The MLA for Lesser Slave Lake Danielle Larivee has been through a lot since getting elected back in May of 2015.
Larivee, who also serves as the Minister of Children’s Services, said when she and the NDP took office, Alberta was heading into a recession. The projections were bleak and it hit Albertans hard, but she is proud of the government’s response.
The MLA explained that the province felt that proceeding with layoffs in the civil service would not be an appropriate response because it would worsen the negative impacts already being felt. People still needed some of the services provided by the civil service.
“We made sure that nurses, teachers and other public service workers continued to have their positions,” Larivee said.
The minister said the government strategy to combat the downturn was to invest in infrastructure. Building up infrastructure put people to work when there was a shortage of jobs. The province also benefited with savings due to low cost of contracts.
Now that Alberta has weathered the storm and the economy is recovering, Larivee said the province will need to work on balance. This means the province will look at backing off some projects as the cost of contracts is going up.
During her time in the legislature Larivee prides herself on making sure everyone around the cabinet table knows where the Lesser Slave Lake riding is and what the issues are. She said the region’s affairs have been overlooked for far too long.
Larivee pointed to Northern Lakes College and how the institution had not received a substantial capital investment in some time. Earlier this year the province invested $21.6 million for the new High Prairie Campus. The funding will come over a period of four years.
The province has also provided $290,000 to Northern Lake College for student mental health services and care. This will be given to the college each year for the next three years.
Larivee outlined some of the differences between being solely an MLA versus being a cabinet minister. She compared being a minister to being a CEO of a medium to large corporation.
A benefit of having a seat in cabinet is you are part of the conversation when it comes to determining policy.
That is weighed against the time demands. As a minister she does not get to spend as much time in the riding. This means a minister may end up missing out on community events. She finds her current portfolio interesting because she was a nurse prior to being elected. At Children’s Services she deals with some of the same issues from nursing.
That is one of two portfolios Larivee has been in charge of. She previously served as the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
“It’s been an incredible privilege to do it,” she said. “I’m very thankful for the opportunity and look forward to continue to do it.”
Biggest Successes so far
When it comes to the biggest successes, Larivee pointed to several accompaniments. First was the response to the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016. The response efforts fell under her portfolio at the time. She was proud to be able to provide was she called a “compassionate and strong response” to the wildfire. She felt it was meaningful to be able to help another community through a disaster similar to what she saw in Slave Lake during the 2011 wildfire.
Next was the stable presence during the economic downturn and finally the work to support gay strait alliances in Alberta Schools.
Larivee explained the financial situation of the province continues to be a challenge. The energy industry is changing globally and it can be difficult to dealing with. The question facing the government is how to move the province forward while the world is changing how they deal with energy.
“We certainly worked hard to position Alberta for the future in terms of continuing to be a global centre for the energy industry and support industry to move forward and modernize,” she said.
The future: finding balance
Looking to the future Larivee said the province will have to find a balance when toning back on the efforts to get the economy to recover. This means the province will have start spreading out the infrastructure building now that costs are going up, while maintaining health care and education. She said Premier Rachel Notley calls this “compassionate belt tightening.”