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Alberta MLAs host their own town halls to continue 'fair deal' conversation

Some MLAs are adopting the format of the province's "fair deal" town halls and hosting their own community events this month.

Community town halls come after the provincial 'fair deal' panel visited 10 communites

Several residents came to the Stony Plain 'fair deal' town hall to weigh in on a variety of issues like electoral reform and the Canadian Pension Plan. (Sam Martin/CBC)

The province's "fair deal" panel tour may be over, but some government MLAs have decided to host their own town halls this month to continue the discussion around Alberta's place within Canada. 

MLAs for Spruce Grove-Stony Plain and Peace River have hosted "fair deal" town halls this week, allowing people to discuss issues like withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan in favour of a new provincial agency, creating a separate police service and establishing a formalized provincial constitution.

Although the community events are not organized by the provincial panel, many are discussing the nine issues raised during the 10 provincial town halls, which ended on Jan. 27.

Spruce Grove-Stony Plain MLA Searle Turton said many of his constituents were eager to share their opinions on getting Alberta what the province calls a "fair deal" so he opted to host an event.

"I wanted to give the residents and my community here of Spruce Grove and Stony Plain an opportunity to tell myself and some panel members what their opinions are regarding Confederation and Alberta's place within Canada," he said.

Many ideas were tossed around at the Stony Plain Royal Canadian Legion on Tuesday, including equalization concerns and electoral reform.

"Unless we have some electoral reform, we're not going to have a voice," said Myrna Sherstan, who lives in the area.

"We won't have a voice because we don't have the seats."

Others were concerned about the Canada Pension Plan while some weighed in on how Alberta can work with Ottawa. 

"It's only the finances that are going to get the attention of the East," said Darren Myshak, who lives in Stony Plain.

"We need to look at other options to get their attention."

Approximately 90 people showed up to the Stony Plain 'fair deal' town hall organized by the local MLA. (Sam Martin/CBC)

Several other community town halls across the province are scheduled for this month, according to Alberta's "fair deal" panel member Donna Kennedy-Glans.

"They're popping up everywhere," she said Tuesday.

"That's the beauty of doing it this way. Going out into the province and listening to the grassroots, not listening to politicians, not listening to corporate. Just listening to people."

Next steps

All of the information recorded at the community town halls will be sent to the province's panel.

The eight-person panel is currently reflecting on the comments raised during the events and at the almost 5,000 unique comments sent in through the online form on the province's website. 

Many of the panel's members are attending the local town halls, while others are trying to "distill this down into a set of recommendations," Kennedy-Glans said.

"It's really a wide range of what is possible," she said. "The breadth of the ideas was pretty significant and people's understanding of what is possible varied from community to community."

The eight-person "fair deal" panel will present recommendations to government in a report before March 31. 

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