Alberta Expands COVID-19 Testing, Legislature To Return For Summer Session, and Alberta’s Fair Deal Panel

Alberta has taken another step in the right direction with expanding testing for COVID-19 and further lifting of restrictions in Calgary and Brooks with much-needed haircuts now available and restaurants allowed to reopen for table service at 50% capacity. It also appears that the overcrowded parks and throngs of people that happened in Toronto over the weekend have largely not been a problem in Albertan cities.

Starting today, voluntary testing is available in long-term care and level 4 designated supportive living facilities even if an individual has no symptoms. Calgarians will also be able to book COVID-19 tests online. Non-urgent surgeries will expand to include more day surgeries and those requiring an overnight stay. As of Sunday afternoon, Alberta has 6,860 total cases, including 42 new cases, 801 active cases and 5,924 recovered cases.

On Wednesday the Legislature will return for a summer session that is scheduled to last late into July. The Legislature will be able to debate bills on the Order Paper prior to COVID-19 as well as any necessary emergency legislation. We will be sure to bring our regular updates on legislation being debated as well as highlights from what are sure to be acrimonious debates during Question Period.

Below, you’ll find a recap of key government announcements and other noteworthy news in Alberta politics.

Government of Alberta Announcements

  • Alberta’s Fair Deal Panel, formed by the UCP government to determine the best way to secure a fair deal for the province from Ottawa, has submitted its final report to the government, but the report and government response will not be released until the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Subjects covered include potentially moving towards a provincial pension plan, establishing a provincial police force, appointing a Chief Firearms Office for Alberta, and more.
  • Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden made things difficult for the UCP government last week after vowing to rip up the presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline if elected president. The Kenney government has committed $1.5 billion to the expansion, along with a $6-billion loan guarantee. Energy Minister Sonya Savage issued a statement stating that the UCP government continues to be “confident Keystone XL remains a critical part of North America’s post-pandemic economic recovery.”
  • Hotels and other lodging providers will be able to keep tourism levy amounts collected between March 1 and December 31, 2020. The measure will free up between $16 million and $27 million in additional cash flow for the hospitality sector, which employs 30,000 Albertans.
    Following an independent review by Grant Thornton Canada of the much-maligned Calgary Board of Education, the board has been issued a ministerial order with 19 recommendations to improve its governance and financial management.
  • It wouldn’t be a roundup without another task force being announced. Last week the UCP government announced the Human Trafficking Task Force which is tasked with finding ways to prevent human trafficking and protect and empower survivors. Paul Brandt will lead the seven-member task force that will provide guidance and recommendations on how to best implement the government’s nine-point action plan to combat human trafficking.

The United Conservative Party will get a steady hand in the form of their new Executive Director Dustin van Vugt announced Friday, who served in the same role for the Conservative Party of Canada. He’ll start his new role in June at a time when the party has applied to participate in the federal government’s emergency wage subsidy program. Federally, the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Green Party have all done the same at a time when political donations have significantly decreased.

Our New West Public Affairs team has worked hard to adjust to this ‘new normal’ as well as we can. We have implanted work from home procedures and are in constant contact with those making real time policy decisions in this unprecedented time.

We have been providing comprehensive, daily updates on COVID-19’s impact here in Alberta and across the country, how orders of government are responding, and most importantly, how to effectively advocate in this environment.

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