Spring session very productive

Written by Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West. First published in the Lethbridge Herald on June 24, 2016.

The spring session of the Alberta Legislature ended earlier this month so I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the measures our government is undertaking for the province, for Lethbridge and southern Alberta.

One of the most important events of the spring session was the passing of our budget – The Alberta Jobs Plan – which had four main goals: to support families and communities; to invest in infrastructure such as roads bridges and hospitals; expand where we sell our energy; and to support Alberta businesses.

Supporting Alberta Families: Our government is acting to support Alberta families in these tough economic times. We have developed many support programs and provided stable funding to education, health, mental health, post-secondary, social services and women’s shelters. In addition, our new Alberta Child Benefit and the enhancement of the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit will provide $340 million to help some 380,000 children from low-income households get a good start in life.

Investing in Infrastructure: Over the next five years our government will invest $34.8 billion in our province’s infrastructure. This money will go to build and modernize schools, it will go to cities, towns and communities to help improve public services, and it will go to improving continuing care facilities. I am most excited about our government’s commitment of $900 million to provide safe and affordable housing to those who need it most. These types of investments will also create jobs for tradespeople and labourers who have been hard hit by the collapse in world oil prices. Our province needs this infrastructure investment for now and for the future.

With some of the best wind and solar resources in Canada, we are poised to see billions of dollars of investment.

Finding new markets for our energy: For too long Alberta has had a poor reputation when it comes to climate change and this has hurt our ability to find new markets for our energy. The Climate Leadership Plan, which I sponsored in the Legislature, positions Alberta as a global leader in the fight against climate change. It puts a price on carbon and will help reduce emissions while protecting low- and middle-income Albertans with a rebate. Every penny raised will be rebated to Albertans and reinvested in our economy. This will help grow our renewable energy sector such as wind and solar which is especially good news for southern Alberta and is already starting to bring tremendous opportunity to our area. With some of the best wind and solar resources in Canada, we are poised to see billions of dollars of investment. Our government has also acted to create Energy Efficiency Alberta, an agency that will help families, organizations and communities reduce their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Every day I hear from Albertans that you want to be part of the climate change solution and with new programming beginning in early 2017, Albertans will be able to save on their energy costs and reduce the amount of carbon they consume.

Supporting business: The Alberta government is committed to entrepreneurship and helping Alberta businesses to grow and prosper. We are investing $250 million to support job tax credits and other assistance. As well, our government has cut the small business income tax by a third effective Jan. 1, 2017. The Alberta Jobs Plan is about supporting Albertans in need, encouraging job creation, building a stronger economy, capitalizing on a low carbon future, and investing in infrastructure for the future while creating jobs today. I am proud of the work of our legislature this session and I welcome your feedback.

Finally, I was honoured to speak at the Pride Flag Raising at the city hall on June 20. The overwhelming crowd (estimates were almost 500 people) that attended struck me as a sign of just how far we have come as a community. I was especially pleased to see, at the Pride Awards, the well-deserved recognition of Heather Chomos, who passed away earlier this year and was a critical part of building Pride Week and in fostering a supportive community for all. Heather’s work is evidenced in the success of this year’s events and she is dearly missed.

Please come out to the Pride Parade on Saturday at noon and the Pride in the Park at Galt Gardens immediately after the parade. I will be at both events and look forward to seeing you there.