In conjunction with Lethbridge’s Ag Expo, Team Alberta held an event at the Lethbridge Coast Hotel where they presented a Government and Policy Outlook for 2019 on Feb. 28.
Team Alberta, according to Nevin Rosaasen, Policy and Program Specialist for Alberta Pulse Growers, is a collaborative initiative established by the four crop commissions to advance policy on behalf of our farmers across the province.
“Collectively, Alberta Canola, Alberta Wheat and Barley, and Alberta Pulse Growers represents nearly 20 million acres of grains, oilseeds and pulses grown on over 20,000 farms across Alberta,” Rosaasen said. “Our core focus is on grassroots advocacy for farmers.”
The event, which began with a breakfast buffet, featured insights and discussions surrounding the upcoming provincial election and insights into the current and projected political landscapes.
Rosaasen kicked off the meeting portion of the event by explaining what Team Alberta is about and their priority activities: ensuring long-term access to markets, promoting the sustainability of Alberta’s crop sector, providing policy input to governments; and advocating on behalf of Alberta’s crop sector farmers.
“Communication is the key element to successful collaboration in all of these areas,” Rosaasen stated. “Collaboration is really the end goal and in Team Alberta we've achieved it. It starts with communication and communication is just simply having that dialogue and that could eventually roll into cooperation and working on similar issues together. Cooperation can lead to coordination and eventual sharing of funds to accomplish similar goals.”
Rosaasen explained that once each organization involved in collaborating reaches a consensus, insuring long term access to markets, market access is one of the most important issues facing groups.
“The sustainability of the sector is where we really have the emphasis,” Rosassen said. “Our priorities are to maintain, retain, and enhance the profitability of our sector.
Alberta, Rosaasen says, is an export-oriented trade sector with over 90 percent of what is growing being destined for export markets. When team Alberta goes to Edmonton or they go to Ottawa, they make sure that it's communicated that we will work with any government that is looking at reducing the regulatory burden that will allow our property sector to move forward and to become remain profitable. At the same time, however, Team Alberta also wants to increase the profitability in advocating on behalf of the crop sector farmers.
“Advocating is a really good way to tell stories and relate policy issues back to farmers in Alberta to show how different policies affect different people,” Rosaasen said. “Advocacy is our core foundation and our mission with it is to amplify the voice of Albertans as farmers and policy makers.”
After Rosaasen spoke on what Team Alberta is about, Zack Ziolkowksi from Alberta Counsel, took the floor and spoke about the current political climate in the province.
Ziolkowksi went on to say that election campaigning has already begun despite the fact that an election has not yet been called and the different party platforms are well on their way to being developed. The Alberta government, Ziolkowksi says, did announce that a throne speech will be held March 18 and by law, the 2019 provincial election has to be held between March 1 and May 31. Ziolkowksi speculated that the speech will either be about the election or about a provincial budget and that the timing of the election depends on that budget.
In addressing the subject of party popularity, Ziolkowksi presented a poll done in January 2019 by Mainstreet Research that shows that 48 percent of voters intend to vote for UCP, 25 percent of voters intend to vote for NDP, 6 percent of voters intend to vote for Alberta Party, 5 percent of voters intend to vote for the Liberal Party, while 11 percent of voters remain undecided.
Ziolkowksi also shared another poll by Mainstreet Research that was done in January 2019 tracked the impressions that party leaders have made on the voters. According to that poll, Rachel Notley has a 37 percent approval rating and a 49 percent disapproval rating while 14 percent are unsure.
Jason Kenney has a 40 percent approval rating and a 33 percent disapproval rating while 27 percent are unsure. David Khan has a 7 percent approval rating and a 24 percent disapproval rate while 69 percent are unsure. Stephen Mandel, who is currently facing a five-year ban for failing to file his nomination financial report on time, has a 16 percent approval rate and a 25 percent disapproval rate while 69 percent remain unsure. Other polls Ziolkowski presented touched upon fundraising that the political parties have done and how much of a presence they currently have in the province.
Ziolkowksi concluded his remarks by saying that this election is an excellent opportunity for advocates to get their messages to future MLA’s and it is also an opportune time to build relationships with future legislators.
“Any connections you build now will come in handy after the election regardless of who wins,” Ziolkowksi said.