By Lethbridge Herald Opinion on April 23, 2021.
This month, I was hoping that I could be writing this column amid a string of positive news for our community and province, with the pandemic subsiding and life beginning to return to normal.
Unfortunately, we find ourselves in the midst of a worsening third wave of the virus. All of this underscores that while we might be done with the pandemic and all that it has brought with it, it is not yet done with us.
We must remain diligent in washing our hands, wearing our masks, and when possible, getting our vaccines. Only when we all work together and take care of the most vulnerable members of our community will we be able to put this behind us.Â
Still, despite this third wave, I am still feeling a bit more optimistic than in months past.
Folks are being vaccinated and we can see the end of the pandemic. Perhaps the warmer weather and the sight of crocuses blooming and grass greening is putting me in mind of the coming spring. Regardless of the cause for my optimism, I know that things will improve for our neighbours and families, and I look forward to the day that we can come together.
As the Spring sitting of the Legislature moves along I, along with my colleagues in the Alberta NDP caucus continue to do important work to make life better and more secure in our province.
We take our job as the official opposition seriously, and we know that it’s vital we propose solutions to the problems we are hearing from constituents like you.Â
One of the concerns I’ve heard most loudly from constituents and from Albertans across the province is the cavalier games that Jason Kenney and the UCP are playing with the Canada Pension Plan and other retirement plans that people rely on for security in retirement. For many of us, the CPP is one of the few sure things that we have as we age. This program, and other pension plans, are a long-term promise between generations of Canadians that if you work your whole life you deserve support in your retirement. To ensure the viability of these plans,
I proposed Bill 208, which would have required a referendum if the Government of Alberta wished to pull out of CPP, and would have safeguarded pensions for teachers, nurses, and other public servants by barring political interference in investment decisions and assuring seats to workers on the board of the Alberta Investment Management Corporation, which invests pension funds on behalf of Albertans.Â
I was proud to stand up for members of our community concerned about their retirement, and it’s important work that I will continue – despite the UCP voting to kill this bill.Â
Another vital concern – one that Southern Albertans have led the charge on – is the defense of our Eastern Slopes from the threat of strip mining for coal. To protect our mountains and water from destruction and pollutants our Leader Rachel Notley introduced Bill 214, which would halt coal exploration in the Eastern Slopes and cancel leases in ecologically sensitive areas.
More than anything, Rachel’s bill would have effectively reinstated the Coal Policy that was in place since the Lougheed era, but which Jason Kenney and his government sought to undermine with recent policy decisions.Â Â
Finally, our caucus has seen how this government and this pandemic has impacted seniors. In addition to recent changes to prescription plans and other programs, the COVID crisis has hit older Albertans the hardest, from medical risks to loneliness and isolation brought on by months spent separated from their families.
Despite these immense challenges for seniors, we saw no action from the UCP loyalist appointed to advocate on behalf of seniors. To remedy this my colleague Lori Sigurdson, who is our caucus’s critic on seniors’ issues, has proposed Bill 215, which seeks to create a new, independent Seniors Advocate who will help seniors navigate provincial services and access the help they need and deserve.
These proposed bills address real issues that are concerning Albertans, and the residents of Lethbridge.
These are the things I hear about every day when I speak to residents by phone or Zoom or via social media platforms like Facebook. They are the types of things that keep people up at night, and solutions like ours promise to make life better and more secure for all of us.
Unfortunately, the UCP government votes time after time to dismiss these reasonable ideas that would secure the future of our province, opting instead for ideological attacks and infighting among their caucus. Given this inability to act on what Albertans care about, perhaps it isn’t surprising that recent polls are showing more and more Albertans are looking for a new and better government – one that cares about them and their priorities.Â
As always, please reach out to my office if you need our assistance. You can reach us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 403-329-4644.