Government’s austerity measures hurting Slave Lake
To the Editor:
We the undersigned long-time Slave Lake and area residents are concerned about the decreasing quality of life in our community resulting from the austerity measures being imposed by our provincial government. We care about Slave Lake and want to see it continue to be a vibrant, sustainable community in which young people can thrive, families can safely raise their kids, and seniors can comfortably grow old in the knowledge their needs will be met.
As services continue to be eroded, what will keep people in our town? What will draw new people, including much needed healthcare professionals? What will encourage them to stay?
These are some issues of concern:
Forest Fire Prevention: Firefighters associations across the province are unhappy about increasingly unstaffed fire towers, the elimination of an air tanker unit and the elimination of the Wildland Firefighter Rappel Program, all of which make us vulnerable to future forest fires.
Road maintenance: The fall budget saw a 16 per cent reduction in the Ministry of Transportation budget, leading to deferred maintenance on our roads. Line painting has not been effective for a couple years and no lines are visible at night in the area now, potholes are multiplying much faster than they can be repaired making highway travel less safe.
Healthcare: The recent government review of healthcare recommends privatization of services, including housekeeping, food service, and certain surgeries as well as outsourcing lab services. Hygiene and nutrition are essential to good health and we do not believe they should be contracted out for a profit. The review recommends the closure of some rural hospitals and reconfiguring others. This is concerning. It recommends the LPNs be used in place of RNs in situations that are outside their scope of practice. Slave Lake has suffered from inadequate healthcare ever since the 2011 fire and we are concerned that these changes will make things worse.
Daycare: The $25/day daycare introduced by the NDP is under threat. The first pilot will not continue and the second one may go on the chopping block. This programme was a boon to young families who will now struggle financially in challenging times.
Lack of economic diversification: The likelihood of a return to boom times in oil and gas are low, as seen all over the world. What is the government doing to help diversify the economy? Previous tax credits for targeted growth industries are up in the air. What will happen to our town if diversification does not happen?
School fees were eliminated by the NDP, but now they have returned, making life less affordable for Albertans.
Increases to municipal taxes: As companies fail to pay their taxes and the tax base of homeowners dwindles, municipalities struggle to pay the shortfall. We don’t know what impact this will have on our already high property taxes.
We are further concerned that decreased funding will lead to the erosion of public services in healthcare and education. This will force increased privatization of essential services and reduce the overall quality of life for Albertans.
A recent poll shows 77 per cent of Albertans are pessimistic about the future of Alberta, far worse than any other province. Our economy has been hurt by the downturn in oil and gas prices which may never improve. The government gave a 4.7 billion tax break to wealthy corporations which did not result in more jobs. This reduction in government revenue has led to decreased spending and Albertans now suffer the consequences. We need to find reasons to hope for a brighter tomorrow. Austerity measures do nothing to provide us with optimism. We need a government that is solutions-focussed and visionary, one that will support Albertans in times of trouble, not one focussed on anger and blame.
Please join us in voicing your concerns. Attend the upcoming Fair Deal town hall forum with MLA Pat Rehn on February 19 at 7 pm at Hotel Northern Star, or contact Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn at email@example.com
Sheri Smears, Laura Lokken, Nicola Ramsey, Denise Wahlstrom, Len Ramsey, Ernie Grach,
Pauline Auger, Heather Norberg, Sharon Watchel, Herfried Schmidt, Philip Lokken, Eileen Fedorus, Janet Parks, Edith Mackenzie, Pat Potvin, Penny Fedorus, Dan Smears, Val Marshall, Cathy Bittman, Henry Thomson, Dan Tarney, Mona Johnson, Fiona Marshall, Pat Chemago, Melaney Sexsmith, Shirley-Anne Lazaruk, Corrine and Don Willier, Brian and Paula Zack.