2017 promises to be an exciting year

By Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West

A new year provides us an opportunity to reflect on the past year and prepare for the year ahead. I wish you all a Happy New Year and will use this month’s column to let you know about some of the exciting things to look forward to in the upcoming months.

We wrapped up 2016 with the news that Lethbridge has the lowest unemployment rate in Alberta. At every opportunity I like to promote Lethbridge and the excellent environment this city offers to live, work and raise a family. The low unemployment rate is just one more measure of a community that collaborates, is economically diversified, and provides businesses with excellent conditions to thrive. I am proud to be one of your MLAs and to represent this thriving city.

On the first of January the carbon levy came into effect across the province. At the same time the small business tax rate was lowered from three to two per cent to help offset the cost of the new carbon levy to small business. At two per cent, Alberta will be tied with Saskatchewan for the second-lowest provincial small business rate in Canada. Supporting Alberta business is one of the four pillars of the Alberta Jobs Plan, as outlined in Budget 2016. The Alberta government is also supporting businesses with new tax credits valued at $160 million to encourage access to capital.

A few days later, on Jan. 5, approximately 1.13 million individual carbon rebate payments were issued via direct deposit and cheques. These rebates are intended to help lower- and middle-income households adjust to the carbon levy and invest in increasing energy efficiency at home. To qualify for rebates please be sure to do your taxes and ensure the Canada Revenue Agency has your up-to-date contact information.

Another piece of the Climate Leadership Plan is energy efficiency; Alberta finally has a long-term energy-efficiency vision after years of being the only province in Canada without one. The Energy Efficiency Agency provides programs and services for Albertans to reduce their costs and carbon footprint because we know that one of the most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (and to save consumers money) is to improve energy efficiency. Energy efficiency programs will create jobs in construction and energy services and grow future-ready industries such as solar generation. Revenue from the carbon levy will provide the funds for rebates and incentives for families and communities through energy-saving appliances, solar panels and retrofits of homes and buildings. Further information can be found at www.alberta.ca/energy-efficiency-alberta.aspx.

Budget consultations are underway across the province. Online input is open until Feb. 3 at www.alberta.ca. As well, Finance Minister Joe Ceci and Premier Rachel Notley will be conducting telephone town halls on Jan. 30 and 31. The Jan. 31 one is for southern Albertans. You can register to be in the town hall online at alberta.ca/budget-consultations.aspx. Publicly listed landlines that are not on the National Do Not Call list will be automatically called to participate but if you have a cellphone or are on the Do Not Call list but want to participate in the townhall you will need to register. I encourage you to participate. I have heard some very creative suggestions for the budget from many constituents who have already reached out and I encourage you to take part.

Finally, the Castle Parks were announced by the premier and I on Jan. 20. For the next 60 days, until March 20, you are invited to participate in the public consultation process at talkaep.alberta.ca/CastleManagementPlan. That website provides the draft management plan and the timeline for the consultations. Please take part.

As always, my constituency staff and I are here to assist you. The Castle Parks and the Carbon Levy have increased the calls to the office so your patience is appreciated. Please call 403-329-4644 or email Lethbridge.west@assembly.ab.ca.

First published in the Lethbridge Herald, Jan. 27 2016.