By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on February 28, 2020.
Communities are suffering effects of funding reductions
And just like that, we’re back in the Legislature! After a great couple of months hearing the stories, concerns and resilience of Lethbridge-West residents, I’m eager to share those same stories with the government in Edmonton, which has been actively making life more difficult for residents in our community.
As a community we’ve been hit hard by this government’s ruthless program of budget reductions, with positions lost in post-secondary education, health care and education and the quality of our services being threatened – all to pay for a $4.7-billion tax giveaway to profitable corporations.
I will continue to stand up for our community in Edmonton, and fight to make sure the concerns of our citizens are represented in the legislature.
We’ve just seen this government’s second budget, and it seems to be more of the same. The government says that Alberta needs to get its fiscal house in order, and that we need to reduce our provincial debt and deficit by laying people off, ordinary people paying more personal taxes, and compromising the quality of our health care. However, they’re accruing debt at higher levels than the previous government, and their deficits are enormous, due in no small part to the economic pain their decisions are causing everyday Albertans.
While the government’s claims about the province’s balance sheet continue to be suspect, the impacts on Lethbridge are very real. I’ve heard every day these past few months about how life is getting more difficult and expensive for everyday residents of Lethbridge.
One concern I’ve heard most often are about changes being made to the way that our medical doctors are funded. I’ve heard from physicians who are concerned about the quality of care they can provide to their patients, especially older and more complex patients who need more sophisticated levels of care, and who are beginning to grow worried about how these reductions will impact the other employees in their offices. And I’ve heard from southern Albertans who are increasingly concerned that the UCP government is coming between them and their doctors, and that if we don’t change course those doctors, despite their passion for their patients, may leave for another province.
Recently, I’ve also heard concerns from property owners – both in the city and those who live in surrounding small towns and rural communities – about how cuts to funding for municipalities may affect their property tax bills in the coming years. With hundreds of dollars per resident being taken from municipalities over the next four years, and with fewer and fewer revenue sources for cities and counties to pull from, there is growing anxiety that our property taxes will rise, and that the maintenance of our roads and bridges will suffer. This will inevitably hamper our economy with fewer projects to create jobs, and will increase the cost of living for Albertans.
Reductions to our post-secondary and health systems will mean fewer jobs at our incredible institutions and our hospital, and higher costs for students and longer waits for seniors. Further reductions to infrastructure not only means that the schools that our kids need won’t be built, but that the jobs that would have come with those builds aren’t there either. The UCP led by Jason Kenney continue to place a higher priority on subsidizing profitable corporations than on creating jobs for working Albertans or providing the services that we rely on to make our community one of the best places to live in this country.
Even with the dark clouds hanging over our province and our community, I am nonetheless reminded that spring will be here very soon, and with it the renewal and warmth that comes with it. One of the most important dates in the month of March for me is March 8, International Women’s Day, when we pause to take stock of how far we have come in the fight for gender equity, and just how much work we still have to do. It also reminds me of the many remarkable women in our community that are doing incredible work to make our city and region such a remarkable place to live. A few of those women will be honoured this coming week at the YWCA’s Women of Distinction Awards ceremony, and I’d like to thank Cathy Kitagawa, Heather Tytula and Janice Varzari for their contributions to our community, and congratulate them for receiving this award.
You can contact our office at 403-329-4644 or by emailing Lethbridge.West@assembly.ab.ca.
Shannon Phillips is the NDP MLA for Lethbridge West. Her column appears monthly.