Tackling the health crisis, affordability and homelessness in Lethbridge are top priorities for Shannon Phillips, Lethbridge West MLA, in the new year. She said a win last year drew more attention to the province’s shortage of GPs, particularly in Lethbridge, but added there needed to be a plan to remedy this.
“We haven’t seen a lot of coordinated, thoughtful and substantive action that’s rebuilding the healthcare system that’s pulling people into Lethbridge and into southern Alberta,” Phillips said.
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Getting out of the pandemic restrictions and returning to normal in 2022 was another key point that struck the MLA as it reflected on the year. She said the return of students to face-to-face tuition has been good for parents, children and school staff. She has also seen a return to normalcy in her work as she can knock on the door again to speak to voters.
“I’ve heard a lot about affordability issues from middle- and low-income people,” she said. “The working people out there are really suffering and there are some things that the government cannot solve, but in every aspect where the province could do better; Whether it’s auto insurance, utilities, school fees, or even property taxes, this province has taken action to exacerbate these affordability challenges.”
Homelessness in Lethbridge has more than doubled since 2018, according to a census conducted in September. Phillips said addressing this issue is a priority for the new year and she wants to see a plan to address the issue in both the short and long term.
“There is no excuse for inaction – there is no excuse for the suffering we are seeing and people walking around unprotected in minus 30 degrees and we are seeing organizations like Streets Alive championing this winter warming space.” said Phillips. “Everyone is working as hard as they can, but there is an element missing from this table. There’s one leg missing, if you will, and that’s the state government. You haven’t done anything.”
READ MORE: Homelessness has more than doubled in Lethbridge since 2018
Phillips said she wanted to see the plan address housing, downtown safety, downtown business development and the lack of services for people affected by homelessness.
“It’s going to be a heavy drain on our city, but I don’t think there’s anyone on the left, right or in the jaded center — I don’t think there’s anyone who can see what’s happened over the course of the tenure the UCP government and the doubling of homelessness and the kind of social conditions we see here in Lethbridge – I don’t think anyone can conclude that that’s a good thing and that the status quo should prevail,” she said .
With elections approaching in May 2023, Phillips said she’s looking forward to campaigning and working on local issues.
“Talking to voters and finding out what’s really on their mind, really getting involved with local issues — that’s my happy place and that’s why I look forward to it,” she said. “There’s a lot of hard work, you know a lot of long hours when you go into a campaign, but that’s how it should be. In a democracy there is no entitlement and we have to work hard and earn people’s trust again.”