By Ian Croft
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
With many people facing financial difficulties, Martin Shields, MP for Bow River, took a moment to share the messages of hope that he’s been hearing from members of his riding.
“Times may be tough and we hear from people who are having a tough time, whether it’s seniors living on very low income, on pensions so fixed income, whether it’s single mothers, whether it’s families two thirds working just trying to make ends meet,” said Shields. “Yes, there are absolutely significant challenges out there economically, but I hear a lot of people looking for hope. I hear a lot of people still believing, as I do, (that) we live in one of the best places in the world — we really do. I hear that looking for hope, I hear people positive about where they live in the sense of it is a fantastic free place to live, but there are economic challenges and we hear those on a regular basis. It really is tough for some people out there to make it but there still is that positive attitude that I hear, ‘We’re Albertans. We can make this work.’ We’ve had tough times before and will get through tough times but it still is a great place to live.”
Following this Shields also discussed how he is helping those people who are looking for hope.
“We will hear one-offs in the sense where people for specific reasons have a challenge of maybe qualifying for something they should get and haven’t been able to. We help people individually get to the resources they need to do or they have a challenge with paperwork or something just doesn’t work. On an individual basis we continue — I have great staff both in the riding and in Ottawa that work on a regular basis with individuals and specific issues they may be having. When we get to the broader topics, then we work on it in the sense of taking information to the ministers or different committees. I often appear in the Ag committee for example, bringing up issues to do with the Ag sector here.”
Shields took a moment to also go into detail about how he and his staff can help these individuals.
“We will do it in two different ways,” said Shields. “Individuals who have specific challenges we can work with. Immigration is one of those with the paperwork and some of the challenges that comes of those. Then secondly when there’s a group on specific issue then you attempt to follow it up with the appropriate people who can make decisions about that issue. Then you lobby on their behalf as a larger group issue.”
After this Shields then provided an example of how he’s been trying to help a wide swath of individuals when it comes to their finances relating to food and gas.
“The price of gasoline in the province of Alberta — I think we have the lowest taxes provincially in the country. The provincial government has done that. The carbon tax is something that we continually work on. The resource sector has been working with using a carbon tax for a number of years. In that industry, they have worked with the carbon tax — how to deal with it, but we have a real problem with a carbon tax charged on everything we get and the ripple effect it has. That is a cost on food, it’s huge and contributes to the cost. As the government looks at tripling the carbon tax that is just going to be brutal. We are really opposing the carbon tax on a number of things. We understand the resource sector works with the carbon tax, they figured it out. We’re not talking about the industrial, they said, ‘hey, we can do this. we will work with this.’ What we’re talking about when we’re talking about food we’re talking about the carbon tax that individual consumers, families, face on a regular basis that’s rippling and getting significantly larger, and that is problematic. We oppose the carbon tax in a particular way – it needs to be gone.”
Shields then followed that up by providing examples of what he is doing to aid organizations.
“We had nonprofits in our riding apply for the shared $40,000. There’s legions, for example, who applied for that, and I heard from some of our legions, it’s now time to pay it back,” said Shields. “They were able to keep operating with CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) loans of $40,000. They didn’t close but now they’re faced with repaying a loan, the legions are really lacking funds from the prime period of COVID and they’re struggling to make money. They’re keeping the doors open, but struggling to figure out how to repay that loan. That’s more of a group type of issue that people are saying nonprofit were able to survive with that government loan, but now we don’t have the resources to keep going. Is there a way that would review repayment? Maybe it’s over time, maybe there’s some forgiveness. To do something for nonprofits like the legions to make it work so they can still say open and provide their communities the great things they do in the community, as well for the veterans.”