MLA Mark Smith

MLA Mark Smith

MLA Mark Smith: Alberta labour shortages

Alberta’s economic recovery continues to move forward. That means more good jobs for Albertans.

The latest number from Statistics Canada are in, and February marked the fourth straight month of job gains for our province. The February increase of 8,200 jobs saw our unemployment rate fall to 6.8 per cent, the lowest rate we’ve seen since September 2019.

As our economy has started to boom, I have heard from employers in the Drayton Valley-Devon constituency who are concerned about their ability to fill positions. This is a very valid concern and something our United Conservative government is working hard to get ahead of.

Earlier in our term, we passed Bill 49, the Labour Mobility Act, which will address impending labour shortages, particularly in rural Alberta, by streamlining a consistent and transparent approach for recognizing the skills, education, and credentials of out-of-province workers.

We also recently announced the launch of the Rural Renewal Stream and the Rural Entrepreneur Stream. These streams will encourage skilled and talented professionals and entrepreneurs from around the world to settle in rural communities.

With many of our rural communities struggling to find qualified professionals to meet their current and future workforce needs, these new initiatives will help attract and retain newcomers who want to contribute to our rural communities.

Every job added means another Albertan receiving a regular pay cheque. Every drop in unemployment means more Albertans returning to the workforce. Our fast-improving job market is good news for job-creators across our province who are looking to fill positions.

Although our economy is improving, I have been hearing concerns from some families about rising energy costs this winter due, in part, to market conditions, the punishing federal carbon tax, and the long-term impacts of short-sighted NDP policies. Until these costs subside, I want to take this moment to tell you what our government is doing to address this issue for you.

Alberta’s government will be providing $150 in electricity rebates to nearly two million homes, farms, and businesses to help retroactively cover the high costs they faced this winter. Exact rebate criteria will be determined soon, but is expected to include most households, farms, and small businesses. Alberta’s government will also be stopping the collection of the provincial fuel tax of 13.6 cents per litre starting April 1. This will apply to all gasoline and diesel, including marked farm fuel. Our government will review the collection of the fuel tax on a quarterly basis and, if required, consider reinstating collection in stages, based on the average price of West Texas Intermediate over several weeks. We will not start to reinstate collection before July 1.

Comparisons have been made between these initiatives and the NDP rate-cap. The NDP rate-cap cleverly hid the true cost of energy by shifting the burden from the ratepayer to the taxpayer, plus it only provided relief to about half of the ratepayers in Alberta. This was not a sustainable solution. The United Conservative electricity rebate is putting $150 back in the pockets of ratepayers to account for high costs this winter, as we aggressively address the core problems behind prices. Albertans elected us on promises of fiscal accountability and that is exactly what we are doing.

Finally, my heart is with the people of Ukraine, as they fight for their freedom and sovereignty. I have been made aware of several fundraising efforts in the constituency that will be happening this March and early April. One will occur in Breton and the other I am aware of is in Drayton Valley. If you would like to support these events, please phone my constituency office (1-780-542-3355) and we can connect you with the organizers. Slava Ukraini!

— Mark Smith, MLA for Drayton Valley – Devon