By Lethbridge Herald on September 23, 2023.
AT THE LEGISLATURE
Shannon Phillips – NDP MLA for Lethbridge West
Every September feels like a new start, doesn’t it? While it has been a few years since I was getting excited about picking courses for the term, I still feel like September brings a renewed energy and focus to us all.
It is as if we have moved on from the issues of the summer and opened to a fresh page. If only the Alberta government felt renewed and focused. Instead, the government of Danielle Smith has left us with a lot of troubles from their summer decisions.
To start with, we are a month into the seven-month long ban on renewables announced by the UCP in August and already the consequences of that ideological decision have been exposed. International headlines have declared that Alberta is not a reliable jurisdiction. As if damaging Alberta’s international reputation as a place to invest wasn’t enough for the UCP government, it was revealed this month that over 100 projects worth over $33 billion in investments are at risk.
The projects would have meant tens of thousands of jobs in an industry we were leading in Canada. Now, submissions to the Alberta Utilities Commission about the damage from the moratorium read like a horror novel with businesses declaring things like: “The moratorium will result in severe uncertainty among investors, jeopardizing billions of dollars of investment in Alberta.”
In just weeks the UCP have managed to tank investor confidence, chase billions of dollars in investment away, and leave Albertans wondering what this government has against energy development. Alberta’s NDP Caucus have been strong supporters of Alberta’s energy industry and we believe Alberta can be a leader in all forms of energy development. The UCP government need to listen to Albertans, businesses, and investors by immediately removing the renewable energy moratorium. Furthermore, the UCP needs to help get our province get back to being the leader in renewable energy development in Canada that we were just a few months ago.
As if destroying our renewable energy industry was not enough of a bad summer, the UCP government had a few more ideas up their sleeve when they suddenly cancelled the contract for lab services across the province. In less than a year, the UCP had switched lab service providers twice and the changes have left people who need those lab services mystified and worried about their ability to access necessary health care.
We have asked repeatedly what this has cost Albertans but the Minister responsible for the decision has been unable to answer. Did the UCP government even know what this would cost Albertans? We have no idea. I will certainly be asking about it again when we return to the Legislature this Fall but I do not hold out much hope that the Minister will have found out by then.
The lab service contract cancellation was just one more crisis for the health care system to navigate this summer.
Despite promises by the Premier to solve the lack of access to family doctors, routine health care remains hard to find for many of my constituents. My office often fields calls from constituents who do not want to access an Emergency Department for their routine health care needs but with no doctors accepting patients in the city, they feel frustrated and desperate. Albertans were told by Alberta Medical Association president Dr. Fred Rinaldi that the doctor shortage is having potentially deadly consequences because people are delaying screening like mammograms and pap smears.
The shortage of family doctors has to be a top priority for the government this Fall. We cannot have Emergency Departments (ED) close in rural hospitals because there is no doctor available.
We cannot have people attend EDs with concerns they know could be handled by a family physician, if only they could find one. And we cannot have people delay key screenings because they lack a doctor.
I want to make sure you know there are some services available to you, even without having a family doctor.
If you are over 50 you do not need a referral from a physician to access a mammogram every two years.
Additionally, everyone 50-74 is eligible to order a FIT kit to screen for colorectal cancer. More information about these tests, and how to access them, is available at ScreeningForLife.ca. I hope you visit that site or ask a trusted friend or relative to help you so you will know how to access screening programs, even if you have not been able to find a family doctor.
While the summer of political news has been bleak in Alberta, I hope that you have found some moments of peace and that you are looking forward to the fall.
I will be returning to the Legislature when it opens again at the end of October and I will bring your concerns to the government’s attention so feel free to let me know how you have been affected by any of these provincial decisions. As always, my email is Lethbridge.West@assembly.ab.ca and my phone number is 403-329-4644.