On May 27 I sent an email to two people in our provincial government about the issue surrounding Phoenix Heli-Flight and their ability to continue to offer night medevac services in the Wood Buffalo region.
Tonight the issue of Phoenix will be discussed at RMWB Council, and my anticipation is that it is very likely industry and the municipality will step in to continue to fund Phoenix so dedicated 24/7 services can continue. One party is missing at this table, however, given that Alberta Health Services has now declined to immediately agree to fund the service other than continuing the current pay-for-service fees and agreeing to a six-month "review" of the services and possibility of a deal for Phoenix through AHS. Many things have been in movement, it seems, but what seems dead in the water are the emails and messages that have been sent from the Wood Buffalo community to Minister of Health Fred Horne and Premier Dave Hancock.
Since May 27 I have not received a reply from either of these government representatives. Not a form email, not a personal email, not a thing but silence and an apparent complete disregard for the citizens who pay their salary and keep them in office. I have patiently waited, checking my email inbox every day, until I realized that they likely have no intention of ever responding to an email that took me some time to write and that included my concerns about the future of their government in this region.
I want to make very clear that I have in the past supported our local MLAs, even working as the communications manager on one of the campaigns. I know they have advocated tirelessly for this region both before and since being elected, but I also know that without the political will of the government their advocacy has limited effectiveness. I continue to support our MLAs in their advocacy for our region, but I have deep and serious reservations about what kind of support and audience they are receiving from the current Alberta government.They are but two voices in a cacophony of others, and far too easily ignored if there is a lack of will to ensure this region has the support it needs to continue to succeed as the economic engine of Alberta.
And there is the rub! How many of these politicians have come to this region to visit and touted us as the economic engine, spoken of our importance and our value, and then gone away to never respond to our emails or answer our pleas for help? How can it be so very easy for them to pay lip service to our tremendous importance and then forget it as soon as their plane touches down again in Edmonton?
I am angry today. I am angry that two government officials cannot be bothered to reply to emails from the people of this province. It shows a level of disrespect that troubles me deeply because it indicates a fundamental lack of concern about the people of this community. It speaks to an issue far deeper than keeping a helicopter in the air for medevac services and instead to a willful disregard for those who have put them in office. That they did not answer tweets does not trouble me overly as anyone on social media knows that you can be bombarded by messages that take mere seconds to compose and send - but when you ignore an email, which is basically the modern day equivalent of the "letter to your government representative", you have ignored someone who has taken the time and effort to contact you directly and in a sincere and private way to address an issue. That time and effort deserves a response.
Here is my belief: If you cannot take the time to send a correspondent even a form email or have one of your staffers do so then you do not deserve the government office or title you currently hold. The lack of ANY response to a polite, respectful but concerned email of advocacy worries me deeply as it speaks to a total lack of interest in this region. I continue to be worried about the future of Phoenix Heli-Flight and their ability to serve this region in the capacity we need, but this issue has been a warning sign to me of individuals in our government who are simply not listening to Wood Buffalo.
The Progressive Conservative party is now undergoing a search for a new leader. This new leader will be our next Premier, and I would suggest they have significant strides to make in ensuring that the people of this region feel as if they matter and that their voices and concerns have value. I continue to hope that this will be the case as I have met all three of the candidates now standing for leadership and each have spoken to the importance of the oil sands and this community. It is tremendously easy to speak of this importance, however, and far easier to forget it when difficult decisions must be made - or even when emails are awaiting an answer. The new leader, and their cabinet, will need to expend some effort to convince me that they truly believe the "economic engine of this province" truly matters in some way more than spoken words.
The irony of our constantly being upheld as the economic engine and driver of this province and the lack of response to our community from members of our provincial government is not lost on me. How easy it is to talk about our value, and how difficult it is to actually match those words with action, like answering an email or, even more importantly, agreeing to find innovative ways to fund an essential service to keep that economic engine and our community humming.
This is about far more than helicopters. This is about the future of this region, and our place and role in this province. An unanswered email seems like no big deal - and yet to me it is a warning sign that we cannot ignore. And today I issue my own warning: pay attention to Wood Buffalo and treat the residents of this region with respect - because we have grown tired of being ignored, and if you continue to do so you do it at the peril of yourselves - and your future mandate to govern.