Phendrana Drifts has done a masterful job profiling Justice Minister and Attorney General Alison Redford and Infrastructure Minister Jack Hayden. Ken Chapman will soon be telling us about Service Alberta Minister Heather Klimchuk, and look to the Enlightened Savage for a profile of Lindsay Blackett, Alberta's new boss of Culture and Community Spirit.
For my part, I get to tell you a bit about someone I greatly admire, Mary Anne Jablonski.
Minister of Seniors and Community Supports
Mary Anne Jablonski can be described as a pretty typical Albertan. Originally from St. Catharines, Ontario, Mary Anne moved west with her husband Bob and their family in 1980. Bob was with the Canadian Armed Forces and was transferred to the base at Penhold, just outside of Red Deer.
Her work as an advocate began long before she was ever elected to office. Her most notable foray into advocacy in earlier days was her work to lobby the Federal Government for a dental plan for the families of Military and RCMP personnel. It was, not surprisingly, successful.
After their time with the military, the Jablonskis settled in Red Deer and began a fiberglass manufacturing company. As in life, Bob and Mary Anne were also very successful partners in their business. Between the business, their three children, and various other projects with Girl Guides, the Catholic Womens League, and the Chamber of Commerce, Mary Anne kept herself pretty busy... good preparations for an aspiring MLA.
I first met Mary Anne during her first run for office in September of 2000. Stockwell Day had just resigned his seat in the Legislature to take over the leadership of the Canadian Alliance. Mary Anne was the nominated PC candidate in Red Deer North and boy did she have her work cut out for her. Stock hadn't exactly left the legislature on the greatest of terms (think $800,000 lawsuit) and the residents of Red Deer North were certainly well aware of it.
Still, she kept her head up and focused on her positive vision of being a hard-working MLA for her constituents. The work paid off and she won a very close by-election by just under 400 votes. This was to be good training grounds because, less than 6 months later, Mary Anne was thrust back into the electoral fray in the 2001 General Election.
Since the by-election, Mary Anne's constituents have sent her back to the legislature with solid majorities. In 2001, she carried the day with over 5000 votes to her nearest opponent's 3100. During the Kleinfeld campaign of 2004, her lead shrunk but still delivered a comfortable 1100 vote margin against the same Liberal she fought in 2000 and 2001. Last week, Mary Anne was again sent to Edmonton on behalf of the people of Red Deer North with a margin of victory approaching 3000 votes. Clearly, her constituents like her.
And they like her with good reason.
Mary Anne has a number of accomplishments to her credit. She is one of the very few MLAs to ever have a Private Member's Bill passed unanimously, the Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act. This act allows parents to go before a judge to ask for an order to place their child in a safe house or detoxification facility. It also allows the possibility of an aprehension order to remove the child from a drug house or other unstable environment.
She has also been a solid advocate for issues closer to home in Red Deer. Mary Anne has successfully lobbied for over 400 affordable housing spaces in Red Deer, was an early proponent of regional water and waste water systems, and has been a staunch defender of full consultation before major decisions regarding the Red Deer River have been made.
Over the past 7 years, Mary Anne has been entrusted with a number of leadership positions in the House. These include Chairing or Co-Chairing the Cabinet Committee on Community Services, the Alberta Mental Health Board Liason and Advisory Committee, the Corrections Review Committee, the Youth Secretariat, and the Committee on Strengthening Alberta's Role in Confederation.
Her background as a legislator was clearly a driving factor when Premier Stelmach decided to ask her to serve as Alberta's new Minister of Seniors and Community Supports.
As Minister, Mary Anne will be responsible for a Department that needs proactive thinking. With Alberta's seniors population expected to double in just 12 short years, getting the right programs in place will be key in meeting this crunch head-on.
In an interview with the Red Deer Advocate shortly after her promotion to Cabinet, Mary Anne outlined a number of issues that she wants to address early in her tenure as Minister. Of note, she commits to helping seniors stay in their own homes as long as possible through a number of potential initiatives, including increased support for home care, meals on wheels, and seniors-helping-seniors. Recruitment and retention of front-line workers for those who are institutionalized is also high on the agenda.
Seniors and Community Supports is a department that hasn't had much in the way of profile, but is very important as Alberta moves into its second century. I suspect that those who work in the Department are pleased to see someone who, by all accounts, will take her role very seriously and will be a very active Minister.