Albertans, particularly those in rural communities, should be concerned about the variability of water supply,” said Rowswell, the member for Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright. “Not only can this impact our ability to get water supplied to our homes and communities, but in a drought this can have a severe impact on farmers and industries that we rely on tremendously.”

Many rivers have lower water levels than usual, and many reservoirs are below capacity, Rowswell said. “This is a real concern for my constituents after several dry years and El Niño causing a warm and dry winter across the country.”

The largest water-sharing agreements in Alberta’s history rose from months of negotiations between the with major water users, Rowswell said, calling the result “one of the most proactive responses to this concern that I have ever seen.”

The agreements allow Alberta to get the most from a limited and prioritized water supply if a drought strikes the province, he said.

He also pointed to a drought response plan and $125 million in funding over five years for a drought and flood protection plan.

“As is always the case in difficult times, I’m proud to see Albertans come together to tackle these challenges. This is precisely what makes Alberta the best place in the world,” said Rowswell.


Shutdowns of railways and ocean ports must be treated differently than most other labour actions because of their crippling effects on the economy, the UCP’s transportation and economic corridors minister said May 15.

Devin Dreeshen said letters sent from elected officials in Alberta to their Ottawa counterparts are designed to ensure the federal government understands how serious the situation will be if job actions prevent the landlocked province from getting resources, goods and products to market.

Added Dreeshen, the member for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake: “This government obviously respects the collective bargaining process, but we also respect the millions of Canadian workers that are hurt by rail and port strikes across the country with temporary layoffs or curtailment of production. We want to stand up and protect all workers across this country.”

The assembly heard that the premier has written the prime minister about the issue. Dreeshen has written his counterpart, and the jobs, economy and trade minister has written his.

Alberta continues asking the federal government to amend the Canada Labour Code to enable the federal cabinet to impose binding arbitration and “avoid disruptive work stoppages at our national railways and ports across this country,” said Dreeshen.

Last year, more than 7,400 port workers struck in B.C. from July 1 to 13 over wages, pensions, contracting and automation, shutting down about 30 terminals and Canada’s busiest port, Vancouver.

The federal government has appointed an industrial inquiry commissioner to investigate last year’s port closure. But the International Longshore and Warehouse Union is again poised to legally strike in 2024.

Shane Getson, the member for Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland, prompted the comments from his UCP caucus colleague during question period. He said that the federal government “has not taken any concrete action to protect our transportation network.”


The province has failed in its duty to consult Woodland Cree First Nation as protests intensified over drilling on traditional lands, the NDP’s Indigenous relations and reconciliation critic charged May 15.

The nation is owed meaningful consultation and final authority over industrial development on its traditional lands, Brooks Arcand-Paul said.

“Why have you failed WCFN so miserably and caused this relationship to break down with proponents in the Peace River region?” asked Arcand-Paul, the member for Edmonton West-Henday.

But Rick Wilson, the minister of Indigenous relations, said the government conducts consultations – but then it’s up to the parties involved to negotiate impact-benefit agreements.

“They are doing that at this point, and the province does not get involved with that,” said Wilson, the member for Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin.

In published reports, Obsidian Energy maintained that it has negotiated with the nation to expand drilling and that WCFN does not have veto rights.

Actions by Obsidian have been blamed for earthquakes in the Peace River area, one of which reached 5.6 on the Richter scale.

The First Nation has blocked Obsidian’s access, but a court injunction ordered members to cease. The protest carried on anway.

Arcand-Paul said the consultation system is failing the economy and Indigenous communities. “Will the minister commit today to revamping the ACO (Aboriginal Consultation Office), or will he allow for more of these situations to unfold, thereby creating uncertainty for all parties involved?”

But Wilson said the 12,000 to 15,000 consultations a year help keep the economy rolling and develop Alberta oil and gas for a hungry international marketplace.

“Our First Nations are our partners in prosperity, and we work closely with them to make sure that they are partners at our table,” Wilson said. “We will continue to work with them, and we will help them where we can to facilitate. But we cannot get involved when two parties are negotiating.”

George Lee, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Macleod Gazette