Posted on May 4, 2017

In two years, we've done a lot for Albertans

Sherwood Park News - May 4, 2017

As hockey fans across the province revel in the Orange Crush of the Edmonton Oilers, I’m reminded of another Orange Crush that swept the province two years ago. On May 5, 2015, our team of 55 MLAs was elected to government on the promise of change. Over the past two years, we have been working to make life better for Albertans. I’m proud to say that we have delivered on 75 per cent of our campaign platform and are currently working on another 15 per cent of those deliverables.

We have kept our promises by introducing progressive legislation and policies to create jobs, diversify our economy, support small business, and maintain the core services upon which Alberta families rely. In order to curb expenses, we have frozen salary levels for MLAs and political staff, and we consolidated or dissolved 26 agencies, boards and commissions.

There has been direct benefit for the residents of Strathcona-Sherwood Park. In a community closely tied to the oil and gas industry, it was good to hear that our Climate Leadership Plan encouraged the federal government to approve two major pipelines which will expand markets for Alberta’s resources. The Royalty Review that was completed within six months of forming government has resulted in steadily increasing rig activity. Recent stats for the first three months of this year show drilling up 131 per cent over the same period last year. Small business has profited from the one-third reduction in small business taxes, and now have access to two tax credits that drive innovation and diversification. And just this week, as co-chair of Canada Relations for the Council of State Governments (CSG), I had the privilege of attending the Alberta — U.S. Trade Summit along with Senators Malek, Davis & Hunt to promote a stronger export economy. Together, we met with the ministers of Energy, Economic Development and Trade, Environment, and Agriculture and Forestry to share perspective on a variety of matters.

We chose wisely to invest in infrastructure and to provide predictable funding for education and health services. A number of projects in Strathcona County come to mind, such as the overlay and signalization of Highway 628 to make the roads safer for our residents. The new bridge and twinning of Highway 15 is great news for our workers travelling out to Fort Saskatchewan. As we continue to repair hospitals and seniors facilities, seniors in our community will soon enjoy the replacement Clover Bar Lodge. $2 billion in funding gives seniors and Albertans with disabilities services such as nursing and personal assistance, day programs, respite relief, palliative care and wound care so they can continue to live and participate in their communities. Students and families will soon gather at new schools in the area of Davidson Creek and Heritage Hills. For students in kindergarten to Grade 12, legislation introduced this spring will reduce school fees for essential services and transportation for the upcoming school year. And students are now able to experience learning environments that respect diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions. Those attending post-secondary are pleased to see that tuition has been frozen for the past two years. On the health care front, we immediately eliminated the proposed fee increases for health services, which included a regressive health care premium. Through consultation, an amending agreement was signed with the Alberta Medical Association that will improve patient care and slow spending growth. In June 2015, we initiated a comprehensive review of Alberta’s addiction and mental health system, and have implemented a number of recommendations to meet the needs of Albertans. Families in our community have also benefited from the Alberta family employment tax credit and the introduction of the Alberta child benefit.

Residents of Strathcona-Sherwood Park are already environmentally conscious, and the programs offered under Energy Efficiency Alberta will make energy efficiency more affordable. Consumers can be rewarded with instant savings at participating retailers, online rebates and financial assistance for home improvement and solar PV systems.

In just two years, we have accomplished so much, but just like the Oilers, we still have more work ahead of us.

Go Oilers Go!

Estefania Cortes-Vargas is the Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Strathcona-Sherwood Park Constituency. If you have any comments or questions concerning this column or other provincial government issues, please contact Estefania at her constituency office located at #19 – 99 Wye Rd., Sherwood Park, T8B 1M1. Telephone: 780-416-2492 or e-mail: strathcona.sherwoodpark@assembly.ab.ca.