Dear <<First Name>>,
It is once again with a heavy heart that I write to you today…. Alberta hospitals and ICUs are bursting at the seams and our heroic healthcare workers are at ground zero tirelessly fighting to save lives. It is a devastating reality and I have no words to adequately express my gratitude for those on the front lines. Many constituents have reached out to my office to share their thoughts on the evolving situation and for that I thank you. However, due to the high volume of emails and phone calls, my office simply cannot respond to everyone, so I am choosing to respond through this statement.
This government has faltered and made mistakes…people are polarized…trust is at an all-time low…so what now?
It is in moments like these that one is tempted to give up in anger, frustration, even rage. None of those reactions will help us out of this devastating crisis and I know that you did not put your trust in me as your elected representative only to have me walk away in this dark hour. And so, I ask myself two critical questions to discern a path forward as your leader: 1. What do I want for Grande Prairie and for Alberta? 2. How would I act in this moment, in this decision, if that’s what I REALLY wanted?
My answer: I want daily life to be better for ALL Albertans – regardless of your station in life, your race, gender, status, financial position, political leanings etc., I want your life to be better than it is today and better than it was when I got elected in April of 2019. I know… this means we have a big climb out of this mess… and that climb starts today.
If that’s really what I wanted, how would I act in this moment?
Well, I wouldn’t quit, I wouldn’t participate in political games and posturing at the expense of governance, I wouldn’t dismiss or ignore people, and I wouldn’t be invested in making anyone “wrong.” To provide a timely example, this means that if you have decided that vaccines are not for you, I will work to support that choice and that freedom. This also means that if you have been vaccinated, I will support your choice as well. The question is how can I do both?
I have said many times that there is no perfect solution to this imperfect reality and so I hope that as I work to address the fractures in our society and fight for community over fear and anger, that you will afford me some latitude – extend to me some patience and grace. I ask that we start from a place of kindness and compassion toward each other in order to tear down the walls of fear and division that are growing higher and stronger in our province.
I continue to hear feedback from my constituents and bring it forward to my caucus members. However, with such a variety of opinions and perspectives on COVID-19, it is not possible for me to promise what each constituent would like. For example, I have met with people who would like to see mandatory vaccines and further restrictions and then, literally in the next meeting, the demand is for the exact opposite. I share this to highlight the wide range of polarizing opinions right now on what our government and I as the MLA should be doing. I plead with you to understand that I hear each perspective and, while I physically cannot fulfill each constituent’s specific request, I continue to work with my caucus colleagues to make decisions that we believe to be in the best interest of the people of Alberta and Grande Prairie.
My commitment to you, my constituents:
1. I will continue to speak the truth always – for those of you who have never met me, this is who I am. Sometimes the truth is very challenging, but I am known in the legislature to be counted upon to speak up and to be truthful. I believe the path to better ALWAYS starts with the truth.
2. I will relentlessly call for better. I am not a partisan representative. First and foremost, I work to solve problems. I want to see less suffering and more wins for people. This government has made mistakes in the COVID response and, although it will never be perfect, I am certain we can do much better. A new Health Minister is a good start – Minister Copping is committed to better communication, better planning, and to working WITH caucus to respond to the fluid and ongoing challenge of COVID.
3. I will listen – if you have an issue, I am available to hear you out and I very much care about your story and your concerns.
With respect to the COVID response:
I have been calling for renewed contact tracing for accurate data collection and to limit the spread of COVID – including in the schools.
I am asking that the government look at EVERY opportunity to clear the waiting list for surgeries, including sending Albertans to privately-run clinics at provincial expense. I am heartbroken to think of people suffering and worrying as their health deteriorates while waiting for surgery.
With all of that said, this isn’t perfect. I know that vaccine passports, for example, are incredibly controversial for Albertans who have not been vaccinated. I want you to know that is the reason there is a negative test option as an alternative. This was not the recommended option when this policy was first presented to caucus. As much as I value freedom and choice, I cannot ignore the hospitalization rates and the reality before us. With choice and freedom comes collective responsibility and I know that Albertans have each compromised and sacrificed for the safety of our communities. So, I will say it again, if you haven’t been vaccinated, I strongly encourage it. If you are uncertain about vaccine options in light of your personal health history, please see your doctor to discuss it further.
Finally, regarding the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, many people are understandably concerned with the desperate situation our local hospital is in. I am in regular contact with Stacy Greening, the Senior Operating Officer of the QEII to receive updates on the situation. Although the hospital has had to transfer some patients to other hospitals and postpone elective surgeries, the QEII team is doing everything they can to maintain care. The emergency department at the facility remains open and patients requiring urgent or emergency surgery during this time will continue to be assessed on-site.
Again, I encourage you to consider information critically before you accept it as fact. Please know that I am listening and will continue to make myself available to you, my constituents. Your feedback is brought before the decision makers to call for better and to provide ideas to improve our situation and I believe we all have a role to play in being part of the solution as we work through the ongoing challenges of a pandemic.
In your service,
Tracy L. Allard