May 26th, 2020

Gov’t efforts having negative effect

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on May 22, 2020.

UCP decisions have increased pandemic pain for Albertans

Ordinarily, I would start May’s column in our local paper with some reflection on how glad I am to be able to wander the coulees in nice spring weather, or how wonderful the lilacs and fresh-cut grass in my neighbourhood smell on a sunny weekend morning. >

Unfortunately, this May (and this spring) has not been ordinary. They have been extraordinary in a number of ways. >The pandemic, and our time spent physically distanced from friends and family, have been extraordinarily difficult. The spirit of kindness, togetherness and civic pride, however, have also been extraordinary. So has the work of our essential workers – our medical professionals, food and commercial workers, and other vital public servants. >

I want to focus on one particular way that this spring has been particularly tough for our community, and the concerns that I have heard from many. >

First, there is the question of jobs. As many new graduates from our high schools, college and university enter the workforce, our community has been stripped of jobs and opportunities for these eager young people, as well as opportunities for many of us that aren’t so young anymore. Some of this can be chalked up to the pandemic. But the fact is that the employment situation had been deteriorating in our province for several months before COVID-19 entered our lives, and >Lethbridge was no exception. In the months preceding COVID, our local unemployment rate had been sneaking up slowly and steadily. >

Why? A large part of the reason is Jason Kenney’s budget decisions affecting our key employers. With nine of our top 10 employers being public-sector organizations, the UCP budget cuts have a tremendous effect on jobs in Lethbridge. The cuts have meant the elimination of positions at school boards, the U of L and Lethbridge College. Some folks have been laid off, while other positions have been left unfilled – meaning fewer opportunities for our community. >

In the context of a stumbling provincial economy, challenging global economic headwinds, and no UCP plan to diversify the Alberta economy, this was not good news for jobs.

In the context of COVID, it’s been even worse for Lethbridge. >

For the past three months, I have watched the UCP in amazement as they continue to destabilize our public health-care system during a global pandemic. It can’t be denied that Jason Kenney’s war with doctors, coupled with his government’s refusal to provide needed supports to frontline workers in continuing-care facilities, has a negative health effect, but also negative economic effects. >Managing the health-care system is linked to a good economic plan. We cannot safely reopen – with access to the right testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment and so on – if we do not see the strength of our health care as part and parcel of our jobs plan. Our economy is strong if our health-care system is strong.

I am also concerned about seniors’ issues. The UCP have de-indexed seniors’ benefits. They’ve de-indexed disposable income amounts for seniors in assisted living and lodges. They’ve dropped 45,000 people off the seniors’ drug plan. They’ve taken months to implement a basic safety measure during the pandemic by ensuring health-care aides only work in one seniors’ facility at a time. And now, they have at least one MLA in their caucus putting forward the argument that the economy should be swiftly opened back up because the virus is only serious for folks over 65, and our concern for older people “shouldn’t get in the way of the economy.” There is a lot that has set off alarm bells for me with respect to how seniors have been treated by UCP policies over the past year, and a lot I don’t agree with given that almost one in five people in Lethbridge is over 65. >

So, to be sure, this is a tough time for our city, and for our province. We are struggling with concurrent public health and economic crises that threaten both our lives and our livelihoods. >

Still, I know this community. I know its resilience. We’ll get through this together and by looking out for our neighbours whenever possible. Then, maybe next May we can focus a bit more on the flowers and sunshine. >

If you or anyone you know needs the services of my constituency office, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We can be reached at 403-329-4644 or >

Shannon Phillips is the NDP MLA for Lethbridge West. Her column appears monthly.

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10 Responses to “Gov’t efforts having negative effect”

  1. Citi Zen says:

    The NDP lost the election, remember? Quit complaining. The people have spoken.

  2. HaroldP says:

    Shannon Phillips delivers the worst reporting ever seen before. Her report says it all, in one sentence, and I quote, “For the past three months, I have watched the UCP in amazement as they continue to destabilize our public.” The key word in the sentence being “watched”….. yes, watched and obviously no action or response, be it positive or negative, just “watched”…. for a former “cabinet member” this tired sort of reporting brings no news, good bad or otherwise to the table. Shannon Phillips who barely retained her seat in the legislature by topping her UCP challenger by a mere 200 votes, should have, by now, realized her rank in our Lethbridge West Constituency. A suggestion to Shannon Phillips who is addressing a public who are struggling with self isolation, lack of or no work, limited freedom to be out in the public, limited access to goods and services and yes fear of the pandemic, why not take the suggestions from “Thumper”? ” If you cannot say anything nice, then do not say anything at all.” As we move along, Shannon Phillips, hopefully you will do more than just “watch”.

  3. Southern Albertan says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Shannon Phillip’s column here. We need not suffer any illusions now, that many Albertans, are coming to realize the Kenney UCP inept foibles. Many, including seniors, who did vote for the UCP are now saying that they are sorry they voted for them, and that they “did not realize that things would get this bad.” And this was before the COVID pandemic.
    When pocket books get hit, and because money talks, many Alberta folks who are being financially negatively affected by the unwise Kenney austerity program, may have a long memory when it comes to voting in 2023.
    Just for our household alone, a couple of things: our property insurance went up by over $300-a reminder of the Kenney UCP removing the cap on insurance and we have been told by our municiaplity reeve that our property taxes will rise as well because of Kenney UCP cuts to municipalities. This all boils down to money that we would have spent otherwise in our local community which is what makes economies spin. So who benefits? The corporate handout by the Kenney UCP to the tune of $4.7 billion? The ongoing $30 million/year war room? The decrease in corporate tax rates to 8% for those who could well afford to pay a bit more tax? The unwise $billion investment in Keystone XL which by possible appearances will get nixed in the USA? The highest paid Premier and MLAs in the country? So who pays? Alberta’s vulnerable? Health care, education, seniors and disability benefits……? The money for all these unwise financial decisions has to come from somewhere. By all appearances, social welfare for the wealthy, while the middle class and the poor, pay.

  4. Resolute says:

    This senior is so relieved the NDP no longer has the power to destroy Alberta.I cannot picture the rubble we’d be picking thru – in our bare feet as they would have taxed our shoes away by now. What a 22-faced rollerball queen.

  5. biff says:

    there is nothing in the letter that is inaccurate. if there is, please discuss the specifics. and yet, there are the usual blinders-on cons-can-do-bad trumpeters whining about how bad the ndp are/were. i distrust and dislike all parties (save for social gatherings kind where we are enjoying company). however, seeing as it is the ucp in power, and it is the ucp making unilateral decisions unchecked with the backing of a majority govt of puppets called mlas, how is the ndp and not the ucp that is to be held to account for what the mla has noted in the letter?
    for example, one poster here has noted that ndp has just “watched” (what is she to do, gather the masses so as to overthrow the ucp for their stupidity? what can anyone do when a party has a majority?); another notes that because the ndp lost the election they should be silenced (is that how democracy and free speech are envisioned in the ucp world?); and yet another sees the ndp as the “destroyer” of the province (so providential), while overlooking that the demise of alberta is due mostly to the klein era of massive de-klein. we are a province that consistently failed to grow up economically such that we are not even a one-horse town anymore.
    rather, we are a busted, horseless wagon adrift on a dusty road, having watched our property values go from stagnant to depreciation; we cannot get rid of our toxic load, and we have a “leader” that has no answers for our long pressing issues…other than to separate the masses from the public trough, so as to instead feed the usual cast of thieves. broke and browbeat, all hail kenney.

  6. Seth Anthony says:

    The blind and destructive partisan politics continue. Both the ndp and the ucp have done plenty wrong. Due to the nature of our political system, that’s a given no matter what party is in power.

    Abolish the federal government and introduce direct democracy at the provincial level. Anything less is a glorified dictatorship and borderline slavery.

    • Steve Bottrell says:

      I’d go the other way. Abolish provincial governments. And introduce the scientific method as the means of government, thereby eliminating the federal government in time as well…

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