It started with mobile home communities.
After becoming Minister of Service Alberta during spring 2019, and spending much of the summer and fall listening to Albertans, I was ready to take action in 2020.
I began by taking action for Albertans in mobile home communities, where the lack of access to dispute resolution services had been ignored for too long. Having introduced legislation, we were well on our way to providing that service when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and everyone’s focus shifted.
In the immediate wake of the government’s emergency response it became apparent that missed rent payments and the potential for evictions were a concern for thousands of Albertans. Service Alberta responded with a comprehensive package of measures to protect renters, which kept people in their homes. We took other measures to protect Albertans as well, including more online access to registry services and a crackdown on price-gouging from businesses seeking to exploit consumers.
When the time was right, we shifted our focus back to finish our work on dispute resolution for mobile home communities. We also took steps to restore confidence in the real estate regulator. I had previously dismissed the board of the Real Estate Council of Alberta to put an end to dysfunction. Spring legislation introduced a brand new governance structure, including industry elections (on December 1, the new board and industry councils were formally established).
One of the pieces I’m most proud of this year was the action we took to ensure Albertans feel safe in their communities by ensuring that convicted sex offenders cannot legally change their names in Alberta. After learning about this loophole, both Alberta and Saskatchewan made changes to address this and called on our counterparts across the country to do the same. Perpetrators of heinous crimes should live with their names, just as their victims must live with the trauma. I intend to continue advocating for this approach among my ministerial colleagues across Canada, and expanding Alberta law to apply to dangerous offenders.
The fall brought more action to ensure security and confidence, this time in the construction industry, as we passed legislation to establish a prompt payment system. For years, Albertans working in construction have asked for such a system because many of them are not getting paid for work they’ve done until many months later. In an industry that employs roughly one in 10 Albertans, the negative effects of slow payments are far-reaching. Service Alberta continues to work with industry members to develop regulations, including the details of an adjudication process.
Finally, Service Alberta has ended the year with 2 online surveys to further our work on ensuring security and confidence at home. The first sought feedback about dispute resolution for those who own, live in, and manage condominiums. The second sought information from Albertans in mobile home communities about additional concerns that cannot be addressed through dispute resolution services. I am looking forward to reviewing the results of both surveys in early 2021.
The New Year holds a lot of promise. After 10 months in a pandemic, we are starting to see some positive signs with the arrival of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. But we must all continue to follow public health guidelines and stay vigilant. Service Alberta has a lot of work ahead to help build and promote a lasting recovery for Alberta.