By Al Beeber
Shannon Phillips is hoping the UCP does the right thing when it announces the provincial budget on Feb. 24.
The NDP MLA for Lethbridge West says with rising oil prices, the UCP has the chance to make a positive impact on Albertans with its next budget.
“The UCP is likely to balance the budget,” she said.
“This is not due to any particular policy decision that they have made. Quite frankly, a pylon could balance this budget but it does present them an opportunity to do the right thing by people in terms of restoring some sense of economic security and putting people first in terms of the pressure that people are under with respect to their bills that are piling up.”
“It presents an opportunity to restore some respect to the healthcare system, both for the frontline workers that work in it and the patients that need it. We’ve certainly seen a lot of challenges both locally and across the province, whether it’s hospital capacity, access to a doctor or ambulance wait times.”
“We hope they will at least restore some trust in government because the UCP hasn’t been trusted to act in Albertans’ best interest, operate the government competently or do anything besides focus on their own internal political problem,” the MLA said.
She also said a lot of the problems with utility bills people have recently seen could have been avoided if the UCP had continued with the cap on electricity for residential and small business consumers.”
“We had put that cap in place in anticipation of possibilities just like what has happened this winter with a massive spike in prices to protect people. And one of the first things that the UCP did was remove that cap,” said Phillips.
But now people who aren’t on fixed contracts are discovering $500 and $600 utility bills, Phillips said.
“That’s going to be really, really hard on people,” she said, adding people should go to the consumer advocate website to learn more about fixed contracts.”
“The fact of the matter is that people are left to look out for themselves on something as complicated and difficult to understand as their electricity bill when it’s absolutely the government job’s to look out for people and they utterly failed in that regard.”
For Lethbridge in the budget, Phillips said she’d like to see the city attracting and retaining family doctors.
“We have an absolute crisis in primary healthcare in this city, 45,000 people in this region do not have a family doctor anymore and that is a direct result of specific healthcare mismanagement, incompetence and disrespect the UCP has brought to family physicians and the healthcare system.”
Phillips also said schools need to be built, roads refurbished and infrastructure investment made by the UCP here and across southern Alberta.
“We’ll see if we remain a complete afterthought. So far, most of their budgets have rendered Lethbridge completely invisible in terms of our schools, our municipal infrastructure and so on. So we’ll see if they begin to take our region seriously. So far I haven’t seen any indication that they will,” said Phillips.