Spring session look ahead

By Maria Fitzpatrick, MLA for Lethbridge-East.

The focus of my column this month is "back in session." I will speak about the Throne Speech and an overview of the first week back in the chamber.

I was very pleased to have several guests from Lethbridge in the gallery for the Speech from the Throne, our mayor, Chris Spearman; Mr. John Jacobson, representing Lethbridge College; and Ms. Karly Perch from the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce. Thank you to the three of you for attending and representing our city.

Our government is working to make life better for families, families who are the heart and soul of Alberta.

I believe it was very positive speech that highlighted our government‘s plan for the spring session. One of the major highlights for me was the cutting the growth of government spending; previously the growth rate was as high as 11 per cent under the last government. We have made targeted reductions, and, in the Minister of Finance‘s words, "we are bringing the rate of spending growth down, thoughtfully and prudently." This is evident in recent actions taken by our government like the reduction and amalgamation of government agencies, and freezing the salaries of cabinet ministers, MLAs, political staff and management in the public service. In addition, as you heard recently, our government took action to cut salaries and eliminate bonuses for the highest-paid executives of agencies, boards and commissions, including eliminating perks such as retention bonuses, golf club memberships and housing allowances.

So far this session, as of this week, our government has introduced two bills. Bill 1: An Act to Reduce School Fees and Bill 2: An Act to Remove Barriers for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence. Notice has been given for the following bills: Bill 3: Voluntary Blood Donations Act; Bill 4: Appropriation (Supplementary Supply) Act 2017; and Bill 5: Appropriation (Interim Supply) Act 2017.

Back in 2015 when I was campaigning, one of the pledges was to reduce school fees. I am so happy to report we have now introduced Bill 1, and if it is passed, it will be another promise fulfilled. On average, the fees will be reduced by 25 per cent across the province, and this will save families hundreds of dollars this coming September. I will update as soon as the debate is completed and the vote finished. Many of my colleagues will speak to this bill during debate, and I will certainly be voting in support of this bill. Our government is working to make life better for families, families who are the heart and soul of Alberta.

In Lethbridge, our government‘s focus on creating and supporting jobs is alive and well with the Cavendish Farms announcement. This was most definitely the initiative of the city, and I am incredibly proud to have played a small part in the promoting of this project to our government and gaining their support.

Another topic in the Throne Speech which impacts us is clean energy. Lethbridge and area has a number of groups and some businesses who have already put their money where their mouth is when it comes to clean energy. This spring, the first competitive renewable energy auction will take place, securing up to 400 megawatts of new renewable energy investment in Alberta.

Another note on energy, the government is capping electricity rates for families and businesses. Rates will be capped below the average price families have paid over the last decade. If the rate goes up over the cap, electricity bills won’t. This legislation will be introduced during this session to make the cap the law.

I continue to work on the Minister’s Panel on Child Intervention. A number of constituents have provided input. I ask that anyone who would like to provide some feedback to provide details in writing via email at CIPanel.submissions@gov.ab.ca. I will continue to ensure those perspectives are included in our panel discussions.

This month, the Southern Alberta Ethnic Association will host a Nicaraguan Dinner on Friday, March 31.

As always, if you have any issues or ideas you would like to discuss, my office is always open to you. I look forward to seeing you soon and discussing how we can make our incredible city even better. You can contact my office by phone, 403-320-1011, email me at lethbridge.east@assembly.ab.ca or drop by between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. weekdays.

First published in the Lethbridge Herald, March 10, 2017.