By Herald on January 11, 2021.
Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf says there is no sugarcoating it; 2020 has been a terrible year for Lethbridge residents and for all Albertans. But, he says, there is still reason for some optimism in 2021.
“The year 2020 can’t be described as anything but challenging,” Neudorf says. “As you look back over the entire year, where we were in January and February with all kinds of hopeful promise for the year. We actually had some of the energy industry on track to add $2 billion of additional investment into that sector — there was a lot of hope in the air. And then we had this Saudi-Russian war over the price of oil, and that kicked off a triple black swan event (COVID, oil price drop and global recession). So it really changed the trajectory of Alberta very rapidly.”
“That is obviously the negative,” he states, “but if we do focus on some of the positive things, particularly for Lethbridge and area, I am really proud of where we (the UCP) have been able to bring a lot of things. The first major infrastructure stimulus project announced by the premier was Exhibition Park by almost $28 million, and then followed up the next day with $150 million for Hwy. 3 twinning– so two really important projects for our agricultural community down here. And just a lot of other things — a ton of investment– $10 million for maintenance and $815 million for infrastructure for the irrigation districts; a lot of that south of Calgary. Those are some really good things I am proud of.”
Neudorf admits most of these initiatives will not help local small business owners who are struggling today with COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
“Small businesses have been absolutely hammered by this (pandemic),” he acknowledges “The best thing for them is to get everyone else on their feet and spending money again. And I think there is hope we can see that sooner rather than later.”
Neudorf says he would personally advocate for his cabinet colleagues and the premier to consider a sector by sector stimulus plan to target those service and retail sectors, such as fitness studios, personal services and the hospitality industry, which have had to bear a larger burden than most in dealing with the fallout of COVID-19, but he also acknowledges the harsh fiscal reality the Government of Alberta is facing at the moment.
“To have the largest deficit in Alberta’s history at $24 billion plus; it really limits what you are able to do,” he admits. “So it has been really tough on those small businesses. The best we can hope for with vaccines coming out now is for an economic turn around when that stimulus spending really starts to create real jobs and real projects.”
Neudorf says while the government does what it can, he also wants to encourage community members to set a kinder tone with each other and help out their fellow Lethbridge residents who may be struggling in any way they are able.
“I would ask everybody that is able to reach out to help somebody who is a little less fortunate than they are,” he says. “There are lots of people whether they are seniors or just shut in for who this can be a very lonely time of year. So whatever you can do to reach out to them.”
Neudorf says there are reasons for optimism even in this very difficult Christmas season for those struggling in the community.
“For those who are down and out it is really tough right now, but there is hope,” he says.
“I just think of all those projects we have got on the books. Yes, the announcement came in 2020, but we are going to see those shovels hit the ground in 2021. We have additional supportive housing. We have additional mental health and addictions funding. The Exhibition will start in April. We have got Hwy. 3.
“That work, development and jobs will start this summer. We have got the funding for the airport terminal, the runway, the lighting. Those jobs will all start hopefully in the new year. There are a lot of things to look forward to, but it is tough to hold on a little longer; and we have got to get through Christmas and New Years.
“The hope is really there,” Neudorf adds. “It is not just false hope. The most vulnerable will start getting vaccinated, and money will start hitting the economy and making a difference. I know it is tough, and it is hard, but if they can hold on a little longer we’re going to see some of those benefits come around (in 2021).”
One thing is for sure, says Neudorf, is he will be working hard for Lethbridge residents in Edmonton to try to make sure local voices are heard and its citizen’s needs are met. In fact, Neudorf was recently voted by his legislative colleagues as the “hardest working MLA.”
“I feel very blessed to have been recognized by my colleagues in that,” he states, “and for the people in Lethbridge and area to know it is on their behalf that is what I am known for. For the people to know that the person they elected, whether they like me or not, or voted for me or not, to know I am up there trying to make a difference.”
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