Jason Nixon is the MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, which includes Eckville, in addition to being the Democraxy and Accountability Advocate and Official Opposition Whip for the Wildrose Party.
Q: How are things going for your constituency?
A: It has been a tough year across the board, not just for my constituency but for all of Alberta. We have seen unprecedented job loss across the province. I have heard from constituents that may not have lost their jobs but are facing salary decreases, cut hours and are now struggling with day-to-day payments like mortgages, car payments and taking care of the kids. It has been a tough year but I do think that with the new year – there is a tremendous amount of hope. In 2017 it does appear as if the economy is slowly turning around and as I often say we succeed in this province despite governments, not because of them. Albertans are quite amazing.
Q: How has the carbon tax affected Albertans so far?
A: The carbon tax is the number one issue facing Albertan’s right now. Constituents I have spoke to are extremely alarmed and frustrated. We are experiencing job loss and drastic increases in taxes – the largest tax increases in the history of our province. You are seeing upwards of immediately $1,000 out of everyone’s pockets. With [Premier] Rachel Notley indicating this will continue to increase in line with Mr. Trudeau’s carbon tax – it could conceivably cost $2,500 per family. It costs money and is hurting families that are already hurting.
Q: Last week at the Legislature there were heated talks about the core issue of why the carbon tax is being implemented. What is your stance on climate change?
A: I believe that climate change is an issue and I believe humans have an impact on climate and the environment as a whole. This means we can’t only have a negative impact, but a positive impact as well. Our party, and myself, have always believed technology is the way forward on this issue – not taxing hockey moms and hockey dads. Let’s be clear, this carbon tax brought by the NDP will have zero impact on the environment. It will have zero impact on climate change. What it will do is reduce the money families have to spend in the economy. This will cause problems for families. This will not change behavior in rural Alberta, not to say that there is negative behavior there, but the issue is we still have to drive. We still have to get our kids on the bus to go to school and I still need to drive to Edmonton to go to work. All this is something that will cost Albertans more money and will not help any environmental issues.
Q: What would a Wildrose Plan look like to address these environmental issues as well as economic development?
A: Our main focus on the environment is technology. If you ever have the privilege of touring the oil sands, you will be blown away with how much the technology has improved in the area of environmental controls. We won’t overcome serious environmental issues by taxing individual families. This is about working with industry to advance our technology. It’s already better than it was 20 years ago and it will continue to get better. The other thing is that none of our largest competitors are going to have a carbon tax – particularly the United States. It’s pretty clear they will not have one, so with the policy the NDP is bringing forward we are going to see what we call carbon leakage. This is essentially jobs leaking out of our economy and into the American economy or elsewhere in the world. There will be no positive environmental impact as a result of that.
Q: Since the NDP is mandated for a few more years, how will your party work within the government’s framework?
A: We will continue to do what we have been doing. One is raising the issue when the NDP is completely offside with our constituents. We will make sure Albertans know what the government is up to and we will be their voice. We will also work and cooperate in areas that we can. For example, I was just named to the Child Death and Care Panel in Edmonton. We will be working with all parties to help find a solution for what has been going on with children in foster care in our province. There are areas of common ground like that. We worked with the NDP on election finance changes, election rule changes and several other things. We will work with the NDP on areas of common ground that makes life better for Albertans but let’s be clear – when the NDP is offside we will be the first ones to raise it because that is our job.
Q: Do you think decorum has deteriorated in the Legislature?
A: I think when you are in the Legislature, people can get emotional. There are long days in there and certainly on all sides things can be said that are regretted later, but I haven’t noticed any major deterioration of decorum inside the legislature.
Q: Outside of the carbon tax, what are the biggest issues facing Eckville?
A: Eckville, like all the rural areas of my constituency, are going to be facing boundary commission. The electoral boundaries will be redrawn by the commission – so we will watching closely to ensure that rural Alberta will be fairly represented. That’s a significant issue for Eckville
Q: Is this commission meant to alleviate the difficulties of having such large rural constituencies?
A: The concern is the commission could make it worse. I represent 22 towns, counties and school boards. I love it, as you know. I travel around and have a great time, but the distance between places is significant and we need to make sure that the commission doesn’t make these constituencies so big that an MLA can’t adequately cover it. I will be presenting to the commission in Olds later this month and I will try to articulate to them the unique demands of rural MLAs.
Q: Is there any update on the doctor coverage shortage in Eckville?
A: We are working with the Mayor, Council and the County. We have a more meetings in a few weeks. We have been working with doctors in both Sylvan Lake and Rocky Mountain House attempting to recruit doctors to be able to work within the community of Eckville at the clinic. That way the people of Eckville and the surrounding area won’t have to travel as far to see a doctor on a regular basis. I am optimistic we will be able to accomplish that. Doctor recruitment can take a long time but I’m optimistic we will have a couple doctors working there at that clinic soon.