Impassioned Lethbridge residents let their feelings be heard on Wednesday night as Alberta’s “Fair Deal Panel” made its fourth stop on its tour of the province.
Premier Jason Kenney created the panel in the fall, tasking the nine chosen panellists to compile a series of recommendations on how to best advance the province’s economic interests in Ottawa.
The panel is made up of current and former politicians along with business, Indigenous and legal leaders.
After stops in Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary over the last two weeks, panel member and former MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans said there have been common themes and surprises.
“Things that we didn’t expect, like Senate representation… and MP representation, and the unfairness of that. Alberta has limited representation compared to other jurisdictions, especially in the east,” she said.
The desire for electoral reform was voiced a few times by speakers in the Lethbridge crowd, but the most popular hot-button topic — and one that Kennedy-Glans said has been a theme at each meeting so far — was pension.
The panel is exploring nine ideas the Alberta government has put forward.
The idea of withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan and creating an Alberta pension plan was not popular with the Lethbridge crowd.
Kennedy-Glans said the diverse range of opinions on the panel’s tour so far will make the task of submitting a final report by March 31, 2020 a difficult one.
“Sometimes we’re also starting to talk about tradeoffs because there is a bit of polarity on some issues,” Kennedy-Glans said.
“How do you accommodate, bring together some of those different perspectives and deal with fear?”
Wednesday’s stop in Lethbridge was the panel’s final town hall of the calendar year, with 2020 dates planned for Fort McMurray on Jan. 8, Fort Saskatchewan on Jan. 9, Lloydminster on Jan. 13, Airdrie on Jan. 16 and Medicine Hat on Jan. 17.
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