Q and A with Jason Nixon

"We are Albertans and we will survive this because we survive in spite governments, not because of governments."

How is the summer going for your constituency?

The summer is chugging along. It is a little tough right now. One thing about this constituency is that its such a vast area, 25000 square kilometres, meaning different areas of the riding are facing different issues and are up to different things be it agriculture, petroleum or other industries.

We are definitely seeing small businesses struggle right now. The minimum wage is starting to have an impact and causing concern for the small businesses in this riding. With the downturn of petroleum and the economy as a whole, we are starting to see the consequences of that. That is tough to see.

At the same time, it has also been a great summer so far with lots of excellent rodeos in our riding, great parades and other community events, which is always a positive thing to see.

You can still definitely feel the undertone of the tough times that Alberta is facing right now and the impact that it is having on individual people and families.

What are you doing at the legislature to help struggling families?

Well the leg is of course out for the summer, but prior to us leaving for the summer the carbon tax was a major focus for the last several weeks. We fought the carbon tax tooth and nail. We believe that it will have a tremendously negative impact on the people that we represent at least $1000 per year, per family in cost at a time when we are losing over 10,000jobs per month. It is deeply concerning to us.

The other thing that we were working on was a detailed job plan. The Wildrose Party wanted to work with the NDP party on that considering the astronomical amount of job losses in the year, So we wanted to help create mechanisms to put people to work, unfortunately the NDP has refused to even debate us on the job situation or look at our plan, which is tremendously disappointing.

The other major thing that happened in the spring was the attempt by Alberta Health Services to shut down half of the hospital in Sundre. It was a huge thing for that community and it was also a major things for community all over this riding. If they were able to do that in Sundre they would be able to do that in Rocky Mountain House, Rimbey or anywhere else. Soa tremendous amount of effort went into that in the legislature in the spring and fortunately we were successful by sticking together as a community we were able to keep the Sundre hospital fully open.

What are the largest issues facing Eckville?

One of the big things for Eckville right now is that we had a doctor retire at the clinic, so now we have a problem with doctors working within the community. That is tough. The community of Eckville has been trying to recruit doctors from Sylvan Lake to come and work in Eckville to help stop people from having to travel so far for doctors appointments.

We had that same issue in the Village of Caroline and what we were able to do with the county and the village was able to get a clinic open several days a week with doctors from RockyMountain House and Sundre come and staff that clinic.

That is one of the big issues that we are looking at right now. The Mayor of Eckville, the Reeve of Clearwater County and us are trying to get Lacombe County involved to try to get something similar to Caroline there, because its tough, particularly on our seniors, to travel to get health care.

The one thing we hear lots about around Eckville is carbon tax people are very, very concerned the impact the tax will have on them. Its important to understand that impact, not only on individuals, but on the Town itself, the county, the school board and other organizations there because the increased cost.

Agriculturally around Eckville it is either too wet or too dry depending on who you talk to and we have seen a lot of hail damage, which is unfortunate. We are also watching how the rules of Bill 6 are being implemented. We are trying to make sure that our agriculture industry gets the best deal possible and we want to make sure that actual farmers are at the table making the rules.

What do you expect from the fall session at the legislature?

One of the big things coming up is the NDP government tabled a new bill that will include changes to the Municipal Act which will have impact on the Town of Eckville, LacombeCounty and all those communities and how they run. We have been spending a lot of time this summer meeting with our towns and counties getting their feedback on what the proposed changes will mean for them, in order for us to be ready in the fall. I think their will be a major amount of debate associated with that. I’m hearing good things and bad things I represent 22 towns and counties so you can imagine there is a variety of ideas. There are a couple themes around taxation where there is concern. We will spend a fair amount of time on that.

The other thing is that I sit on the Special Committee on Ethics and Accountability that was agreed to by the leader of the opposition Brian Jean and the Premier Rachel Notley so it is an all party committee. We have been working 2-3 days per week over the summer to get ready to report to the legislature. I believe that the NDP will bring forth bills associated with that  so particularly about election finance reform, changes to our election act and changes to our privacy act. Some of the big things the NDP and Wildrose when they were both in opposition have long fought for. We are working in that committee to find some common ground. At the same time, when you have two different parties, there will be areas of contention. One of the problems with being in opposition is that we don’t know 100 per cent what the NDP will bring forward, so we have to be ready.

When a government is mandated for a few more years, what can you work together to achieve?

We have seen a lot of common ground on the ethics and accountability side with issues that we have seen in our system for awhile, so we are trying to find common ground on that.The Sundre hospital is another example where the Wildrose, me in that case, where we were able to articulate well to the NDP how that would negatively impact our communities, and to their credit, they worked with us to get it fixed.

At the same time, its tough. They have more votes then us, they clearly have a different agenda particularly around taxation and the management of our economy and our environment. We try to convince them to go different directions, more along the lines of what our constituents are telling us. Hopefully we are able to limit the damage of the policies we see them bringing forward, or at least slow them down a bit from the ideological things that we disagree with.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

As I have been travelling around this summer, I’ve seen people going through really tough times. I don’t want to downplay that when families have lost jobs or small businesses are in danger of going bankrupt that’s really tough. I do want to leave a little hope for our constituents as well. We have been in for a tough time, unfortunately I think it will get worse before it gets better but we are Albertans and we will survive this because we survive in spite governments, not because of governments.