Posted on Jan 26, 2018

Making life better for Albertans

By Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West

Hello and happy new year to everyone! 2018 has barely started but our government is already busy working to make life better for Albertans.

One way we are doing this is by updating Alberta‘s employment standards. You may have heard last year about Amanda Jensen, a Lethbridge mother who lost her job after she took a leave to care for her child with leukemia. Many constituents contacted me with concern for that family, and to ask the government to change the law so this couldn’t happen to anyone else. We listened to your concerns, and used your suggestions to draft The Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act, which came into effect Jan. 1 of this year.

This act introduces job-protected leaves to care for a sick child or adult, to recover or seek help after experiencing domestic violence, or to bereave a death. Other changes include: simplifying holiday pay calculations; decreasing the amount of time worked before an employee is eligible for a leave; and standardizing overtime banking at 1.5 times the hours worked. If you are an employer or an employee and you would like more information on these changes, you will find that at www.alberta.ca.

Also, in late 2017, Alberta signed an agreement with the Government of Canada to support the expansion of the Early Learning Child Care Centre pilot, granting Alberta nearly $46 million per year for three years. These funds will support up to 78 additional early-learning and child-care centres across Alberta, bringing the total number to 100. Our province continues to move towards universal accessible, affordable, quality child care with a maximum cost to parents of $25 per day. Families have asked for this for years and we have listened.

We also started the year with some good news: employment is up, and most of those new jobs are full-time, good-quality work. Average weekly earnings are up, as are exports, manufacturing, drilling and housing starts. Increasing consumer confidence is spurring all-time records in retail and hospitality sales. Our plan is working.

Now we want to hear from you.

The Government of Alberta has been working closely with the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta, exploring what a meaningful apology would look like. The Sixties Scoop is a disarming name for a tragic period of time in Canada, where child intervention services forcibly removed many Indigenous children from their families and communities, and placed them in (mostly) non-Indigenous care. Families were broken apart, children lost connection to their communities and culture, and the effects are still being felt today.

The government would like to apologize for this, but to ensure the apology is done in a meaningful way that promotes healing, we would like to hear from survivors and families. There will be an engagement session in Lethbridge on Feb. 14, 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. (location to be announced), and everyone is welcome to attend. The session will begin with a cultural ceremony, and will progress to a discussion of how the Sixties Scoop affected people’s lives, and what a meaningful apology would need to look like.

To learn more, or to submit online comments if you are unable to attend, go to www.alberta.ca.

On another note, we also want to hear from you about those Albertans who are making our province and communities better. The Alberta Order of Excellence is our province’s highest honour, and it recognizes leaders, and innovators who have made a lifetime of outstanding contributions to our province. People like Lethbridge’s Gary Bowie, who was honoured with this award last year, or Lee Roy Little Bear, who won in 2016. Nominations are open until Feb 15. Find out more at www.lieutenantgovernor.ab.ca/aoe.

The Alberta Community Justice Awards are also accepting nominations of individuals, organizations, businesses, and groups who address crime-prevention at the local level. There are incredible projects in Alberta, in the fields of victims’ services, restorative justice, youth justice, and other innovative approaches.

If you know a person or organization who is making a difference here, you can nominate them until Feb 20. You will find the nomination form here: www.solgps.alberta.ca.

First published Jan. 26, 2018, in the Lethbridge Herald.