In the Legislature

Member's Statement on International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2017

On December 3 of every year since 1992 communities around the world observe International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In 1992 the United Nations General Assembly declared an annual observance of the rights of persons with disabilities. The aim of this declaration is to promote the rights and well-being of people with disabilities in all spheres of society and development.

How do we ensure that we leave no one behind? How do we do everything we can to promote the individual autonomy and independence of people with disabilities? We create real solutions by seeing the existing problems and barriers. We acknowledge that women and girls with disabilities are at far greater risk than their nondisabled peers for violence, injury, abuse, neglect, negligent treatment, and exploitation. We acknowledge the significant barriers to community living, inclusive education, and full employment and that they continue to exist and must be methodically addressed by all Canadians. We acknowledge that poverty is a grinding reality for far too many people with disabilities.

Once we acknowledge the realities, we can effectively work towards eliminating barriers to full inclusion for people disabilities. Barriers need to be torn down by creating inclusive legislation that is not created for people with disabilities but created with them. Full inclusion must be expected and supported by doing things like removing humiliating processes that are put in place to exclude people from living and moving into communities. Full employment for people with disabilities will only be the norm when employers see and appreciate the value of employees with disabilities.

Freedom from abuse and violence requires empowerment, and empowerment comes from the lived experience of equality, inclusion, and access, so today and every day let’s acknowledge the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and take a moment and think about what you and your community can do to ensure no one is left behind.

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Statement on Bill 24 and GSAs

Every student in Alberta deserves a school that is a welcoming, caring and safe place to learn. That’s why we’ve introduced a new law that ensures students can form a gay-straight alliance at their school without fear of being outed.

While running for leadership, Jason Kenney suggested schools should be able to “out” LGBTQ students – that’s dangerous and cruel.

That’s why we introduced Bill 24, which will make it illegal to disclose the identity of any student who joins a gay-straight alliance without their consent.

We know Alberta parents love and support their children—and they should play a key role their education. But we also know some students feel safer and more comfortable talking about these issues with their peers or their teachers. Schools don’t notify parents when their child joins the chess club, the basketball team, or the drama club — so why would a GSA be any different?

The fact that the UCP can't find the courage to support Bill 24 places them farther out-of-step with Albertans than the Wildrose ever were. It's important that LGBTQ youth have a right to privacy and the ability to come out when they are ready to - not when Jason Kenney thinks they should.

Please view my statement on Bill 24 and the importance of GSA's below.

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Members' Statement on NDP and UCP Priorities and Policies

On May 18, the Leader of the Opposition and Jason Kenney announced the formation of the United Conservative Party. As usual, Jason Kenney made sure he repeated the same old tired lines he’s always used about the NDP. We hear the same from the Kenney foot soldiers in the Chamber. It’s like they’re auditioning. Remember when the Member for Calgary-Fish Creek compared the NDP to the Chinese Communists? Remember when the Member for Strathmore-Brooks tried to slap us with a bizarre Thatcher quote on International Women’s Day?

The Wildrose and PCs are good at throwing names across the aisle and making speeches about why they’re entitled to run Alberta, they’re entitled to power. But NDP governments have initiated a lot of what makes Canada the place we know and love today. Universal access to health care, employment insurance, workers’ compensation, old age pension: all things that are NDP initiatives. Publicly funded education for all students, even those who want GSAs: definitely NDP. Working with Alberta’s private energy sector to increase market access: NDP.

Back to Mr. Kenney for a moment. When he was in cabinet, the Conservative government set the record for the highest per capita spending in Canadian history. Don’t believe me? Ask the Fraser Institute.

Wildrose and PCs will both tell you they want a balanced budget, but they will not tell you what their plan is. They have no plan. It’s just an excuse for attacking public health, education, and social services. The members opposite will theatrically complain about the deficit spending that will put our children into indentured servitude and then, in the next breath, demand more capital spending in their constituencies for hospitals, schools, and seniors.

The science of economics tells us that deficit spending pulls economies out of recession faster, and that’s why we’re recovering, but they reject the science just like they reject the science of climate change. With the UCP we can expect more of the same. Repeal everything: repeal all the growth, repeal a disability services advocate, repeal minimum wages, repeal reduced school fees. Mr. Speaker, to quote Jason Kenney, that’s catastrophic.

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Statement in Support of Private Members Bill 205

I was proud to speak in support of MLA Sandra Jansen's Private Members' Bill yesterday. If passed, this Bill will create an advocate for persons with disabilities. This is a much-overdue reform that will help many Albertans who live with disabilities.

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SAIF Society

On Saturday, I attended the St. Albert Stop Abuse in Families Society's Red Shoe Gala. Since 1989, this St. Albert organization has offered services to people experiencing abuse and the devastating effects that abuse has on families. SAIF provides individual and group counselling, prevention programming to schools and communities, offers workshops and an intensive 22-week program for women and children who have experienced and witnessed abuse.

It’s estimated that the measurable health-related costs associated with violence against women in Canada is $4.2 billion a year. We know that women and children leaving abusive relationships face economic hardships, poverty. This is why a higher minimum wage, school lunch programs, reduced school fees are some of the great ways that we are supporting women and children. I know St. Albert values the work that we are doing to make life better for all Albertans.

Make sure check out SAIF Society's great work on their Facebook and website.

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March 23rd Members' Statement on Women's Reproductive Rights

I was proud to rise in the House March 23rd and deliver a member's statement on the importance of a woman's right to choose.

It was only in 1969 that birth control and abortion were decriminalized in Canada. Until 1988, abortions were illegal. Chants of, “Lock her up” were real. Now, federal law dictates legality; however, the provinces set health care policy and influence access. We continue to see worrisome signals that women’s reproductive rights are being questioned by those hungry for power.

Certain politicians hide behind spin on this subject, but we see their voting records. We are told not to talk about it, not to reopen debate. They say it is just an attempt to hijack the conversation. No. These are not lifestyle decisions. These are heart-wrenching and life-and-death decisions in many cases made by a woman and her doctor.

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Question from MLA Westhead

My colleague MLA Westhead (Banff-Cochrane) asked me an excellent question yesterday about the move to progressive income taxes, and about how Bill 1 will make life more affordable for Albertans.

I was happy to respond. In our province, like on any team, we're only as strong as our weakest player. We have a responsibility to ensure that all Albertans have access to things that are vitally important. People with disabilities, single-parent families, and low income Albertans aren't looking for a hand-out - they're looking for a hand up. Our government is committed to working to make life easier for Albertans, and that includes moving to a progressive taxation system and reducing school fees for all kinds of families.

You can watch below:

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Member's Statement on Moving Alberta Forward

Our Alberta New Democrat government is focused on working hard to move Alberta forward, by demonstrating leadership on climate change, securing pipeline approvals to get our product safely to market, protecting our health and education, and fighting against sexism in politics. The Opposition is trying to move Alberta the other way, as their support for the Rebel Media rally last weekend demonstrated.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

Last week was a good week for Albertans. You wouldn’t know it listening to the Opposition.

Last week 2 pipelines got approved. That announcement represents thousands of good-paying, family-supporting jobs for Albertans. Or at least that’s what it represents to most of us. To the opposition, 2 pipelines meant failure.

In the announcement of the decision, the Prime Minister said the pipeline approvals were due to our Premier’s leadership.

So the next day the Leader of the Opposition picks up the phone to a columnist to say – and I quote –  “she didn't do any of the hard work”.

The federal cabinet even stated, clear as day, that were it not for the Climate Leadership Plan, they could not have approved the pipelines.

Right on cue, the Leader of the Opposition heads to a rally to dismantle that very Climate Leadership Plan.

Then, at the rally to scrap the plan that got us 2 pipeline approvals, people start chanting “Lock her up”. And what is the response from the Leader of her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition? Crickets. Sometimes silence can be deafening, and sometimes it can be defining.

Mr. Speaker, I understand that conservatives like the “Alberta Prosperity Fund” believe pipeline approvals under an NDP government are a doomsday scenario but it’s anyone’s guess why the opposition can’t put Albertans’ needs ahead of their own desire for power.

Today, with the Premier in BC fighting for pipelines, I know that I’m standing on the right side of this house. The side that gets things done. The side that works with others. The side that’s moving Alberta forward.




Question on Service Dog Accessbility

Service dogs are vital supports for people with disabilities, allowing them to live in their communities and successfully navigate their daily lives. There are currently only 80-100 active licensed service dogs in Alberta, despite the need for many more.

Today I asked the Minister of Human Services, Irfan Sabir, a question about what actions our government is taking to increase access to much needed life-saving service dogs. You can watch my questions and the Minister's response below.

Service dogs are an important part of building a more inclusive province, and I am hopeful that our government will continue to make progress on this issue.

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Member's Statement on Disability Employment Awareness Month - November 9th

I was proud to rise in the House yesterday to deliver my Member's Statement on the importance of inclusive employment and recognize Disability Employment Awareness Month. 14% of Canadians over the age of 15 have a disability, and many are skilled, capable workers who seek to participate fully in our economy.

We need to stop labelling Albertans with disabilities as our most vulnerable. We can call them our most unemployed, our most underrepresented, but not our most vulnerable. They are people first, and they’re not defined by their ability or disability. October was nationally and internationally recognized as Disability Employment Awareness Month. Unemployment rates for people with disabilities are as high as 75 per cent for women and 60% for men - by participating in DEAM and supporting inclusive employment practices, we can create greater opportunities for Canadians and Albertans with disabilities.

You can read my full statement in Alberta Hansard here, or watch it below:

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Member's Statement on the Value of Service Dogs - May 26th

This week, I had the opportunity to deliver a Member's Statement in the Legislature recognizing the value and importance of service dogs. These dogs help Albertans with disabilities have a better quality of life, especially those who have disabilities that are invisible and not apparent. There is often a multi-year wait for individuals to receive these dogs, and demand is very high. I am hopeful that my colleagues and I can work to increase access to these dogs, similar to other life-changing equipment like wheelchairs. 

Thank you to my friend Les R. Landry and his organization 'Respect the Service Dog' for their continuing advocacy on this important issue.

 

Maiden Speech - 2nd Session, 29th Legislature