Last week during the State of the Province address, Premier Rachel Notley touched on a wide variety of issues and challenges that are facing Albertans, from lack of job security to public services funding to the energy sector and beyond.
The speech, given in Calgary, praised Alberta as being proud and strong, while still recognizing the dire straits of our economy and the needs families are experiencing.
Many Albertans – including thousands of families in Central Alberta – are still seeking direction, a reassurance of jobs and a stimulated market. Notley emphasized the Province’s strategy of stability, saying publicly-funded social services will not receive many increases in funding and must be creative with what they have.
This reflects in communities in positive and negative ways.
For example, jobs in education and public health have not been cut, but social program services such as Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), a popular organization in Lacombe and district, has not and will not receive increases in funding as things stand.
However, one of the over-arching themes within the speech was the issue of diversification – diversification of economy, of energy production strategies and diversification of market strategies for the province.
Notley said this diversification is going to occur with support from the Alberta government in various forms, and that this will help Albertans out of the economic slump that has caused a drop in revenue by nearly 15%.
For example, Alberta Treasury Branch (ATB) received $1.5 billion in government funding that is intended to be used to promote small and medium business growth.
For small and medium businesses in the area, this could be the time to seek additional funding grant options or speak with local banks to further investigate growth opportunities.
Notley said part of the way Albertans would be able to re-build is by changing our international image and stance on energy and climate change.
She said these are important tools towards developing trade and marketing relationships, in turn bringing investment and jobs back to Alberta.
Part of changing that image is the highly-debated topic of a carbon tax and the phase out of coal energy production in favour of natural gas. The Province is committed to moving forward on their carbon tax – saying the impact on families will be reduced through rebates and other energy innovation incentives.
In a region where many jobs have been lost due to the oilfield downturn, families are concerned about the potential for the carbon tax to hurt their budgets even further. Notley said the lack of jobs will be addressed through thousands created as businesses move towards new development strategies for energy production.
As well, Notley mentioned supporting the petrochemical sector to the tune of $500,000 which could potentially be invested in programs such as the Joffre petrochemical site. As well, Notley said investing in infrastructure projects – such as the North Red Deer Regional Wastewater Line – will help to create jobs for residents.
Central Albertans remain concerned in spite of promises from Notley and certain projects that are being carried out in an attempt to stimulate the still-starving economy. Families are still needing social supports – that will not see increased funding – as they deal with the consequences of job loss and a lack of investment in Alberta.
Hopefully, with this formal Provincial Address having been made, the Provincial government, municipalities and citizens of Alberta can continue to recognize and tackle the issues facing the province in a productive and community-minded manner that is so pivotal to the success of Central Alberta and Alberta as a whole.