February 21st, 2019

We have plenty to be thankful for

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on October 12, 2018.

Happy belated Thanksgiving!

We have a lot to be thankful for in Alberta and Canada. Despite the drumbeat of negative intonations on the news of right wing extremism on the rise, our situation here in southern Alberta is one of stable growth and prosperity. Our economy in the Lethbridge area is more diversified than it is the farther north you go, and this insulated us somewhat from the 2014-16 oil price crash. Our agriculture sector has been strong all the way through and that helped keep our employment levels stable.

I’m thankful that our area farmers have worked very hard to get as much of the harvest in to the extent that they have before the last few weeks of unseasonably cold, damp and snowy weather arrived. And, we can be thankful for those three or four days of autumn we experienced! Those several hours of lovely weather really were wonderful.

Traditionally, Thanksgiving is about family and friends, breaking bread with neighbours, and gathering to celebrate the hard work that led to a bountiful harvest. I’m thankful to have been able to celebrate with my family, and I am always struck with gratitude, because in my life, there wasn’t always plenty, and there wasn’t always stability to enjoy the season. And we recognize many people suffer now, and struggle with having enough to eat and to support their families. And then there are people struggling with homelessness, the reasons for which are many, including financial collapse, addiction, mental illness and domestic violence.

I’m thankful to be a member of a government caucus that has taken steps to try and alleviate some of the problems in our society. For instance, Rachel Notley pledged during the last election campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour – a goal that was met on Oct. 1.

Many minimum-wage earners are single parents, mostly women, struggling to raise kids while earning the lowest wage allowed by law. Raising this wage and eliminating even lower server wages has improved the lot of many of those people. Our economy is seeing strong evidence of spending at the lowest levels of the earning spectrum, indicating the wage increase is benefiting those who earn it and those who see these people spending more in their stores and shops. Alberta this year set records for strongest retail sales and strongest restaurant sales, indicating more Albertans had a bit more money to spend, helping those businesses who rely on foot traffic. We recognize this has challenged business owners, and I certainly appreciate the efforts our local employers have made to adjust into this new wage spectrum.

I’m also thankful our government took action on Henson Trusts, helping the parents of people on AISH by allowing better estate planning. I’m thankful Minister Mason last week announced a return to government driving instructors and standardized testing protocols, with more to come on the trucking front. Our roads and highways are busier than ever and the traffic on them ever faster. We need to be sure new drivers are properly trained and tested, to protect them and all other travellers.

I’m especially thankful our government values and invested in education: 144 projects we’ve completed since 2015, thereby creating or modernizing another 94,000 student spaces. This year, we expect to complete 37 school projects.

That includes 15 new schools, seven replacements, 12 modernizations, and three additions over the course of the 2018-19 school year. These projects will create about 32,000 new and modernized spaces this school year, including the newly opened westside Senator Joyce Fairbairn Middle School, and in our rural area the renovated Warner School and Noble Central School, both K-12 facilities ready to boldly face the future. Still to come: the under construction new southside 43 Street elementary school, the first new public school in south Lethbridge since the Social Credit Era ended in 1971. That’s right: the entire 44-year PC dynasty passed without a single public school in south Lethbridge. I’m especially thankful we have changed that! An obvious next step is a public school in the northside Legacy-Uplands-Blackwolf area, and I continue to advocate for this project.

The Legislative Assembly fall session begins Oct. 29. All who participate in our democratic process should reflect on how we want our democracy to work: do we want to submit to the rising tide of angry voices of intolerance and division, or continue on Alberta’s traditional open and welcoming path to prosperity and growth?

Hate, demagoguery, ethnic intolerance, and nationalism have catastrophic consequences: On June 28 1914, Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated by Serbian nationalists. The Great War had begun, soon engulfing Europe’s great powers. At the beginning of March 1915, the leaders of the “Young Turks,” had already set in motion their plan to commit genocide against the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian subjects. By the time of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, 17 million people had died, including 59,544 enlisted Canadian Expeditionary Forces and 1,305 from the Dominion of Newfoundland. Continuing racial & ethnic tensions from the First World War led 21 years later to the outbreak of the Second World War.

Remembrance Day is fast approaching, and this year the Royal Canadian Legion is marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War with a Bells of Peace ceremony. Go to legion.ca to find out about the event. I am thankful for our soldiers and veterans, their service, past and present. Lest We Forget.

Lethbridge-East Constituency Office is open Monday-Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Call 403-320-1011 for appointments at all other times. Note: Education Minister David Eggen invites you to register to participate in the Southern Alberta Telephone Town Hall on the K-4 curriculum release at 7 p.m. on Oct. 17th. You can register at Education.alberta.ca.

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