As 2021 drew to a conclusion, Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer commended Albertans for their continued resilience, patience and strength over the course of the year.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, she acknowledged that Albertans are finding ways to make the best of the situation and are continuing to aid each other.
“I think that this year has shown a tremendous amount of resilience and strength from the people of Alberta. I think that all of our hearts and minds and who we are as human beings have been put to the test,” said Aheer. “Despite that, we’ve seen tremendous acts of kindness and immense joy that have come from people and their ability to help in the worst of circumstances.”
Aheer said she believes that the highlights from 2021 occurred as a result of tragedy, such that despite being pushed to their limits, Albertans displayed admirable resilience and strength, both socially and economically.
According to Aheer, 2021 saw an increase in approximately 110,000 jobs over the previous year – an indication that the economy is beginning to recover.
“We’re seeing that small businesses opened in the middle of the pandemic and supported each other, and we were able to provide loans and dollars and guarantees to help through that,” said Aheer who also commended businesses, corporations and public sector organizations for their work in collaboration with the province to find solutions to ongoing problems and to address concerns.
“As a result of that, you see technology taking a front and center, ability to be able to step in to print provide services and needs to people that we weren’t able to come up with before.”
Among services seeing a push for expedition, is the establishment of more high-speed internet and broadband services in rural Alberta.
Inversely, the province was not without its share of challenges that continue to impact the daily lives of Albertans. Aheer specifically regarded a shortage of labour within the agriculture discipline.
“We have a huge labour shortage right now … it’s such a big labour shortage that it is actually at odds with the economy and the growth of the economy right now,” said Aheer.
Another topic which Aheer prioritized to address, was ongoing mental health challenges for Albertans and how programs have been established or are in the works for those who may have otherwise lacked access to such services.
She added that farmers have been reaching out to the province more for mental health support, noticeably more than prior to the start of the pandemic.
“The crisis in COVID-19 forced us to take a look at ourselves and find out where we needed to help people. That is a tremendous change and shift in the culture of how we look at mental health and remove the stigma to have a conversation to create healthier communities,” said Aheer. “There’s a lot of trust factors that need to be reignited between people in government. Partly, that has to do with COVID-19, but that also partly has to do with our ability to communicate what it is that we’re trying to accomplish as a government.”
Aheer cited that she herself has been making an active effort to maintain clear an open communication with her constituents as much as she is able, including making herself available as often as possible to meet in her constituency office.
For those who would lend an ear, she added, “To every Albertan who is listening, our successes are completely grounded in the human resource that we have in Alberta and in her people – that is always going to be what makes us successful.”
Being on the topic of communication, Aheer added that provincial budget consultations are open and feedback will be accepted online until Jan. 15. The provincial government is seeking input from as many people as possible on the subject.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times