By George Brown
A new provincial government led by Gary Mar would suspend a controversial land bill, improve access to health care specialists and provide better care for senior citizens.
Mar spoke to rural news media by teleconference in the morning of Sept. 1, the day of the leadership candidates’ forum in Red Deer. He is seeking the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party along with Doug Griffiths, Doug Horner, Ted Morton, Rick Orman and Alison Redford.
Mar, a former cabinet minister in the Ralph Klein governments and most recently Alberta’s official representative in Washington, D.C., told reporters that over the last four years under Premier Ed Stelmach’s leadership, the government has lost touch with Albertans and has stopped listening to sensible advice. On the hustings, Mar has been told the issues important to Albertans concern property, resources and Alberta’s potential.
“Nothing touches rural Albertans more than property rights and that’s why in my view, there’s been such an intense reaction to bills like 36, 19 and 50.
“We need roads and infrastructure for future land use. We need reliable electrical capacity for a province that’s growing.”
But Mar added the province needs a consultation process that engages Albertans in the process and gives them an opportunity to be heard.
“I’ll put Bill 36 on hold until we have a full dialogue resolve what I view to be legitimate and unresolved issues and I’ll review Bill 36 on what we learned.”
The government must review the need and the timing of building the north-south transmission line and Mar said he would remove the discretionary powers of cabinet in Bill 50. There must be a fair process and fair compensation for affected landowners.
On the matter of water usage, Mar wants Alberta to be a national leader with a strong comprehensive water management policy and would consult farmers, industry, municipalities and residential users before making changes to the Water Act.
“My government will safeguard against speculative exploitation of Alberta’s water,” Mar said. “I want to make very clear our water is not for sale to other jurisdictions.”
Because agriculture, oil and gas and agri-food processing need more electrical power, Mar would direct the Alberta Utilities Commission and the AESO to work with the electrical markets to come up with innovative ways to lower costs for industry and consumers alike. Renewable resources such as sun, wind, farm and forest fibres and geothermal energy all have potential to support the grid. Mar would support green mortgages and loans to develop those resources.
Senior citizens’ health
Mar said Alberta is lacking in care options for the elderly and needs to provide better support for senior citizens. With the number of seniors doubling in the next 20 years, it’s important to ensure seniors are healthy and able to continue to be vital citizens in their community.
In addition to ensuring a strong public health care system with improved access to specialists, Mar would provide additional supports to seniors and their families who play an integral role in their care and well-being. Mar wants to see more respite care beds, elder care expanded to include day programs, and a family caregiver support program to give them the tools to care for their older relatives.
Mar said there are many people living in hospitals whose needs are for long-term care.
Rimoka Housing Foundation wants to build an assisted living residence in Rimbey and that fits with Mar’s vision. He wants to provide seniors with a “continuum of care in their home communities. Couples, even with varying care needs, should stay together in communities that are familiar to them.
Mar said the government must work to provide the same high standards for food quality, rooms and compassionate care to seniors throughout Alberta.
All Albertans need to live healthier lifestyles, Mar said. With the cost of hospital acute care rising dramatically, the government needs to “find a way to bend the curve on our expenditures.” Albertans must be motivated somehow to take accountability for their health.
While there may be room for more private health services, Mar said all of the best health care systems in the world have a strong public health care system at their core.
There needs to be more round the clock primary health care available, he added. That would help to lower costs at hospitals and move patients into the system quicker.
Progressive Conservative party members will select the new party leader — and premier — in an election process that begins Sept. 17.