By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on August 28, 2020.
After a very hot August, I am begrudgingly beginning to accept the signs that fall is on its way. Whether it’s the earlier sunsets, the slight chill in the air in the mornings, or the yellow shocks beginning to accent the tops of the generations-old trees in my neighbourhood, I am reminded that summer is in fact beginning to draw to a close. >
Fall is normally such an exciting time in our city – kids getting back to school and into their activities for the year, students returning to our city and bringing their indelible energy, and the general sense of rejuvenation that comes with getting back to work after vacation. This fall, however, is a bit different. Rather than that air of excitement we’ve come to know, there’s anxiety and uncertainty surrounding all of these things as parents worry about their kids’ return to schools, students attend classes remotely, and so many of our neighbours continue to struggle in one of the toughest job markets our province has seen.
My office has heard from so many parents concerned about their kids returning to classrooms – and from so many moms and dads who feel like they’re in a real bind. They want their kids to get back to normal as much as possible (for their kids’ sake, but also so they can return to something approaching normalcy in their own work), but they’re worried that the provincial government hasn’t provided the resources to make sure that this can be done safely. After all, the Kenney government has committed exactly zero new dollars to help school boards adjust to the new reality, and are still plowing ahead with their cuts to education despite the new challenges being faced by teachers and administrators. >
The fact that this government is refusing to fund a safe reopening while giving away billions of dollars to large and already-profitable corporations is nothing short of immoral. While every day parents struggle with how they’re going to grapple with child-care demands normally filled by grandparents who might now be at higher risk for COVID, it’s clear that Premier Kenney and his government care more about the bottom lines of companies than the legitimate problems they have created for families.
This is beyond frustrating. As a parent and as an MLA I’m fed up with a government that seems to think giving billions to corporations is more important than our kids’ safety and the safety of our seniors. Here’s the thing, though: as the government demonstrates every day how little they care about the things that keep us up at night, parents are finding their voice and learning how many allies they have. Whether it’s the string of protests that happened all over the province over the last month, or the realization by so many that the economy doesn’t work without safe schools and proper child care, it’s clear that Albertans are banding together. As with so many challenges, finding our collective power is what will overcome these challenges, and make sure that we have a government that actually thinks about the needs of working parents. There remains so much work to be done in this regard, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t note all of the incredible work that’s already taken place.
Of course, this is just one of the things that’s leading to sleepless nights in our province. Set against all of these concerns related to the pandemic are those of an economy that was already struggling before COVID came into our lives. Even before this, the Kenney economic plan of slashing public services, raising personal income taxes, and putting billions in the pockets of profitable corporations was causing the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in our province. Because of these failed plans, along with his government’s decision to add thousands more to the unemployment rolls through layoffs in the school system, Alberta has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, and Calgary – long one of Canada’s beacons of economic opportunity – has the highest unemployment rate of any major city in the country. >
Though times certainly are tough for so many, I know that this community is even tougher, and that we will lean on each other – despite not having a government that has our back. Though the government will continue to prioritize corporate profits over meeting the needs of people, we will continue to do our best to make our community the best place it possibly can be. While failed economic policies will continue to challenge young people and jobseekers, our teachers will do their best to provide safe and caring classrooms, our post-secondary instructors and staff will prepare us for new opportunities, and the hard work and compassion that this city is known for will support our families and neighbours. As we have in the past, we will get through this challenging time together. >
As always, if you need the support of my office, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 403-329-4644.
Shannon Phillips is the NDP MLA for Lethbridge West. Her column appears monthly.