BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Member of Parliament for Red Deer-Lacombe Blaine Calkins spent some time chatting with community members during an open house in Blackfalds last week.
He said there are a few issues that remain constant throughout the riding – the topic of provincial and federal carbon taxes and frustration with the high unemployment rates. Calkins remains steady in his stance against the carbon taxes, saying he has heard support in his position from riding members.
“I have heard a lot of concern over the carbon taxes. Folks in Central Alberta – particularly those who are directly and indirectly reliant on the energy sector – are very frustrated with the notion of increasing taxes,” he said.
“It’s just another kick to a main industry in a province that is already reeling from the low oil prices.”
Calkins said he is frustrated with the carbon taxes as well. He said seeing the increase in a provincial carbon tax compounded with a federal carbon tax means more money is leaving the hands of Canadians.
As well, he expressed concern on behalf of Central Albertans that the money might not be invested into programs and services relevant to his Red Deer-Lacombe riding.
Calkins said another major concern heard at the open house was a lack of employment opportunities. He said this issue is a reflection of industry changes that businesses can’t keep up with.
“Job creators here in Alberta are being hit from both sides. They’re being hit provincially with changes, which include the new minimum wage, which especially hits those with small businesses who hire entry level workers,” he began.
“There are also changes to the federal Canadian Pension Plan (CPP). Tax cuts that were promised by (Justin) Trudeau for small businesses haven’t come to people yet. There aren’t a lot of positives out there right now in terms of our employment and we are not used to that in Central Alberta.
“A year and a half ago, the most common sign I saw in the riding was ‘Help Wanted’ and now the most common thing I’m seeing is ‘We need help’. It’s a stark difference and contrast to where we were a year and a half or two years ago.”
He added he has heard rising concern over crime rates as well, recognizing this as an effect of low employment rates. However, he did have a message to Albertans to remain positive and be resilient.
“We’ve been through tough times before and we will find our way through this. I want to encourage people to stay positive,” he said. “If they aren’t happy with the way things are going right now, there are opportunities federally to get engaged in a process. I’ll be bringing many of the leadership candidates from my party through the riding and I encourage people to make an effort to come meet them, and see if we can change the direction that we’re headed in right now.
“I want to see Alberta back on its feet.”