Stacks of loonies

By Bruce Hinkley, MLA for Wetaskiwin-Camrose

Good news for Albertans is our commitment of $34 billion for capital and infrastructure projects. This increased capital support will add and sustain about 10,000 jobs over the next three years. The increased capital spending is expected to boost economic activity, adding about 0.7 per cent to the level of real GDP in 2017.

Some of those capital project include 133 schools under construction (31 completed this fall) and an additional 56 in the planning, design or tender stages. Both Wetaskiwin and Camrose will benefit from education capital planning: Wetaskiwin Composite High School has been given $20 million for renovations, and Camrose will soon have a new Catholic high school.

Fifteen health facilities are under construction with an additional seven in the planning and design stage. Wetaskiwin is a recipient of a new long-term care facility employing construction workers and 80 full-time positions when completed.

Eight major post-secondary projects are under construction. I continue to press for the building of a new Maskwacis Cultural College and the new science building at U. of A. Augustana campus.

Likewise, across Alberta there are more than 400 transportation projects in planning, engineering or construction phases. The traffic circle at Camrose, the cities and the town of Millet all received significant Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding for road and street renovation or construction. Hwy. 13 west of Wetaskiwin received some new paving.

The end of 2016 also had good news for Albertans with the approval of two pipelines which will give Alberta better access to markets. These pipelines will create over 20,000 direct jobs. It is nice that we can promote responsible resource development while at the same time protecting the environment for our kids and future generations. The failure of previous federal and provincial governments to take climate change seriously was a dead-end for Alberta families and our economy.

 This increased capital support will add and sustain about 10,000 jobs over the next three years.

It was clear the old method of confrontational politics, of shouting at Ottawa and the other provinces, was not working to get Alberta better access to markets for our oil and gas products. We chose a different path and decided to build a plan that would protect our environment and build our energy economy. The pipeline approvals are proof this plan worked. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced these pipeline approvals, he said, "Let me say this definitively, we would not have approved this project without the leadership of Premier Notley and Alberta‘s climate leadership plan."

Support for everyday Albertans has taken the form of the Alberta Child Benefit; 110,000 Alberta families have already received their first payment supporting the well-being of approximately 200,000 children. Help for lower income families makes it possible to make ends meet and support a better quality of life for their children. This will raise thousands of children out of poverty.

Support for families has also come in the form of a power price cap. Electricity prices in Alberta have been extremely volatile in the past. When the price cap is fully implemented, Albertans will pay no more than 6.8 cents per kilowatt hour. This price cap will be in place from June 2017 to June 2021. For people on a Regulated Rate Option (RR0), they will pay either the market rate for electricity or the capped rate - whichever, is lower. The majority of power consumers in Alberta are on a RRO, however, Albertans are welcome to choose a plan from any private energy retailer if they feel it’s a better fit for them.

Starting Jan. 1, unsolicited door-to-door energy sales will be banned in Alberta. The ban includes: furnaces, natural gas and electricity energy contracts, water heaters, windows, air conditioners, and energy audits.

We know people are concerned about the impacts of the carbon levy on their household budgets and on the budgets of their farm or small businesses. Our government has taken decisive action to mitigate the effects of the carbon levy on families, small businesses, farms and agri-businesses by providing 60 per cent of Alberta households with a rebate, based on the average costs of the carbon levy according to family size and income level.

Economists tell us the average Albertan uses 4,000 litres of gas a year at .045 cents will cost $180. The average Alberta home consumes approximately 100 gigajoules of natural gas for heating purposes at $1.00 is another $100 cost, nowhere near some exaggerated predictions of $2,000 to $3,000.

Alberta‘s small businesses are receiving a tax rate cut by one-third, from three per cent to two per cent to offset some of the carbon levy costs. Farmers will not pay any levy on marked gasoline or diesel for farming purposes. Safeguarding Alberta‘s tax advantage by making sure that, even with full implementation of the carbon levy, Alberta still has the lowest overall tax burden of any province in Canada. We continue to support everyday Albertans.

Congratulations to the Wetaskiwin committee organizing the summer air show, you have been awarded a Communities Initiative Program grant of $75,000 to promote this tourism event.

Have a good week. Bruce Hinkley, MLA for Wetaskiwin-Camrose can be reached at 780-672-0000 (Camrose Constituency office), 780-352-0241(Wetaskiwin Satellite office), 780-638-1413 (Legislature office) or via email at wetaskiwin.camrose@assembly.ab.ca

First published in the Wetaskiwin Times Advertiser