MLA for Lesser Slave Lake.
Four years ago, I was just a regular working mom in Slave Lake. I never expected to unseat a nine-term MLA, to become a cabinet minister, or lead Alberta’s response to the Fort McMurray wildfire.
I stepped up and joined Rachel Notley as the Alberta NDP candidate for Lesser Slave Lake for one simple reason: I wanted change.
I’ve been thinking about those days a lot lately. Earlier this month, I prepared for my nomination meeting for next spring’s election. I looked back on why I ran, what I’ve done, and the things I still want for my family and my province.
Like many Albertans, I watched Conservative governments come and go for decades. As a registered nurse at the Slave Lake Community Health Centre, I noticed challenges in home care, a lack of beds and an aging population with no plan in place.
As a parent of three school-aged children, I observed local schools continually being forced to scrape by due to chronic underfunding. Heading into a recession, it was only about to get worse.
As an ordinary Albertan, I saw that many Albertans remained in poverty in our years of greatest prosperity. As commodity prices began to falter, I refused to believe that compassion should suddenly be tied to the global price of oil.
I wanted change. I stood with Rachel Notley, a fellow northern Albertan who vowed to end Alberta’s political culture of entitlement. Her first promise was to take big money out of politics. Most of all, she wanted to stop punishing Alberta families, the people I knew and cared for, who were expected to pay more fees when things got tough.
On May 5, 2015, the people of Lesser Slave Lake spoke loud and clear: They wanted change too.
Every day since, I’ve worked to make life better for the vibrant and diverse communities throughout Lesser Slave Lake. The same desire for change drives my work as Minister of Children’s Services and Status of Women.
Things have certainly changed. Beginning at the top, we overhauled Alberta’s agencies, boards and commissions, eliminating waste, out-of-control salaries and benefits and opening them up to the entire province.
I’m proud of what we’ve done to make life better for working Albertans. We created the Alberta Child Benefit, raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and rolled out an ambitious pilot program to bring $25-a-day child care to more 7,000 families across Alberta.
For Albertans who were often treated like afterthoughts, we’ve made significant changes too. School nutrition programs are now in place at every school board in the province. For the first time ever, Alberta has an affordable housing strategy.
The changes we make today will keep Alberta on track. We’re building better schools, hospitals and highways, upgraders, wind farms and cancer centres.
And yet the coming months will test our resolve for change. Throughout the world, politics have changed so much, they’re hardly recognizable.
Going into our next provincial election, I know we’ll see some of the same tactics we’ve seen in neighbouring provinces and countries.
But I believe there’s still more to change in Alberta. The future is too important to write off. And the best way to change things is to work hard. What won’t change? Once again, I’m standing with Rachel Notley. I still have the same values, the desire to make life better.
And I’m still a regular working mom who wants better for Alberta.