Last week was constituency week in which provincial MLAs had given time to spend in their areas talking with the community.
“I went to breakfast meetings, lunches, brunches and coffees in Lac La Biche, Vilna, St. Paul, Elk Point, Two Hills, Willingdon and other places,” said Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills MLA Ray Danyluk in a phone interview following the meetings. “We had some very good turnouts, especially in Lac La Biche and Willingdon.”
At his lunch meeting in Elk Point, Danyluk discussed education, health care and the economy, among other things.
Regarding the diminished roles of rural hospitals, Danyluk said, “We did it to ourselves - we’re at fault. Twenty years ago, rural doctors were just stepping stones to city specialists. But the dynamics have changed. Hip and knee replacements and heart operations are available and those services have changed what health care looks like.” He noted that doctors “are more maneuverable under the Alberta Health Services but they’re still tremendously hard to get.”
Health care is changing, Danyluk said. “There’s more need for ambulatory and less for acute care. We have to address long term care, sometimes going into partnerships with the private sector. We need to work on administration and communications.”
Alberta’s increasing population includes many seniors, who follow younger family members that come here to find employment. Those seniors enjoy “one of the best health care systems in Canada,” Danyluk said. In addition, baby boomers are becoming seniors at an increasing pace.
Eveline Luce, a health advocate who works in Danyluk’s St. Paul constituency office, noted that Alberta is the only province that provides health care assistance for seniors.
Also in regards to health care, Levina Ewasiuk asked about Bill 17, which Danyluk affirmed is in the process of second reading, and is still under debate.
“I don’t want to see rural Alberta lost in the shuffle. We need to look at a different model of health care delivery,” Ewasiuk emphasized. “I think the government needs to take the lead and develop a health care system for rural Alberta.”
Sherry Young noted an “unbelievable backlog (of those seeking health care) in Edmonton. The gates are shut.”
“We’re trying to diffuse the need and congestion, and we’re really trying to do long term care in rural Alberta,” Danyluk noted.
Laurette Bezpalko, who works at an Edmonton hospital, said that opening more hospital beds “is good, but we need workers.”
Danyluk also spoke about the oilsands industry, and noted he will be speaking at an international conference in eastern Canada in the near future. “I’ve got to tell the rest of Canada that when they criticize the oilsands, they’ve got to realize that if we don’t have that money coming in, they won’t get it in transfer payments. Wake up, Ontario.”
Budget issues continue to present a challenge to the Alberta government, and in the Infrastructure portfolio, Danyluk says he is ‘trying to address the needs of education and health care” as well as the other infrastructure that comes with his role.
Although Danyluk’s area of responsibility is as Minister of Infrastructure, he explained later that as an MLA, he is expected to answer questions about all areas of government.
“At the end of the day, I am on executive council and when things pass through cabinet, I have to be informed about all ministries and what is going on in government,” he said via phone interview. He added that when he gets a question that he can’t answer, he will take that message back to the appropriate ministry.
He noted the main focus of the conversation among the 20 people or so who attended the breakfast meeting in St. Paul was about health care.
“Eveline (Luce) came with me … she is my health liaison so if people have concerns with health, she will expedite the process. All the comments were written down, we summarize them ourselves so I can talk to the ministers,” explained Danyluk.