By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on February 8, 2019.
This month’s ‘At The Legislature’ column by MLA Maria Fitzpatrick
Thinking back to 2015, just after our election, we were thrust straight into the fire! There was a hot local issue facing Fifth On Fifth Youth Services, and other similar groups around Alberta. The former Conservative government had cancelled their FCSS funding allocation, generating a lot of concern in Lethbridge, because without it, these groups were not certain to survive.
After my election, I immediately began advocating with the new minister, caucus colleagues and in the Legislature to address the issue. It was quickly addressed and these groups have since been able to continue their vital work in our communities.
Since then I have utilized my speaking time in the Assembly Chamber and my voice within our government caucus to fight for the things that matter here in Lethbridge. On the local economy, I spoke up for jobs, pushing hard in support of the Cavendish project, economic diversification, and wind and solar energy projects to bring new development, economic activity and jobs to our area.
This week, my Lethbridge-West colleague, Minister Shannon Phillips, and I attended the unveiling of the electric vehicle-charging initiative “Peaks to Prairies.” When completed, the Peaks to Prairies network will cover over 1,700 kilometres of southern Alberta highways and transition the region to full electric vehicle connectivity. These charging stations will be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy from southern Alberta and will generate further jobs and economic prosperity across Southern Alberta. This EV announcement follows the five major wind generation projects brought forward by private investors late last year through our government’s Renewal Electricity Program. I’ve mentioned before that Lethbridge is ideally situated for this emerging economy, and these groups bringing investment (more than $1 billion) to various projects in our region are visibly bearing this diversification out.
We cannot afford to put our region’s economic future and burgeoning prosperity and jobs in southern Alberta at risk. Mr. Kenney’s inclination to oppose advancement on climate objectives would put this new economy in jeopardy, harming economic growth in our area. All that emerging renewable sector money Mr. Ford is chasing out of Ontario? We want that private investment here in Lethbridge. We want those jobs here in Lethbridge. We want that collaboration with Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge, to grow our local expertise and a labour force connected to a vibrant future economy, complete with ag-sciences, technology and trades. We want those jobs to develop and stay here in our city so that our students can stay and grow their lives instead of leaving to be in some other place in another province. Again, Lethbridge is stunningly well situated to be a leader in the emerging economy and we need to protect that.
Families here in Lethbridge are often made up of energy, construction, agriculture and related industry workers whose partners are often teachers and nurses. Over the past four years Alberta has been challenged by the low world price of oil and our struggle to gain tidewater access. This directly impacted many of our citizens here in Lethbridge. When tough times strike, Albertans come together for one another, and have each other’s back – just like Rachel Notley and our government did by protecting health care and education, fighting to build Trans Mountain, and working to diversify our economy to create new jobs. I stand with her and our caucus to protect those jobs in health care and education. A big cut to health or education would have harmed our vulnerable local economy and hurt families in Lethbridge. Even today, if such a thing were allowed to occur those cuts would deeply harm us, and opponents have said themselves these cuts would hurt.
Our government, with private sector and local government partners, has pushed forward on multiple major infrastructure projects like U of L Destination Project, supporting the absolutely amazing TE building at Lethbridge College, the remarkable Senator Joyce Fairbairn School, the fast-coming District 51 school in southeast Lethbridge (complete with photovoltaic solar panels), renovations at Wilson Middle School, completing and fully funding staffing for the Chinook Regional Hospital expansion, and the rehabilitated eastbound Highway 3 bridge, just to name a few. As an MLA in our government, I pushed hard on these local infrastructure builds to keep our citizens employed during the energy sector downturn. Every job – every paycheque – matters.
The past three years and eight months have been tremendously busy. There have been lots of challenges. Many heart-rending stories from constituents seeking an advocate have come through my office, and it has been my absolute privilege to seek help on their behalf. Many conversations and remarkable ideas have also come my way on how to continue to advance the city and province, and it has been gratifying to share those ideas with my colleagues, sending them forward to become policy and legislation. I love Lethbridge and promise to continue to passionately push, promote, advocate and keep fighting for you with a strong voice in Edmonton, dedicated to our inclusive community values.
My office is open for walk-in visits Monday through Thursday mornings. You can also reach us by telephone at 403-320-1011 or by email at email@example.com. If we aren’t in and you happen by, drop a note in the mail slot to let us know we missed you.
Maria Fitzpatrick is the NDP MLA for Lethbridge East. Her column appears monthly.