A ray of hope shone for those pressing for changes to the 781-11 intersection when Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk addressed about 200 people who gathered for a ‘meet and greet’ last Wednesday.
He described the Highway 20 and 11 intersection as “hellishly confusing” for those making left hand turns and promised residents that he will address the matter with Transportation Minister Rick McIver and have the “whole issue of the intersections reviewed and meaningful options put on the table”.
He also promised he “will ensure (residents) have the possibility of providing meaningful input”.
He’d initially said he’d go back to the Minister of Transportation “and ask him to bring experts to provide options. We want traffic to flow, want it to be safe. This is no brain surgery, there must be a way to figure it out.”
However Rod English challenged him to find an American expert “who is not behooven to the Alberta government. We need outside help.”
Lukaszuk disagreed. “We don’t need international expertise to decide to put in lights, put up signs.”
Then Nancy Hayes told the deputy premier the government hasn’t been listening. “For three decades, three governments we’ve been asking for lights at 781 and 11. People have died, people have been maimed, there’s money individuals have spent on hospitalization. Three decades and three governments have been passing the buck. The citizens have been asking.”
“I cannot answer to you what happened 30 years ago,” Lukaszuk said. “I can tell you what we will do right now. We made a clear commitment to build infrastructure in this province … It’s the same as the frustrations we’re hearing in other parts for different reasons.”
At meetings like this one, he said, “there are calls for schools, seniors’ facilities, the list goes on and one. The province is growing. We need to build infrastructure.
“We will invest in Alberta infrastructure. Some will serve not only you but your kids and grandkids. We will be looking at different ways to finance that,” he added.
Lukaszuk promised a balanced operating budget then added, “if you want to build clinics, schools, highways, nursing homes, where’s the money going to come from.”
Asked specifically about lights for the 781-11 corner, he said, “It’s not whether were can afford it, but whether it’s the right thing to do.”
After further questioning from those in the audience, Lukaszuk said “I will make sure Alberta Transportation takes another look”.
On the town’s plea for urgent care he felt things were moving along nicely following a meeting earlier last week between doctors and Alberta Health Services representatives.
Lukaszuk spent most of the day in Sylvan Lake and had a chance to meet local doctors which he described as “fascinating” and “very positive”.
“Sylvan Lake is in a position which is really enviable … to be a city of this size and have 14 doctors. What makes it even more enviable is the 14 doctors are willing to work together as partners. This is rare in itself. You also have a facility with labs and x-ray.”
What’s needed, he admitted, is money and qualified staff to increase hours.
Lukaszuk said the Conservatives, during the election campaign, committed to opening 140 Family Care Centres “pulling all doctors and equipment together so you can be served in a way you need to be served”. He indicated the centres won’t all be the same. A Family Care Centre in Sylvan Lake would be different from a Family Care Centre in Cold Lake.
“Solutions are almost pulling themselves together,” he said.
Lukaszuk began his ‘meet and greet’ wandering among people in the community centre gym listening to concerns and answering questions. Part way through the event he was surrounded by a group of people, some who had travelled from as far away as Camrose, who wanted to talk about land rights. After calling all those who wanted to discuss the issue towards him, he walked into the middle of the auditorium and said he was there to discuss two local issues — urgent care and the intersections. Then he addressed those concerns before leaving the room.
He did tell those concerned with land rights that he’d arrange for someone to come here who knew more about those issues but there were jeers as he left.