Foothills Focus, 6ed.
Good morning all,
The Macleod riding has a storied military history.
Men and women from southern Alberta played an integral role for Canada’s armed forces; residents from our riding fought at Vimy Ridge, on the shores of Normandy, in Korea, Bosnia, Afghanistan and many other areas around the world where they fought for freedom, democracy or acted as critical peacekeepers.
That military history remains an essential part of our community’s fabric. It is depicted on the murals in High River, the Lancaster Museum in Nanton and the artifacts in Fort Macleod.
The veterans in our riding of Macleod have a proud history. Our riding boasts some of the oldest Legions in Alberta (Blairmore, Bellevue and Coleman), a Legion who spearheaded Birth of a Nation Day as well as the newest branch in Okotoks, which already has 150 members.
Therefore, I understand the importance of ensuring our veterans are well taken care of today and tomorrow. To that, I am proud of our Government’s work in this area, especially through the New Veterans Charter.
Our work continues to improve services to our veterans including several recent announcements by the Honourable Erin O’Toole, Minister of Veterans Affairs.
Mr. O’Toole has been focusing on addressing gaps in the New Veterans Charter by enhancing or expanding support for seriously disabled Veterans, reservists and their families.
The following are among the new and enhanced services and benefits proposed in recent weeks:
• The new Retirement Income Security Benefit, which would provide moderately to severely disabled Veterans — those who need it most — with continued assistance in the form of a monthly income support payment beginning at age 65.
• The new Family Caregiver Relief Benefit, which would provide eligible Veterans with a tax-free, annual grant of more than $7,000 so their informal caregivers — who are often their spouse or other devoted family members — will have flexibility or relief when they need it while also ensuring the Veterans’ care needs are met.
• Broadened eligibility criteria for the Permanent Impairment Allowance (PIA) which, together with the PIA Supplement, provides approximately $600 to $2,800 a month in life-long monthly financial support to Veterans whose employment potential and career advancement opportunities have been limited by a permanent service-related injury or illness.
• Enhanced benefits for injured part-time Reserve Force Veterans, who will now be assured the same minimum income support payment through the Earnings Loss Program as full-time Reserve Force and Regular Force Veterans.
These initiatives are further bolstered by significant investments announced earlier including new and expanded mental health initiatives, including a Veteran-specific Mental Health First Aid training program, a four-year pilot project to expand access to military family resource services, a new research project aimed at families of Veterans with operational stress injuries, and development of a mental health action plan.
In an effort to reduce red tape and make services and supports easier for Veterans and their families to understand and access, Minister O’Toole has also directed Veterans Affairs Canada to:
• assemble a “Veteran-centric Communications Task Force” to improve how Veterans Affairs Canada communicates with Veterans;
• examine ways to combine new and existing supports into a single monthly payment for severely injured Veterans; and
• work with the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman to clarify how the Permanent Impairment Allowance is administered and to make it more predictable and easier to understand.
I was honoured to make substantial funding announcements in the riding last week to assist seniors programs across Macleod through the New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP). The programs provides up to $25,000 in grant funding to eligible organizations for community-based projects that are led or inspired by seniors. Since 2006, the NHSP has funded more than 13,000 projects in hundreds of communities across Canada. Additionally, Economic Action Plan 2014 increased funding for the NHSP by $5 million per year, for a total of $50 million provided to this program annually.
Projects that received funding from the New Horizons for Seniors Program include:
• High River Senior’s Friendship Center – $24,761, renovations to the friendship center
• Nanton Quality of Life Foundation – $25,000, Intergenerational Drumming Circle training
• Springbank Heritage Club – $25,000, safe and secure water source for their building
• The Town of Okotoks – $17, 778, Sports for Okotoks Seniors organization
• Valley Neighbours Club – $10, 000, replace bingo machine
New Riding Office!
Our new office in Fort Macleod is now open! We hosted an open house on March 17 and it was a great event. Feedback from residents in the southern portion of the riding has been outstanding and I am looking forward to having a meeting place in the south. The office will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays and if you would like to book an appointment please call 403-553-3093.
It was an extremely busy week in the riding as we met with residents, municipal leaders and organizations across the riding.
The highlight was hosting an outstanding round-table with Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander in Okotoks. We had about 20 business owners and municipal leaders from across the riding to discuss the labour issues we are facing as well as the aspects of the Express Entry program.
It was an excellent meeting and incredibly beneficial for the Minister to hear from business owners first-hand about some of the issues we are facing. I would like to thank those who attended for your essential input and Mr. Alexander for taking the time to listen.
I and my staff will continue to work with the business owners in Macleod and the Minister to ensure we have a balanced approach to ensuring Canadians have first chance at available jobs and entrepreneurs have access to the labour they need to ensure the growth and success of their businesses.
Afterwards, Minister Alexander spoke at a packed event in Okotoks and did a fantastic job talking about the priorities of our Government and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Thanks to Roy Newman for the outstanding introduction, I was truly humbled. Also, it was wonderful to have students and new permanent residents (hopefully soon-to-be new Canadians) from across Macleod attend the event. We were honoured to have you.
In addition to our round-table, other meetings I have had over the past week included:
• Met with representatives from the Canadian Cattlemen Association in Ottawa. The delegation including a number of residents from the riding.
• Discussed priorities for Okotoks with Town administration including the water pipeline from Calgary.
• Spoke to Grade 9 students at JT Foster School in Nanton
• Met with Foothills Immigration Services to discuss issues facing new immigrants and labour market.
• Attended meetings with the Fort Macleod Affordable Housing Committee and Kids First Family Centre.
• Spoke at the Pincher Creek Chamber of Commerce AGM
• Met with the Alberta Southwest Economic Development Association in Pincher Creek on the importance of improving access to broadband internet service.
• Attended launch and spoke at Excalibur Shelters event in Okotoks
• Invited to speak at the Okotoks Rotary Club meeting.
• Attending the Community Futures Highwood meeting in Okotoks to discuss their new funding agreement and changes to their agreement with Western Diversification.
• Met with Little Bow MLA Ian Donovan
Now back in Ottawa until this weekend, I wish you all a good week.
Until next time,
Member of Parliament for Macleod