November 19th, 2017

Assuring access to world-class education


By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on September 8, 2017.

Did anyone else notice that the seasons seemed to have changed overnight? The yellowing leaves and dusty (and lately, far too smoke-filled!) atmosphere signal the end of summer, the harvest season and impending winter. September, for me, has also always been a time of beginnings, as students and teachers head back into the classroom to start a new year, with new challenges and success in store.

Our government is committed to supporting Albertans by ensuring access to a world-class education; that commitment includes making sure there are modern classrooms, stable funding and an updated curriculum that truly prepares learners for the future. We have created approximately 21,600 new spaces throughout the province and modernized an additional 15,000 making that world-class education more accessible to Albertans in the communities they live in. You can find out more information on the progress of Alberta’s school infrastructure projects by visiting https://projects.alberta.ca/.

Honourable Danielle Larivee, Minister of Children’s Services, Honourable Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks and MLA for Lethbridge West, and I, had a chance to meet with Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) professionals, parents and stakeholder groups in Lethbridge in late August. We discussed ways Alberta can improve access, quality and working conditions for ELC professionals and best use our resources to build an inclusive system of early learning and care for young Albertans. Thank you to everyone that took time out of their busy schedules to talk with us and express such thoughtful, constructive ideas for Minister Larivee to take back with her as our government moves forward on this file.

We have many caring, talented and dedicated professionals working with young children in our region. It is a challenging field and the people that enter it deserve our collective gratitude for the vital work they do in our communities. I encourage all who may know one of these dedicated professionals, or of a really great early learning and child-care program, to consider nominating them for one of Children’s Services Annual Child Development Professional Awards of Excellence. I would love to see some of our many local workers, providers and programs celebrated and recognized this way. To make a nomination, please visit http://www.humanservices.

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In July, Premier Notley contacted Honourable David Eggen, Minister of Education, and requested that he gather community input on steps the government can take to help combat racism and to promote inclusion. Noting an increase in the volume of hate-filled rhetoric in the media, our communities and on social media, the minster set out to consult with Albertans on what can be done and how the government can support individuals that have or are experiencing racism and intolerance. The province’s conversations with community groups have been ongoing throughout the summer and will continue into early fall with upcoming plans to meet in Lethbridge. Input can also be submitted online until Sept. 22 at https://www.alberta.ca/inclusive-alberta.aspx#toc-2. Minister Eggen will include in his final report, recommendations on how the government can work with communities to address racism and promote inclusion and diversity.

This past Wednesday morning, Minister Phillips and I were joined by Honourable Marlin Schmidt, Minister for Advanced Education, as he made an important mental health services funding announcement. Combined, Lethbridge post-secondary institutions, the University of Lethbridge and the Lethbridge College, will receive $1.2 million each year for three years to support student mental health on campus.

Providing our post-secondary population the support needed to be healthy and achieve academic success will make a difference and improve the lives of many Albertans as they set out to reach their goals.

Honourable Irfan Sabir, Minister of Community and Social Services, also paid a visit to Lethbridge Wednesday to make an announcement of $250,000 in funding to Housing First. Much of those funds will go to help homeless people in our community transition into their own homes.

The summer’s heat is expected to wane soon and with the days getting shorter, Albertans will once again have to “fall back” to Mountain Standard Time (MST) for the long winter months. This twice-yearly adjustment inevitably results in a flurry of contact to my office, most asking for a stop to the practice. I sit on the Sub-Committee of the Alberta Economic Futures (AEF) Committee, which has been tasked with studying this issue and is travelling to several locations across the province conducting consultations on Bill 203, the Alberta Standard Time Act. Introduced in this past spring session by the MLA for Edmonton South, Thomas Dang, this bill would repeal the Daylight Saving Time Act and would create Alberta Standard Time (AST), defined as “six hours behind Universal Co-ordinated Time” (UTC) year-round UTC-6), as it is currently written but amendments could be proposed and that is what our sub-committee is examining. The public is welcome and encouraged to come to these consultations to express their views on the matter. The Lethbridge session will be at The Coast Hotel and Conference Centre on Friday, Sept. 15 from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. This is your chance to have your views considered by the sub-committee and perhaps included into the bill’s final contents. To register, contact Aaron Roth, Committee Clerk for the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Futures at 780 415 2878 (or use the toll-free 310-0000 line) by Sept. 11.

Don’t forget – this month the Southern Alberta Ethnic Association (SAEA) is hosting their “Taste of Southern Alberta” fundraiser on Sept. 15 and “Taste of Mexico” on Sept. 29. Tickets for both can be purchased by contacting SAEA at 403-320-1577.

Constituents are welcome to contact my office by calling 403-320-1011, emailing me at lethbridge.east@assembly.ab.ca or by dropping by my office during walk-in service hours (Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.).

Maria Fitzpatrick is the NDP MLA for Lethbridge East. Her column appears monthly.


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