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Alberta's 'fair deal' panel wraps up hearings

A government panel looking at ways to give Alberta more political autonomy held its final town hall meeting Monday night in Airdrie.

Roughly 400 members of the public came out to Airdrie session

Rancher Ron Hanson speaks at the 'fair deal' panel's town hall meeting in Airdrie on Monday night. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

A government panel looking at ways to give Alberta more political autonomy wrapped up its final town hall meeting Monday.
     
The "fair deal" panel travelled across the province gathering feedback from Albertans.
     
About 400 people shared their concerns Monday night in Airdrie, where speaker after speaker said Alberta isn't being treated fairly by the federal government.

The nine-member panel includes former Reform Party leader Preston Manning and Stephen Lougheed, the son of former premier Peter Lougheed.

It's chaired by Oryssia Lennie, who was previously the deputy minister of Western Economic Diversification Canada.

Its mandate was to hold town hall meetings across the province until the end of this month, as well as gather online feedback and consult experts.

The panel is considering nearly a dozen proposals, such as the creation of an Alberta pension plan, a provincial police force, a tax collection agency, a chief firearms officer and a formalized provincial constitution.

Panel member Donna Kennedy-Glans, a former PC MLA, said it's clear people are hungry for change.

"They want it yesterday. Some are a little more patient. Some want to collaborate with other provinces and the federal government, and some just want to act unilaterally," she said.

The 'fair deal' panel is expected to submit recommendations to the government by March 31. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Rubin Nelson, 80, a member of the public who spoke at the microphone, took a different approach — he told the audience it's time for Alberta to look in the mirror.

He said the province needs to "turn on its headlines" and create some sort of formal capacity for anticipating changing circumstances and adjusting to them.

"In my lifetime, we've been run over by history several times, and every time we complain that they did it to us," he said.
     
"I was raised to take responsibility for the things I'd contributed to, and clean up my own act before I'd holler for others. 

"We holler, as if we've been done dirt, it's not fair and we want to make 'them' stop. But in all of this discussion there has never been a word about our contribution to the mess we're in."

Rancher Ron Hanson told the town hall that he believes Alberta would be wise to explore the idea of separating, if it becomes necessary. However, the said reforming the Senate as an elected body that protects the interests of the provinces is an absolute must.

"I'm not a politician, but I've had to negotiate with government a number of times, and unless I had a powerful bargaining tool, I never got very far," he said.

The panel is expected to submit recommendations to the government by March 31. The government says any bold proposals would need to be approved by Albertans through a referendum.

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