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MLA Rowswell reflects on Legislative duties during the pandemic

Speaking to the Rotary Club of Lloydminster, Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright MLA Garth Rowswell reflected on the past year in the Legislature and some of his work advocating on behalf of the region.

Rowswell says he is now a part of the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region committee which includes representatives from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon and Northwest Territories as well as from the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington. The committee aims to increase the economic well-being of the areas through collaboration and coordinated policy change.

“We get together and make sure we’re dealing with issues before a legislation might go too far or to fight back as a group and work towards regional economic cooperation.”

One of those opportunities Rowswell and Mayor Gerald Aalbers have talked about is the possibility of introducing a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) to the area. The federal government announced their SMR Action Plan at the end of 2020 with the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick signing a memorandum of understanding to work together to develop SMRs.

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“Who knows what economic opportunities are out there to take advantage of and that’s where I’ll be. I know Mayor Gerald [Aalbers] is very aggressive about looking for new opportunities and if something comes up that I think fits I’ll definitely introduce it to him.”

Outside of that, Rowswell says he will continue to look for ways to support the oil and agriculture companies in the area including revisiting a possible SAGD project near Clarke Lake, south of Kitscoty. He says the project is dependent on a royalty review.

Inside of the Legislature, he says there were two major Bills that affected the area. The UCP government passed Bill 10, the Public Health Emergency Powers Amendment Act, at the beginning of the pandemic. The legislation would allow a cabinet minister to make legislative changes without the approval of the legislature.

Once the bill passed, a special committee was formed to look at the Public Health Act and its amendments. Rowswell says he was a part of group to review it and ensure it wasn’t abusing Albertans civil liberties. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said the committee would make a report which will form the basis of a bill to modernize the Health Act. It will repeal Bill 10 and other sections of the bill added in 2002 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Rowswell adds one of the changes will be remove the government’s power to enforce mandatory vaccinations.

“There should be legislation this spring that’ll change those rules. We’re not only getting to change those things but we’re also going to get rid of that minister’s ability to make a new law or even change a new law. We’re going to go pre-2001 on that. That was our recommendation as a committee and we’ll see how that goes when we get in there.”

Another piece of legislation Rowswell says he had a hand in was Bill 46. Part of the legislation would make changes to the Health Information Act and improve information sharing between health delivery providers for communities like Lloydminster.

“It was controversial. The privacy commissioner felt that it would make it difficult for her to do her job because she oversees the privacy of individuals but wasn’t allowed to enforce it on the Saskatchewan side of the border. These are issues that are going to be addressed, but we finally have it now that we can do this. Colleen Young, as soon as we got it passed on the Alberta side, she got a hold of me and said send me the stuff and I’ll get to work on my side so we can have that exchange of information back and forth.”

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The legislation also requires regulatory colleges to be seperated from professional associations, creates a centralized public online registry of health-care workers and regulates health-care aides. It received royal assent on December 9, 2020 and went into effect the same day.

When asked about the UCPs promise to protect property rights, Rowswell says there is a private members bill addressing that concern. Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA Michaela Glasgo is heading Bill 206, the Property Rights Statutes Amendment Act, which had its second reading in November. The bill will allow property owners to bring a claim forward when the Crown rescinds statutory consent that may lead to financial loss for the holder.

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