Alberta in Unchartered Territory: Emergency Economic Panel, COVID-19, and Travel

Premier Jason Kenney has said that Alberta is in uncharted territory after the biggest plunge to oil prices since the Gulf War. Alberta has launched an emergency economic panel, led by economist Jack Mintz, to provide advice on how to weather the collapse in the price of oil. Coupled with the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, the past week has been one of the most trying in our province’s history.

The federal government on Friday advised all Canadians to avoid global travel, banned all cruise ships over 500 people from docking in the country until July and restricting airports in the country that can receive international flights so that people arriving can be more carefully screened.

Economically, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that the key overnight interest rate was cut to 0.75% as an emergency measure, following the decision last week by the Bank of Canada to cut its key interest rate by half a percentage point. A $10 billion dollar credit facility program is also being created to provide support for businesses, mirroring a program from the 2008 recession.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw has shown herself to be a decisive and capable leader during her daily briefings to the media on new cases of the virus and implementing new public health measures.

On Friday, the House of Commons unanimously agreed to suspend operations until April 20 after passing the new NAFTA deal and interim funds. The Prime Minister is self-isolating after his wife tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.

Advice to close the legislature in Alberta has not yet been provided by health officials, with MLAs due back to the house on Monday.

Premier Kenney is joining other Premiers and the Prime Minister in a call on COVID-19 today, and has released his letter to the Prime Minister. Among his asks are:

  • Coordination with provinces in advance of making decisions and announcements on research and development
  • Clarification and consideration of different province’s needs for the $500 million earmarked for health care system needs and mitigation efforts
  • Federal assistance in procuring NP swabs, N95 respirators, procedure masks with face shields and other supplies as the need arises

The Premier also voiced support for the federal government taking action under the Quarantine Act, and supports broadening of measures under the act for broadening locations required for mandatory quarantine for returning travelers should the need arise.

Below, you’ll find a recap of Orders in Council passed recently. Information and advice from public health officials has changed swiftly in the past week, and we encourage you to regularly check with provincial and federal sources for information.

Orders in Council

OC 43/2020 and OC 46/2020/: Appoints Tamara Bews, Phil Rowland, Dennis Dey, Nick Tywoniuk, Timothy Meagher and Ivan Weleschuk to the Land Compensation Board and Surface Rights Board for terms to expire January 31, 2023.

OC 44/2020: Extends the expiry of the Municipal Gas Systems Core Market Regulation from July 31, 2020 to July 31, 2024.

OC 45/2020: Makes a clerical change to the OC 726/89 to align with updates to the Canada National Parks Act.

OC 47/2020: Appoints Tamara Bews and Dave McGee for further terms on the Environmental Appeals Board to expire February 24, 2023 and appoints Kurtis Averill, Barbara Johnston and Chidinma Thompson to the Board for terms to expire February 24, 2022.

OC 48/2020: Repeals the expiry date of the Carbon Capture and Storage Funding Regulation.

OC 49/2020: Authorizes the Alberta Energy Regulator to grant approval of the Gibson Energy ULC Hardisty Diluent Recovery Unit (DRU) Processing Plant Project.

OC 50/2020: Appoints Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra as Acting Chief Medical Officer.

OC 51/2020: Makes changes to the Blue Cross Agreement for dependants as previously announced by the government in December.

OC 52/2020: Appoints Dr. Michael John Caffaro and Craig Hrynchuk to the Health Disciplines Board for terms to expire February 24, 2023.

OC 53/2020: Makes multiple changes to the Public Health Appeal Board including rescinding some members (Wendy Yvonne Lickasz and Barbara Rocchio) and appointing new members Bill E. Smith and Vicki Wearmouth.

OC 54/2020: Directs the Minister of Finance to issue letters patent to incorporate Tetra Trust Company as a provincial trust corporation.

OC 55/2020: Appoints Neil Yates as the director of the board of Travel Alberta for a term to expire March 3, 2022.

OC 56/2020: Appoints MLA Matt Jones as a member of the Treasury Board.

OC 57/2020: Appoints Janice MacKinnon of the government’s Blue Ribbon Panel and Paul Whittaker as members of the Board of Governors for the University of Alberta for terms to expire March 6, 2023.

OC 58/2020: Appoints Louise Lee and Neil Yates to the Board of Governors for Bow Valley College for terms to expire April 3, 2023.

OC 59/2020: Appoints Carla Madra as a member and designates her as chair of the Board of Governors of Norquest College for a term to expire March 3, 2023.

OC 60/2020: Appoints the following members to the Law Enforcement Review Board: Mohamed A. Amery, Salimah Walji-Shivji, Glen Buick, Elizabeth Hak and Kevin Kelly. Amery and Walji-Shivji for terms to expire March 3, 2023 with the others for terms to expire March 3, 2022.

OC 61-62/2020: Appoints lawyers to Queen’s Counsel designation as laid out in the Order in Council. OC 62/2020 corrects a clerical error in the spelling of one QC lawyer.

It certainly has been a week we will all remember but want to forget. Every level of government is straining their resources to respond to COVID19 and, for many, the economic shockwave has yet to fully hit. We are working hard to keep clients informed on what all of this means to their issues and advocacy in a very uncertain time.

Please reach out to us if you’re unsure of your next steps. New West is prepared to help you navigate through these challenges and into brighter days ahead.