By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on March 27, 2020.
Lethbridge residents rising to the challenge
Needless to say, I was not expecting to be writing this column in the midst of a public health crisis. But, here we are. As challenging as these times are for our community – for our kids and our seniors and those least fortunate among us especially – I am immensely proud of the way the residents of Lethbridge are rising to meet one of the great challenges of our time.
Having arrived home from Edmonton late last week, I was impressed by the scale of action already being taken by our fellow residents. Every day I am hearing new stories of residents working together to help solve problems for young families by dropping off small care packages, or by lending a hand to ensure seniors don’t have to leave their homes. Even those of us making sacrifices to simply stay inside and remain socially distant are helping immensely to give our public health-care system the time and space to work and save lives. All of this subtle bravery and these small acts of kindness make me proud to call this city home.
I’m also reflecting on the sacrifices of those working in our public health-care system. The nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists, and lab technicians of our public system are no doubt in the early stage of one of the most trying moments of their careers. They are meeting the moment with the steadfast spirit of selfless service their professions and our province asks of them. We should all be proud and thankful for their service, and for their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way to serve us and our loved ones.
This experience underscores the importance of our public health system in Canada. That promise we made to each other 50 years ago – that we all deserve to be taken care of when we get sick – is more important than ever. It will serve us well as we navigate this crisis, and we should remember how vital public health care is once the worst has past. We see other systems in crisis and flailing in the face of these challenges, but our system is showing its remarkable resilience and we need to make sure it remains intact for generations to come.
Of course, this pandemic has also demonstrated how vital other workers in our communities are. Some don’t always think about these workers as important, but they are making incredible contributions to our community just by showing up to work and doing what they always do. From sanitation staff to grocery store workers and service workers of all varieties, we are all thankful that you are continuing to keep our communities running as smoothly as possible, and ensuring that we can access necessities with as little disruption as possible.
As remarkable as it has been to see so many southern Albertans rise to the challenge in ways large and small, I know that there are remarkable challenges ahead for many of us. This is an incredibly difficult time for any of us who struggle with mental health concerns, and the results of isolation and distancing will be difficult to overcome for many of us. I have also heard a great deal of nervousness about jobs, including the ability to pay rent or utilities when one or more members of a household loses work as a result of coronavirus concerns. This is part of the reason why I, along with my opposition colleagues, have been calling for Premier Kenney and his government to help ease those concerns by taking direct action to help working people impacted by this crisis.
I’ve communicated directly with the Minister of Finance to propose a series of programs that would work quickly to help assuage anxieties around the economy, and that would make it easier for people to socially distance and flatten the curve. I’ve told him that a universal basic income, at least for the next several months, would help to make sure that our economy keeps going through this, and that families can keep groceries in the fridge. And I have reiterated that there needs to be a freeze on residential evictions. Just like everyone deserves to be taken care of when they are sick, no one should find themselves without a home during this crisis.
These are all things within the control of the Kenney government. I hope very much that they take our earnest suggestions, and help to get Albertans through this incredibly challenging time.
If you need any help accessing provincial supports, please contact our office. Though our physical office is closed, you can still get hold of our staff by calling 403-329-4644 or by emailing Lethbridge.West@assembly.ab.ca.
Shannon Phillips is the NDP MLA for Lethbridge West. Her column appears monthly.