“We’ve got a common sense, straightforward approach”: Mike Allen

by Rebekah Benoit

MLA Mike Allen

MLA Mike Allen

In his first term as MLA, Allen is proud of his accomplishments, including advocating for the long-delayed completion for the twinning of Highway 63. “When I’m at the doors talking to people throughout the community, people are very pleased with the progress they’re seeing on Highway 63. It’s very visible – we’ve had crews working on the road all winter, and there was a great deal of work done last year,” Allen says. “I expect to see good inroads on completion by next year.”
Allen says he’s also proud of the amount of infrastructure spending within the Fort McMurray under his watch, including three new bridges and two new interchanges. “We used to have some deep frustration when travelling through the heart of Fort McMurray,” Allen says. “Traffic flow and congestion in Fort McMurray has significantly improved. There’s still a lot of work to do – there are more interchanges to plan and fund – and really, my job as an MLA is to advocate on behalf of the community for those projects that are really important.”
The continuing care centre for seniors, a facility desperately needed in the community for decades, is finally close to becoming a reality, something Allen says he’s also very proud of contributing to. “The tender has closed on the continuing care centre and I’m hoping to hear about a successful proponent for that right away so we can get shovels in the ground,” says Allen. “Once this is completed, it will free up a floor and half in our regional hospital. Improving access to health care is definitely a primary focus, in addition to creating more economic opportunity.”
Allen says he’s hearing a lot of concerns about the economy and the potential for job loss in the region, concerns he hopes to allay as he lays out the PC plan for the province’s future. “This is not our first rodeo in Fort McMurray – we’ve been through the boom and bust cycle many times in the past because of our reliance on resource revenue,” Allen explains. “[The PC] plan is designed to improve that, to take away our reliance on that resource revenue and then when we’re prosperous again, we can do other things with that money, like pay down debt and save. People up here understand that.”
Allen says he’s surprised by the backlash across the province to the provincial budget, which he believes is far from radical. “Premier Prentice started off talking about the effects and impacts of the lowered oil prices four months ago, and people were expecting to see this picture of doom and gloom,” Allen says. “When we came out with this budget, it was very incremental, nowhere near as bad as everybody thought it would be.”
“I think as a society we tend to focus on the controversy of the day,” he adds. “This is a common-sense, straightforward approach to bring us back on track so that in the future, we don’t have to rely on whether oil prices go up or down. As Premier Prentice says, we don’t have to watch OPEC meetings to decide whether to build a school.”
Allen is supportive of the PC plan to keep corporate taxes stable, and criticizes the plans of the NDP to raise them, saying this move could potentially tip Alberta into a recession. “Increasing corporate taxes limits the ability of industry to continue to develop and grow, and through that growth we create jobs,” he says. “We’ve already seen a significant number of jobs lost up in Wood Buffalo due to layoffs. The experts are telling us that every 1 per cent increase [in corporate taxes] equals the loss of 8,900 jobs. I think that’s the one thing the Wildrose agrees with us on – increasing those taxes will have a negative impact on growth and could cost us jobs.”
Allen says he wants to continue the important work that he’s only just started for the region. “I’m a community guy. This is my home, and I’m dedicated to furthering the needs of this community,” he says. “The first term of any role in government is quite a learning experience. It’s about developing relationships, and I’ve developed those relationships, learned the job, and I’m ready to move forward and complete the projects I’ve started.”