Take advantage of new employment centre

Dear Editor:

Re: Keith Williams’ letter about the new employment centre

I object to many of the inaccuracies in Mr. William’s letter regarding the Lacombe Employment Centre and about Lacombe Action Group, Alberta Employment and Immigration (AE&I) and the contract supervisor and procedure in granting contracts.

I worked as the employment subcontractor to Alberta Employment and Immigration from 2005 until March 31, 2010. I worked out of Ponoka Neighborhood Place, and that organization held the AE&I contract. The contract began as an 18-month contract, was successfully renewed as a two-year deal, then a one year and another one year. There was never a guarantee that the contract would return to Ponoka Neighbourhood Place. It was performance based.

During those years we had many occasions to work together with Lacombe Action Group. Clint McLeod was one of the nicest people you could ever meet, dignified, polite and sincere in his caring for the clients. I usually had to refer people with more challenging needs to Lacombe Action Group where they had access to extra services, additional funding programs, and more professional help, as many of Mr. McLeod’s people are registered social workers. I was ‘just’ a career and employment counsellor, a qualification I acquired on the job I might add, though I did have many years of marketing experience.

Mr. Williams of Ponoka Neighbour Place seems to insinuate the AE&I contract supervisor as if there is some under the table deal between the so-called ‘low level’ supervisor and Mr. McLeod because they live in the same town and formerly worked together. This is absurd. Both people are extremely professional and have long experience working in the employment and AISH communities — something quite relevant for the Ponoka/Rimbey market.

In the last month of my last contract term at Ponoka Neighbourhood Place, I was subject to several serious breaches of employment standards by Ponoka Neighbourhood Place including unilateral changes in policy, rejection of a request to do a work place hazard assessment, no timely notification of employment continuance or contract completion as required by law, and more.

These and other rather unprofessional behaviors directed at me by certain Neighbourhood Place individuals help me decide to leave and not accept a renewed contract — which was strictly a one-year extension. This must have been very difficult for the AE&I contract supervisor, and I regret inconveniencing her this way; she was made aware of these deficiencies as was employment standards themselves and WorkPlace Health and Safety.

I am guessing that in an employment services contract renewal process, it would not look good if the contract holder were in breach of the very employment standards they were required to uphold.

Therefore there is no need to ask your government representative anything about the changing of this contract, as Mr. Williams suggests.

The specialized services that Lacombe Action Group can deliver are related to their internal infrastructure, staff levels and qualifications, and of course, trust — all of which were apparently deemed to be more suitable than those of Ponoka Neighbourhood Place.

Lacombe Action Group has proven themselves to be a very stable, reliable, qualified and dignified —and innovative provider of services to the broader community.

Further, I had already worked with them within our Ponoka office on several issues and with many clients for the past five years, and in the last year of my work our contract supervisor had made arrangements for Lacombe Action Group professionals to come and work one-on-one with clients needing more help.

Consequently, since the Lacombe Action Group were already more familiar with the region’s clientele and needs, have worked a lot with AISH supported individuals, and have a well-respected reputation, it is no surprise to me that other candidates like Lokken or ARTS — both of whom are geographically further away too and unfamiliar with Ponoka needs, would not have won the contract.

Clint Macleod and his team have really helped change people’s lives with their compassion, wisdom and willingness to take the necessary small steps to get someone on the road to a brighter future. I encourage Ponokans to make use of the new employment center and benefit from the experience and professionalism of Lacombe Action Group.

I regret having to air these matters in public, however I cannot stand by silent when good people are being publicly smeared.

Michelle Stirling