The past year was unlike any other for Rod Fox as he stepped into a new role not only as Lacombe-Ponoka MLA but also as official opposition critic with the Wildrose Party.
For Fox the past year has been “a good learning curve.” He was elected April 23 and sworn in to his new role May 15.
He admits there was much to take in and Fox wanted to acquaint himself with the many policies MLAs need to be aware of. “This kind of took over the spare time for reading.”
There have been adjustments as well because of his new role. People will voice their concerns whether he is shopping or at public events; the five-minute grocery stop does not exist anymore, he explained. He does however enjoy being able to speak with constituents over their concerns. Fox is able to bring their concern to the Alberta legislature as well.
He is also the Wildrose critic for Service Alberta and his job is to question proposed legislation and deal with issues from the department. When he is not busy with that, Fox and the Wildrose members have brought many questions forward on several issues. They recently walked out of a session in protest of a ruling from Speaker Gene Zwozdesky, who barred members of the Wildrose Party from asking questions that related Premier Alison Redford and what her role was in awarding a tobacco lawsuit to a firm her ex-husband worked at.
“We couldn’t use the word tobacco … and yet we had seen that Liberal and NDP opposition leaders had been able to use the word tobacco and our leader got shut down,” explained Fox.
When NDP and Liberal leaders used the word they were not shut down from saying the word. He feels the protest made it clear the Wildrose Party was trying to get the public’s concerns heard. As one of the lead critics for Bill 4, the Public Interest Disclosure (whistleblower protection) Act, Fox proposed 21 amendments to the act along with members of the NDP and the Liberal parties. The amendments failed because the Progressive Conservative government has 61 seats out of 87, he said, but those in the opposition supported them. “We could all recognize when we had a good idea or a good amendment.”
Fox has spent much of his time in the legislature questioning bills as well as proposing amendments to them. He uses question period to bring up almost any issue raised from his constituents. “When you bring it up in question period, you’re letting the government members know that there’s an issue as well and that they need to address it. Otherwise it will keep coming up publicly.”
Sessions can go well into the early morning hours and Fox has left some sessions at 2 a.m. Members of the Wildrose party also filibustered on Bill 2, the Responsible Energy Development Act. “Really, what we wanted to see was landowners’ rights, property rights placed within the act with respect to public interest.”
What Fox enjoys the most however is being with his constituents. He was able to attend the Klaglahachie Fine Arts Society presentation of the Fiddler on the Roof recently. “I was astonished at how good that was.”
He is most proud of the amendments he and Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Heather Forsyth, brought to the Whistleblower Act.
“It’s very strict and we wanted to open it up so that you could go forward to your MLA, come forward to the media,” Fox explained.
Time is valuable for the MLA, he meets with constituents and is also working on orders in council, dealing with lobby groups and attending community events. He is unsure what the legislature will hold for 2013 but Fox’s goal is to continue speaking on constituents’ concerns and to “hold them (government) to account.
“I feel like I’m doing my job, I’m not there just sitting on my hands.”