Moving towards a better economic future

By Maria Fitzpatrick, MLA for Lethbridge East.

Happy New Year to all my constituents!

I’d like to start my first column of 2017 by addressing the "elephant" in the room, the carbon levy. Albertans want a better economic future, where the highs and lows of the petroleum industry are not so severe. The carbon levy is the key tool that will pay for the transition to a more diversified economy. All of the revenue generated from the levy will be reinvested in Alberta‘s economy and doesn’t apply to electricity. The agricultural industry and First Nations also have specific exemptions and funds accessible to them to help them reduce their environmental impact.

In 2017, 60 per cent of households are expected to receive a full rebate to help offset the costs of the carbon levy: A single adult earning up to $47,500 per year will receive a rebate of $200; a couple earning up to $95,000 per year will receive $300. Parents that qualify for the rebate will receive up to an additional $30 per child (to a maximum of four). The indirect costs of the carbon levy will range between $50 to $70 per household. You do not have to apply to receive the rebate, but you must file your 2015 and subsequent income tax returns to be eligible. The rebate is non-taxable and also refundable, meaning you will receive it even if you pay no provincial income taxes.

This past Tuesday evening, I participated in a Telephone Town Hall, where just under 1,500 constituents answered the call around 6 p.m. and either listened or asked questions. There were 250 people who identified they wanted to ask questions, 14 of which were asked live and all of those who wished to ask questions but didn’t have the opportunity to do so were asked to leave a message for a follow-up response from me. This was an interesting forum to connect with my constituents and I look forward to doing it again. Thank you to everyone who participated and for those who had questions that required a follow-up and have contacted the office for an appointment. If you missed the chance to ask your question and did not stay on the line to leave a voice message, call or send your question or feedback to my constituency office.

 Albertans want a better economic future, where the highs and lows of the petroleum industry are not so severe.

We have begun 2017 following a great finish to 2016 with the announcement of the Cavendish Farms investment in our future. I congratulate the mayor, city council and staff, and Cavendish Farms representatives for all of the work they did on this project and the collaboration with each of our government ministries to bring the investment to Lethbridge.

Pre-budget consultations are now beginning. This year those consultations include a cross-section of business, non-profit and community leaders by invitation. This was done to ensure a broad perspective is brought into the budget discussions. While last year Lethbridge was a location that had a consultation, this year the minister is doing that consultation in other parts of the province. However, I have asked for reconsideration if there is any time available in the minister’s schedule, to bring him to Lethbridge again. Beyond that, anyone can provide their comments for the consultation on the website https://www.alberta.ca/budget.aspx.

Also, on Jan. 31, the minister of finance and the premier will be doing a Telephone Town Hall on the budget for southern Alberta and as I receive more details they will be posted. I hope anyone interested will take the opportunity to provide their comments on the website and participate in the phone call.

If you would like to contact me with your comments or questions, please call my office at 403-320-1011 or email me at lethbridge.east@assembly.ab.ca. My office is located at 543 13 St. S. and is open for walk-in service Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., or by appointment after 1:30 p.m.

First published in the Lethbridge Herald, Jan. 13, 2017.