Nate Glubish, minister of Service Alberta and MLA for Strathcona-Sherwood Park began a cross-Alberta tour, making a stop in Lacombe on Thursday to engage Albertans on Service Alberta issues.
Glubish said rural broadband and Internet, registries and the Mobile Home Tenancy Act have been huge challenges facing Albertans he has met so far.
The minister said it is important for him to engage on these issues directly with Alberta in order to make informed policy decisions.
Rural broadband and Internet
Ensuring rural Internet connectivity is a challenge across Canada and in Alberta, it is a complicated problem due to fast-evolving bandwidth and speed requirements, according yo Glubish.
The minister said the the difficulty connecting rural Albertans, opposed to urban residents, comes down to the difficult economics of providing adequate infrastructure. Glubish said this tour allows him to get a grasp on where communities currently are in terms of connectivity and what is being done — both by government and in the private sector — to solve the problem.
The results of consultation so far has shown that communities are working with service providers — both large and small — to find answers to the question of rural broadband. One of the answers has been smaller providers building off the current infrastucture of large telecommunication companies.
“We want to do that analysis all across the province to build a made in Alberta solution and strategy that is built on a consultative approach with all of the affected stakeholders and communities,” Glubish said.
One issue that has come up is the resistance from large companies to build infrastructure into smaller communities, something Glubish said could require facilitation from the government to start conversation between the companies and smaller entrepreneurs.
“If we can play a role in facilitating those conversations and encouraging those negotiations, that is a tangible way that we as the Alberta Government can make substantial progress towards connectivity in the province,” he said.
The minister said that private registries across the province faced difficulties under the previous NDP government.
He said he is working with those registries to ensure they know they have a collaborative partner in the government. One of the ways he intends to do this is through encouraging the online expansion of services, where Alberta currently sits last in the country.
“These are the kinds of things that would transform the experience for Albertans interacting with registries. My goal is to take Alberta from last to first in the country,” he said.
Glubish also said the government will not compete with private registries by removing services, like the NDPs did when they created an online tool to pay traffic fines online.
“My goal with this tour is to ensure registries that we will not compete with them,” he said.
Glubish refused to comment on the Town of Blackfalds ongoing discussions to have a registries in the town. Blackfalds is currently the largest community without a registry location.
“They have been seeking approval for the government to do an RFP to open that up for private folks to bid on supplying that service. That is an ongoing discussion and it would be premature to say what the outcome will be right now,” he said.
UCP Budget talks
The minister said that his ministry will be part of the difficult decisions in this years upcoming Budget, but he said his government remains committed to their election promise to balance the budget in four years time.
“The election mandate we earned was a strong signal from Albertans that we need to do that. That is what you can expect as we move into budget season,” he said.
In terms of what has been discussed on his tour, Glubish said many of the issues would not require provincial dollars.
“It requires more strategic collaboration and efforts by all of the stakeholders. There has been a distinct lack of that over the last four years,” he said.
Glubish added this tour is part of large, ongoing process to consult directly with Albertans.
“In the past these communities were not being consulted and not being heard. The challenges they were facing, they were having to face them alone. My signal to them is that is not the case anymore,” he said.