Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr discussed a number of topics in an interview July 8, expanding on what the United Conservative Party (UCP) is doing to support local economic recovery and other issues.
Alberta’s recovery plan
When it comes to the Lacombe-Ponoka riding, there seems to be two economic extremes, says Orr.
Oil and gas is “struggling and suffering deeply,” but although the agriculture industry has seen challenges, it has sustained a “better level of stability.”
Diary, poultry and greenhouses in particular have continued to stay strong, and Orr says he’s glad for that “balancing piece to the oil and gas sector.”
The UCP’s “Investment Alberta” campaign is expanding to create offices around the world, to garner investment in Alberta and to seek out markets for Alberta products.
The Alberta government has also relaunched the Alberta agriculture research program, re-targeting it after consultation with the industry to focus more on what farmers want.
Although Orr says he’s not sure oil and gas in Alberta will ever recover to be as strong as it once was, that it’s still one of the key portions of the province’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Bill 32 has been criticized by the NDP opposition as well as the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) for being an attack on workers.
The AFL calls it “union-busting.”
“The bill has serious, negative implications for working Albertans, because it undermines their bargaining power in the workplace and on the political stage,” said AFL president Gil McGowan in a recent press release.
”It will mean lower wages, fewer benefits and crappier working conditions for all Albertans. But it also has serious, negative implications for democracy in our province.”
Orr says Bill 32 deals primarily with labour relations and employment standards. The goal of the bill is to reduce red tape, and in the wake of COVID-19 and the oil price collapse, to stimulate the economy and create incentive to hire new employees.
Orr says the UCP’s job creation tax cut will benefit family farms in central Alberta and the adjustments to employment standards will help small agriculture businesses.
The UCP’s are also asking the federal government to reduce the number of foreign workers being brought into Alberta.
The Government of Alberta missed the legally mandated June 3o deadline to make the annual report on the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund (AHSTF) public.
The fund is managed by the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo).
While the NDP is accusing the government of withholding information, Orr says that isn’t the case.
Orr, who is the chairman of the AHSTF committee, says he cancelled the June 26 meeting of the committee, as the annual report hadn’t been signed off yet by the Treasury Board and Finance.
The committee was to meet again on July 13 and Orr anticipated the matter would move forward after that.
Orr says while he isn’t privy to the Treasury Board and Finance’s dealings, he imagines the delay was in part due to reduced staff levels due to COVID-19, and extra concerns around one investment that lost money, which would then result in extra accounting time.
According to Orr, the board made a high risk derivative investment in the spring that lost over $2 million, due to the overall stock market crash.
Orr added he’d know more details after the July 13 meeting.
The annual report contains the minister’s accountability statement and audited consolidated financial statements (open.alberta.ca).
Black Lives Matter
A public rally was held in Lacombe recently.
Orr says Black Lives Matter is “an important movement,” that needs to be “addressed as a society.”
Orr added the UCP’s have a motion before the house condemning prejudice. The motion focuses primarily towards Black people, but also includes Indigenous people, he says.