By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on September 25, 2020.
As much as it pains me to report, I must admit that summer has drawn to a close. The signs I wrote about last month in this column have become ever-more apparent: the shocks of yellow and orange in our trees have become full blooms of colour lining our streets, and leaves have begun to collect on our lawns and in our parks. The mornings have gotten chillier, and the evenings are arriving even earlier. For our neighbours outside the city harvest is in full swing, despite some challenges with a bit of extra moisture. This year in particular I am reminded of the work of our producers and how vital that work is not just to our economy, but to making sure our shelves are stocked and our pantries are full. >
Yes, fall is here. And with it, we are seeing more of Jason Kenney’s plans for this province, and how he intends to deal with the fiscal and economic crisis he and his government have helped to create. >
Eighteen months ago, Albertans elected Mr. Kenney with the understanding that he would deliver on jobs and the economy. His focus on those goals has, of late, been lacking – prioritizing huge giveaways to profitable corporations, stoking a war with our doctors during a pandemic, and pulling money from our schools while our kids go back to school amid that same pandemic. It seems like Jason Kenney wants to do just about anything to distract us from his record on the economy. And now, it seems, he’s got a new plan.
I wish I could say that plan was guided by thoughtful compassion and a clear-minded approach to the generational questions facing Alberta. Unfortunately, the reality is just the opposite: Jason Kenney has decided that he should try to save money on the backs of our most vulnerable neighbours, all while expediting his multi-billion-dollar gift to already-profitable corporations. Yes, rather than asking corporations to pay their fair share instead of stashing a massive tax cut offshore, the premier is actively floating reductions to the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), which provides modest living stipends to members of our community who are unable to work because of illness or injury. >
At this point, I feel I need to do what Jason Kenney and his ministers have not had the decency to do: reassure people who I know for a fact are indescribably anxious and stressed by talk of changes to AISH. To all of you who are worried about how you will make rent, or how you will buy groceries or other necessities without AISH, let me assure you that at least for the next little while those payments will continue. >
Though this is true, it is a remarkable indictment of our premier’s morality and capacity for compassion that he is actively considering reductions to this program, especially as he insists on giving billions of dollars to profitable corporations. What’s even more troubling is that this is an effort to distract Albertans from the very real, very big problems that we are facing. While our province struggles with double-digit unemployment, a lack of economic diversity, and investment fleeing the province, Mr. Kenney continues to blame everyone but himself for our province’s generational problems. >
While he boxes with ghosts in Ottawa, or foists his budget problems on the backs of disabled Albertans here at home, Kenney doesn’t seem up to the job of fixing our problems because he refuses to take any responsibility for them. But the reality is that when you’re premier the buck stops with you – regardless of how much you try to shift the blame. Now, more than ever, we need a government who fights for the working families of this province – not one that does everything in its power to shift blame and distract from its own broken promises. >
Though the dark clouds seem to continue gathering on our province’s horizon, the residents of this community, the spirit of this province, and the ethic of this country continue to be a wellspring of hope in these challenging times. There might not be a better example of this than Terry Fox – whose Marathon of Hope celebrates its 40th anniversary this year – and the ways in which communities and youngsters are carrying on his legacy in new and innovative ways while protecting themselves and their classmates from COVID-19. When I read these stories, and ones like Winston Churchill teacher Kevin McBeath’s 26-mile run in support of the Terry Fox initiative, I am absolutely blown away by the people of this city. Any place like this, where young and old work together to make life better, is worth fighting for, and I am reminded every day of the privilege I have been given to fight alongside all of you. >
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.