June 25th, 2024

Premier tasks Neudorf with focus on inflation and affordability

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on November 17, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Minister of Infrastructure Nathan Neudorf is ready to take action on directives given to him by premier Danielle Smith.

Smith issued those directives in a letter that became public on Wednesday.

In her letter, the premier tells Neudorf “our cabinet faces an extraordinary task: to deliver on a clear and bold mandate in a limited period of time. Albertans are counting on us, and they rightfully expect their government to address the challenges they are facing with our full attention and action.

She asks the minister and MLA for Lethbridge East to keep inflation and the affordability crisis at the top of his mind.

“Affordability is the primary challenge facing Albertans today, and as a government we will ensure that Alberta families are able to manage through this storm by taking decisive action in the coming weeks and months,” wrote Smith.

She also said her cabinet must have “a laser focus on job creation and strengthening Alberta’s economy. No matter what the industry, we must continue the good work of diversifying our economy through job creation to ensure all Albertans and their families can prosper.”

Smith also addressed healthcare in the province and the challenges facing the system. Those challenges, she wrote, mean residents aren’t getting the care they need when and where they need it.

The premier said the government will ensure all areas of Alberta will get prompt, efficient ambulance service and “our government will also act quickly to bring substantive improvements to emergency room services and clear surgical backlogs.”

The premier also wrote that she expects her cabinet to remain united and determined, “in the face of a federal government that no longer treats its partners in Confederation as equals.

“We must proactively protect Albertans from continued federal government overreach, including hostile economic policies that landlock our provincial resources, that chase billions in investment and thousands of jobs from our province, and that are detrimental to the short-term and long-term prosperity of Albertans.”

In an interview with The Herald on Tuesday, Neudorf said the premier’s letter is “a mandate for what the premier would like me to achieve in the time that I hold this office. There’s some challenges with the construction industry that we need to address, some of it being obviously related to affordability and the inflationary cycle that we are in,” said Neudorf.

How do we handle those rising costs, how do we handle escalation of current projects? So that relationship with our construction industry and those stakeholders is very key. They’re one of the largest private employers in the entire province and we want to try to achieve a level of understanding and operational relationship where they are aware of sustainable funding, consistent funding and predictable funding so that they are able to plan their years because these projects are typically very long in nature and they want to have some stability going from year to year. Those boom/bust cycles are really hard on the construction industry,” said Neudorf.

“We’re endeavouring to do what we can to address that and strengthen that relationship,” he added.

As a province, the government is trying to do what it can but inflation is typically experienced at a national level, said the MLA.

“We’re trying to keep those costs for our citizens down but they’re being added on to by a national level,” Neudorf added.

Neudorf said the pandemic had impacts on construction schedules and the war in Ukraine has impacted deliveries of material, because a lot of specialized material comes from Europe or China.

“We’ve seen the price of energy go up and down, we’ve seen the federal government increase the carbon tax which has increases on shipping…those kinds of policies have a lot of impact to us as a province,” said Neudorf, who is also Deputy Premier for the South. Neudorf is also on the Treasury Board, chaired by the Minister of Finance Travis Toews. The board helps evaluate spending by all ministries, Neudorf said.

Neudorf said the government will be tabling its next budget by the end of February in 2023 and there have been numerous capital requests from across the province, with priorities still being determined. Lethbridge has some projects that Neudorf has put forward that are being considered, the MLA added.

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