St. Albert's recently re-elected MLA, Marie Renaud, has won a second election in as many months as the NDP-rep received the most votes for the Gazette's 2023 Reader's Choice Awards for favourite local politician.
“I'm so flattered,” Renaud said when told the news. “It's so lovely and it just makes me feel really warm inside.”
Renaud has represented St. Albert in the Alberta legislature since 2015 when the NDP and party leader Rachel Notley won a majority as the first non-conservative government in over 40 years.
Prior to running for office Renaud served for over 10 years as the executive director for the LoSeCa Foundation, a local non-profit that, among other programming, operates supportive living homes for those with disabilities.
When the NDP lost the 2019 provincial election to the UCP and then-leader Jason Kenney, Renaud became the official opposition's critic of community and social services, and francophone issues.
Last month, in the 2023 provincial election, Renaud won a seat for a third consecutive term representing St. Albert with the largest vote share (about 59 per cent) she's received throughout her three campaigns. In 2019 she received about 46.2 per cent of the local vote, and 53.9 per cent in 2015.
Heading into the next legislative term Renaud said she plans to continuously advocate for strengthening Alberta's public healthcare and education systems, and pushing for increased funding for municipalities like St. Albert.
“It's also really important that municipalities like St. Albert get a fair deal from the province in terms of transfers,” she said, adding, “we've seen over the last number of years under the UCP (the) just nickel and diming of transfers, whether it's how fines are shared or different funding envelopes that are shuffled around almost like a shell game.”
“It results in less money for infrastructure (and) less money for programming.”
The main infrastructure funding transfer from the provincial government to municipalities is called the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI). In 2021 the UCP government front-loaded three years of MSI funding by distributing $1.2 billion to spur pandemic recovery, however the overall MSI budget last year and this year was set at just $485 million.
For St. Albert, the 2022 and 2023 MSI budget reduction meant the city would receive about $4.5 million less annually.
Starting next year the MSI program is being replaced by a new program called Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF). In the most recent provincial budget, the annual LGFF funding for 2024 is estimated to be about $722 million, and another $813 million in 2025.
In 2020 the MSI budget was $963 million.
“I'm going to continue to push for a fair deal for St. Albert to get the funds they need to take care of maintenance and infrastructure, but also to grow and to service things like Lakeview Business District, which would be a really another like commercial area that'll be really important (for diversifying the municipal tax split),” Renaud said.
“The other thing I want to say too is that I will always continue to show up as an ally,” she said, adding, “I think now more than ever we see a lot of hate and misinformation towards the 2SLGBTQ+ community, so I will always be a loud and vocal visible advocate.”
When asked what her concerns were regarding some of the planned or developing policies the UCP might bring forward this term, Renaud said she was most concerned about the government's “inaction on climate change.”
“That is something that worries me constantly,” she said. “We have to do both things, look at strengthening our economy and addressing and mitigating the implications of climate change that are very real and in front of us.”
“I think that they threw some money at some issues right before the election, but I am quite worried that they're going to return to the same (modus operandi) right as we've seen before,” she said, referring to how in 2019 the UCP de-indexed Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), and then re-indexed AISH to account for inflation this past November.
“We're just going to be really vigilant.”