A St. Albert MLA says that while looking back on the year she is proud that the economy has turned around.
MLA Marie Renaud said that there are many signs that the economy has strengthened.
“Last year the recession was looming so big still and there weren’t quite as many signs that things are picking up. As we finish this year off we are certainly seeing more signs,” Renaud said.
Renaud said she’s pleased that drilling activity had increased along with an increase to job creation and a continued diversification of the economy, which are all signs that Alberta is out of the recession.
Renaud said that she is also proud of the work that the government has done on workers compensation benefits (WCB), gay-straight alliances (GSA) and continuing to looking at subsidized daycare.
“I was really happy that there was a good blend of how we approached things,” Renaud said.
Ray Gibbon Drive is one of the biggest priorities for the MLA and and one of the projects she worked toward throughout the year. Renaud still wants to see more progress on Ray Gibbon Drive but when looking ahead to the spring budget she is unsure if the highway will get funding.
“I’m not sure but I will keep doing my best,” Renaud said.
Renaud has brought several provincial ministers out to the riding during rush hour to have a look at traffic congestion and plans to bring deputy premier Sarah Hoffman out to St. Albert for a tour in mid- January.
According to the local MLA, the AISH (assured income for the severely handicapped) system should see some big changes in the new year.
Renaud, who is the deputy chair on the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities, said that major changes are coming to the AISH system soon.
“We had the ability to have input on the changes that are coming, based specifically on the AG (auditor general) recommendations there are really significant changes coming that are long overdue,” Renaud said.
She said that it will not be related to the amount of financial benefits people get but rather focus on the auditor general’s recommendations, although she did not say the specific changes coming to the program.
In November 2016 the auditor general reviewed the program and found the program that is meant to give aid for the severely handicapped to be inefficient and difficult to access.
The report said the program has a difficult intake process, and that online resources for applications were hard to find. The most successful candidates are the ones who are best able to fill out forms or who are persistent.
Along with difficulty accessing the program, the report found that determining a candidate’s eligibility takes too long and that “the department cannot be sure its staff’s decisions are consistent.”
On average, it takes 203 days for the program to begin after the date the department receives the application.
Along with changes to AISH, next year Renaud said that she is also excited to work with the new mayor and council to help end homelessness in the city.
“I would love to be part of that and I think I could add a lot. I would really love to work with those folks. I think that we can really shine and demonstrate that a community can work together to address really specific problems,” Renaud said.