Correcting carbon levy fallacies

By Maria Fitzpatrick, MLA for Lethbridge-East

2017 is coming to a close so I share this column as my last for this year. When I look back over the year I am proud of the work of our government and of the dedication shown by all my legislature colleagues as we work together to make life better for Albertans.

As the various bills are introduced and debated in the legislature, I spend a considerable amount of time discussing their content with my constituents. Often I must counter misunderstandings about the bills and provide accurate information to counter the inaccuracies promoted by others. For example, the carbon levy; recently I have had constituents contact my office concerned about their energy bill rising by 75 per cent in January 2018 – this is not true and is an example of the tactics those that wish to discredit our government are willing to use.

The carbon levy does not apply to electricity bills, and on natural gas, it only applies to the actual gigajoules you have burned, at $1.01/gigajoule. So, currently, if you burned five gigajoules of natural gas, your carbon levy would appear itemized on your bill at around $5. The levy does not apply to any other part of the natural gas bill, and again, does not apply to electric bills at all.

On Jan. 1, 2018, the carbon levy goes up to $1.51/GJ. >So, for instance, if you burned five GJ of natural gas, your carbon levy would be $7.55.

The carbon levy will rise 2.24 cents on a litre of gasoline and 2.68 cents/L on diesel on Jan. 1. Marked farm fuels will remain exempt from the levy.

As a result of the levy increasing, rebates will also go up. Currently, in 2017, a family earning $95,000 or less in household income with a family of two adults and four kids should be getting $300 for the adults and $30 for each additional child to a maximum of four children.

On Jan. 1, that rebate goes up to $450 for the two adults and $45 per child for a maximum of four children. Rebate cutoffs for single individuals begins at $47,500, and the rebate will increase from $300 to $400 per adult.

The idea being pushed by opposition members of exploding household bills due to the carbon levy increase is patently false.

We have also been busy bringing forth legislation to improve workplace health and safety and provide fair compensation and meaningful support to injured workers and their families – ensuring Alberta workers have the same rights and protections as other Canadians.

This has been long overdue and the proposed changes to the Workers Compensation Board as well as Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act are based on reviews done of the two systems. To get more information on the proposed changes, visit http://www.alberta.ca/news.aspx and search Workers Compensation Act.

Earlier in November, I had the privilege of representing Alberta at the Westminster Parliamentary Seminar in the United Kingdom, along with a member of the opposition. The two of us were randomly selected to attend from all of the legislators in Alberta, and I am very happy to have had the opportunity.

Sixty other members from Legislatures and Parliaments throughout the British Commonwealth also attended, and it was great to meet them all, share best practices and discuss our parliamentary similarities and differences.

The seminar included a session on how to better engage with constituents and members of the legislature to move legislation forward; I attended the PM question period; and was asked to participate on a Panel on Standards and Ethics where I shared the roles and responsibilities I have as the Chair of the Committee on Privileges and Elections, Standing Orders and Printing and the mandate of that committee. If you would like to know more about this training, my report should be tabled in the Legislature before the end of this session.

This year I have spoken frequently about respect for one another and also about valuing what everyone brings to the conversation. I thank everyone who has provided their feedback, comments and concerns to me, and my office over the past year. Please continue bringing your thoughts and ideas forward, it causes me to pause and think about what has been shared from another perspective. I truly appreciate your feedback, and I hope this continues throughout this term and into the future.

My staff and I try to work through as much constituent feedback as we can and are able to resolve a significant number of issues. Helping constituents navigate government departments and assist with inquiries is a big part of the daily work done at MLA constituency offices around Alberta. My assistants Sherry, Arie and Esther are all local residents who are dedicated to their community and the people in it and will do whatever they can to help you.

On Dec. 15, be sure to attend the Southern Alberta Ethnic Association’s second annual Free Christmas Dinner from Around the World from 4-8 p.m. Come out and experience what Christmas is like in other countries, with performers, cookie decorating, crafts and a whole lot more for adults and children of all ages. The event takes place at the Multicultural Centre (421 6 Ave. S.).

I wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. May your new year be filled with peace, health, joy and happiness!

First published Dec. 8, 2017, in the Lethbridge Herald