Alberta on edge: Aid Packages, Teck Frontier, and TMX

They wouldn’t really do it, would they?

That’s the question on the minds of Albertans as the federal cabinet prepares an “Alberta aid package” should they decide to reject TECK’s Frontier oilsands project. Without a single Albertan at the cabinet table, there is a significant risk that the feds are underestimating the impact a rejection of the project would have not just on Alberta attitudes to confederation but on future investment opportunities as well. Premier Kenney has united his opponents in the Legislature, along with the big city mayors from Edmonton and Calgary in voicing support of the project to the Liberal government. Let’s hope the message gets through.

In more positive energy news, the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed applications against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion early this week. Premier Kenney called it a “victory for common sense and the rule of law” and spoke in appreciation of the “clarity in the decision that the duty to consult does not equal a veto.” The dismissal of the appeal is the clearing of another hurdle in the push to get the pipeline built. CBC is reporting that Trans Mountain will announce later today the cost of the expansion has increased significantly from $7.4 billion to $12.6 billion.

Below you’ll find a recap of the rest of the week’s news you don’t want to miss.

Government of Alberta Announcements

Premier Kenney has spent the week in Montreal and Washington D.C. where he hopes to encourage investors to look at Alberta, expand provincial exports, and to advocate for pipeline and energy sector project approvals.

While in Montreal the Premier announced plans to open an Alberta office in the city to improve relations and promote the energy sector. He also popped by the headquarters of Dialogue, a telemedicine and technology company, to speak with CEO Cherif Habib about how innovation in healthcare can improve outcomes for Albertans.

In D.C., the Premier has met with state governors and key congressional and administration officials. Premier Kenney tweeted about a conversation he had with Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski regarding the Alaska to Alberta Railway, an exciting project that New West has been proud to contribute to.

Today and tomorrow, Kenney will be joined by Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland along with the Premiers of Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

Closer to home, a key focus this week has been the release of the first review of Alberta Health Services in 10 years. The report finds ways to save up to $1.9 billion and was conducted by external consultants Ernst & Young. It was presented by Health Minister Tyler Shandro Monday and contains 57 recommendations and 72 savings opportunities.

Minister Shandro has been unequivocal in stating there will be no hospital closures as part of implementation and that all savings would be reinvested in health care. An implementation team from AHS is looking at all recommendations and will report back with a detailed plan for implementation within 100 days.

Calgary-based Greengate Power announced a $500 million investment agreement with the world’s largest renewables fund, Copenhagen Infrastrucuture Partners, to build Canada’s largest solar farm. The entirely unsubsidized project received attention from the Alberta government who are certainly pleased to see half a billion dollars of foreign investment in the province and the creation of up to 500 jobs.
Children’s Services has created a new online application to apply for child care subsidy in a push to reduce red tape.

A new consultation has been launched that will have an impact on municipal elections in 2021. The consultation seeks public feedback on the rules that govern municipal and school board elections including the length of campaign period, nomination process, campaign finances, third-party advertising and recall of local politicians. The survey is open until March 4 and available here.

Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer issued a statement following Federal Co-operatives Ltd. being granted a court injunction to stop a blockade set up by Unifor at a fuel-distribution terminal near Carseland.
Finance Minister Travis Toews has had a busy week overseeing Alberta’s finances as they related to public sector wages. Last Friday, Toews commented on one per cent increases awarded by the provincial board of arbitration to Alberta Public Service workers and health care workers in General Support Services and no increase to Auxiliary Nursing Care workers. On Wednesday, Toews issued a statement regarding the arbitration decision involving the Health Sciences Association of Alberta of zero increases. Late Thursday Toews issued a statement on collective bargaining negotiations between the Public Service Commission and AUPE. With public sector wages accounting for more than half of government expenses, it’s clear that Toews will continue to push for holding the line on public sector compensation.

Orders in Council

OC 23/2020: Extends the expiry date of the Storage Tank System Management Amendment Regulation to March 1, 2021.

OC 24/2020: Proclaims various sections of the Credit Union Amendment Act, 2016 in force on the date of issue of the Proclamation.

OC 25/2020: Makes various changes to the Credit Union (Principal) Regulation including removing Canadian Bond Rating Service Ltd. as a rating organization and replacing with Fitch Ratings Inc., further clarification around distribution of list of members and creation of further class of shares to meet special circumstances with prior written approval of the Minister.

Upcoming Key Dates:

February 11-12: The Standing Committee on Public Accounts will hold three meetings next week that should generate headlines and interest. The committee will have officials from the Ministry of Health and AHS, the Ministry of Education and the much-embroiled Calgary Board of Education and Edmonton Public School Board and Treasury Board and Finance including ATB, AIMCo and AGLC.

February 25: The Legislature will reconvene with the Speech from the Throne to begin the 2nd session of the 30th Alberta Legislature.

February 27: Deadline for hopeful leadership contestants to become an approved applicant in the Conservative Party leadership race. Premier Kenney made things interesting Friday reportedly saying he’d be interested in seeing John Baird get into the leadership race.

In just a few weeks, Alberta MLA’s will reconvene with Premier Jason Kenney’s government expected to deliver on another heavy legislative agenda. The Throne Speech will be delivered on February 25th and New West Public Affairs will be watching closely for early hints of where the UCP will go in its anticipated spring budget.

If you need some more help figuring out what all of this means for you and your organization, please get in touch.