Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said her government depends on rural municipalities’ knowledge of local issues to ensure it is meeting their priorities. “And your feedback is a big help when we explain to the federal government why its decisions are misguided, which seems to happen a lot these days as I’m sure you’re all aware,” said Smith in a Thursday speech at the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) 2023 Fall Convention and Trade Show in Edmonton. “There are also situations that call for a co-ordinated approach like this year’s wildfires.” Since the response went well, Smith said it shows the trust and respect existing between the Alberta government and rural municipalities. She added the RMA does a great job of gathering input to provide the Alberta government with a better understanding of what rural areas think and need. She predicted their relationship will improve, as it is going to continue to listen. Where appropriate, she said decisions will be pushed down to the local level. In rural areas, she said healthcare bureaucracy has a lack of awareness of issues facing them. That is why she appointed Alberta Rural Health Parliamentary Secretary Martin Long, as he has been a strong advocate for rural communities. Long has worked with Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange to ensure their health needs and concerns are heard. While the Alberta government started to fix the healthcare system one year ago, Smith said other fixes had to be made. That is why it is refocusing the healthcare system to put patients and workers at the centre. The new system will be built around four key priorities: primary care, acute care, continuing care and mental health and addictions. As part of it, it will rely on 12 regional advisory boards, an indigenous board and an advisory council to bring local perspectives forward. A number of healthcare facilities in rural Alberta have experienced temporary closures and service disruptions. As a government, she said this is unacceptable and one of the reasons why it is refocusing the system. She said solutions “should be determined by common sense, by conditions on the ground and what the people on the ground really need and want, not by wishful thinking or ideology.” While this is true for healthcare, she said it applies to energy. That is why it decided on a six-month pause in approvals for renewable energy projects. She acknowledged she wanted to provide investors in renewable energy projects confidence and certainty Alberta will be the best place for them and rural municipalities will receive fair treatment. Some of the feedback she received at the RMA 2023 Spring Convention was they want to ensure these installations do not interfere with production on agricultural land. From experience, she said Alberta knows the importance of getting projects right. That is why it is taking time to clarify the rules and resolve uncertainty. She said the world needs Canadian oil and gas to transition away from coal and other high-emitting fuels. Alberta depends on oil and gas because other energy sources are too intermittent and expensive. The Canadian government has been obstructing Alberta’s energy plans. She vowed to fight its proposals. Smith concluded by saying rural Alberta “has your own ways of life, with unique contributions and industries that feed and support all Canadians.” It is unique, and the Alberta government will work hard to ensure it stays that way with help from the RMA. “I’m looking forward to learning how to better serve you and even how to better protect rural Alberta,” she said. Smith said at the Alberta Municipalities Conference in September her government and municipalities have to work together to succeed. READ MORE: Smith says Alberta government, municipalities should collaborate more“When we work together, when our province faces significant challenges, we can only address them through collaboration based on genuine respect and open communication from both sides,” she said. She praised Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver for building relationships with municipalities. From the Alberta government, she said people can expect collaboration on important files.