Posted on Nov 6, 2017

Fall sitting 2017: Age discrimination, gas & dash, long-term care facilities

Sherwood Park News - November 6, 2017

Oct. 30 marked the start of the fall legislative sitting. With that comes the maintained focus of seeing your priorities come to fruition. Each day, my job is to address issues that you have told me are important to you and your family. Since being elected, our government has been focused on protecting and supporting jobs, helping with the family budget, and strengthening health care and education. We are seeing the results. Top economists have reported that, with 49,000 new jobs created, Alberta is the fastest growing economy in Canada.

During this session, our government is introducing a number of bills that will make huge strides in protecting Albertans. I want to highlight a few of these important legislative changes. Firstly, we introduced a bill to prevent death, injuries and robberies in gas stations. Secondly, a bill that, if passed, would amend the human rights act to address age discrimination while remaining sensitive to the lifestyles of condo owners. The last one I will highlight is very important to me, as I know that many of the seniors in our communities are actively engaged and want to be empowered in determining the way long-term care is being provided and delivered. The Residents and Family Councils Act would give residents and their families a stronger voice. From supporting seniors to improving community safety, the work being done in the legislature is focused on making life better for Albertans.

The Act to Protect Gas and Convenience Store Workers would make pre-paying for fuel mandatory, and introduce violence prevention programs at gas and convenience stores across Alberta. It is shocking and heartbreaking when we see these incidents of violence. On average, there are 12 fuel thefts every day in Alberta. No one’s life should ever be put at risk just because someone wants to drive away with a tank of stolen gas. That is why our government is taking action to ensure workers are better protected on the job — so that every Albertan is able to come home safely at the end of their workday.

Pre-pay does not necessarily mean you have to pay at the pump. There could be other pre-pay options for Albertans, including leaving cash, or using a credit card. These actions will improve workplace safety for our friends, our neighbours and our communities. We know that this is an effective way of addressing the concerns because, when this kind of legislation was introduced in other Canadian provinces, it virtually eliminated fuel thefts and violent incidents between workers and non-paying customers. We can all get behind having safer communities.

The Human Rights Amendments Act has been a hot topic with many residents on the doorsteps and in my meetings with constituents. What is clear to me is that we need to strike a balance between addressing age discrimination and the rights of seniors in our communities. Luanne Whitmarsh, president of Alberta Association of Senior Centres, explained that, “typically, older adults are not able to increase their financial resources to have a wider range of housing options available to them, plus enjoy a life that is usually quieter.  The fairness of government proposing 15 years as a transition period is appreciated.” Many residents spoke to me on this issue, and I am deeply appreciative of the work we have accomplished because of the collaborative relationship with condo owners associations.

The last bill I mentioned was the Residents and Families Council Act. If passed, this legislation will mean the establishment of resident and family councils in all long-term care and licensed supportive living facilities. The act would expand on the existing concerns and complaints processes and provide new opportunities for residents, families and operators to work together on issues that affect them. Many locations that have these councils already in place have seen positive impact on the ability to strengthen the services and supports.

Estefania Cortes-Vargas is the Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Strathcona-Sherwood Park Constituency. If you have any comments or questions concerning this column or other provincial government issues, please contact Estefania at her constituency office located at #19 – 99 Wye Rd., Sherwood Park, T8B 1M1. Telephone: 780-416-2492 or e-mail:


As appeared in the Sherwood Park News. November 6, 2017