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Calls for more autonomy greet Fair Deal Panel

PHOTO. Members of the Fair Deal Panel meet with residents of Fort McMurray for a town hall meeting on Jan. 8, 2020. MYMCMURRAY/Phil Wood.

The Fair Deal Panel met Fort McMurrayites on Jan. 8, 2020.

About 100 residents jammed the boardroom at the Quality Hotel to voice their displeasure with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal government.

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao said many Albertans he met feel the same way.

“Depressed and disappointed with our federal government for imposing so many rules and regulations that are impairing our economy.”

Yao added that similar to other town halls, most speakers were proud Canadians upset with the lack of representation in Ottawa.

He said the federal carbon tax is a glaring example of a perceived bias.

“Oil that comes from the Middle East; there’s no carbon tax on that. These Petro-chemicals that come from Venezuela; same thing, there’s no carbon tax. There’s a high level of hypocrisy.”

Yao also referenced the 100,000 job losses in the oilsands over the last five years versus the Prime Minister’s insistence to protect 10,000 jobs at SNC-Lavalin.

He added gaining equal representation in Parliament and an elected Senate is a must that Ottawa should address.

Greater autonomy

Residents agreed Alberta should explore ideas like a provincial pension plan, police force, and a provincial tax revenue agency.

They should also advance economic interests like pipelines and increase its presence in international relations.

Panel spokesperson Donna Kennedy-Glans they received a lot of ideas over the course of the day.

“We also spent this afternoon with members from the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development groups. I think people are opening up and lots of people are suggesting they’re going to be sending notes as well.”

About 50 members from the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce joined the Panel in their afternoon meeting.

She said they discussed developing infrastructure to the east and north and pipelines going to Saskatchewan and Churchill, Man.

When asked about how the average Albertan feels, Kennedy-Glans said they feel frustrated, angry, but also resilient.

“A really big constant is when people say ‘This is my home: I’m willing to do what it takes to make this a stronger place.’ That’s where I think the residence lies right now.”

The Fair Deal Panel concludes its town hall meetings on Jan. 31 and must make its final report by the end of March 2020.

Albertans may submit ideas online through the Fair Deal Panel website.