By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on December 28, 2023.
When Rachael Thomas looks at the year that 2023 was, the Conservative MP for Lethbridge sees both accomplishments and concerns.
Thomas, in a year-end interview with The Herald recently, discussed the highs and lows of 2023.
This was the first full year with a new Conservative party leader at the helm, said Thomas, noting “I’m certainly very impressed with Pierre Poilievre as our leader. It’s been a pleasure to serve under him. I appreciate his vision for Canada. I appreciate that he’s a hard worker and I appreciate that he has a plan to bring Canadians back into a place of prosperity.”
Thomas said “under his leadership, we’ve enjoyed tremendous unity and it’s been really energizing to have him as leader. I would say that his leadership has been one of the big highlights of 2023.”
She said recent poll numbers are positive for the Conservatives but the party wants to continue working hard to maintain and gain the trust of Canadians.
“We take nothing for granted,” said Thomas.
“We’re going to continue to listen really well and to work hard to put forward ideas that Canadians are impressed by and ultimately we want to be on their side and fighting for what they need most.”
One highlight for Thomas was being part of the opening of the Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre, which she says celebrated the fruition of a dream.
She calls the structure overlooking Henderson lake “a building that will serve our community for decades to come and not only in the area of providing a gathering space for the community but also a space where commerce can take place, a place where ideas can be exchanged, a place where people can have a whole lot of fun” and ultimately, she says it’s a testament to the community and the desire for residents to be together.
“It’s a huge celebration of agriculture and all it does for our area,” she added.
With agriculture a main economic driver in the riding, Thomas said the carbon tax is a huge issue here.
“It drives up the cost of living and that’s definitely the Number 1 concern we’re hearing from Canadians. It’s certainly the Number 1 concern I’m hearing in Lethbridge,” said Thomas, who hosted two town halls this year where that was the top topic.
“They’re having a hard time being able to pay their bills, being able to heat their homes, being able to afford their rent or put food on their table or fuel in their vehicles” and the carbon tax plays a big role in that, the MP said.
In the past year, the carbon tax was raised again and the Prime Minister “decided to play favourites and took the carbon tax off of home heating for Atlantic Canada but not the rest of Canada. The Prime Minister made the determination that the carbon tax would remain on farmersâ€¦these are the folks who actually sequester carbon and work incredibly hard to feed the nation of Canada but also the entire world.”
Canada is great at inventing technology that helps to preserve the environment “so if anything we should be able to export that technology such as China, India, et cetera” and the country has an abundance of natural gas that could easily be taken to market in other parts of the world “and it would make a huge difference in terms of reducing pollution.”
Housing affordability is another issue for young constituents, she said.
“A lot of young people want to be able to buy a home, they want to be able to dream of home ownership and know that’s in their future and I think fewer and fewer young people are seeing that as possible,” said Thomas.
Another issue in Lethbridge is crime with the complication of addictions and homelessness.
“There are significant concerns around that” and not just in Lethbridge but across the country, as well, she said.
On a positive note, Thomas has high praise for Conservative colleague Todd Doherty who managed to get through Commons a private member’s bill that established a national suicide prevention hotline.
“He put in a phenomenal amount of work to get all-party support for this bill and it was birthed out of a passion to save lives,” said Thomas of the new 988 number.
“We’re really proud of the work that was done there.
Moving forward into 2024, the Conservatives will continue to fight for affordable housing and to see safe streets returned to Canadian communities.
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