COVID-19 Numbers Continue to Climb

As COVID-19 numbers continue to climb in the province, Premier Jason Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw announced stronger restrictions last Tuesday intended to stop the spike in cases. With the aim of reducing the spread of COVID-19, protecting hospitals and keeping schools and businesses open as much as possible, the measures prohibit indoor social gatherings provincewide, move all Grade 7-12 students to online learning beginning today as well as additional mandatory measures for some areas of the province. In Edmonton, Calgary and surrounding communities there are mandatory mask requirements, and in enhanced areas of the province there is restricted access to some businesses.

As of November 29, Alberta has 15,692 active cases, 435 in hospital, 95 in intensive care and 533 deaths.

Last week also saw Finance Minister Travis Toews table the mid-year fiscal update, which showed improvement from the Q1 update despite the pandemic. The provincial government is projecting a $21.3-billion deficit for 2020-21, $2.8 billion less than last quarter largely due to improving revenue and government efforts to hold the line on spending.

Expenses not including COVID-19 measures have decreased $156 million from Budget 2020. Total expense is forecast at $62.7 billion, up $135 million from last quarter and $5.4 billion from Budget 2020. The additional spending is for health care, personal protective equipment, municipal grants, financial supports to Albertans and businesses to help with the effects of the pandemic, and stimulus initiatives detailed in Alberta’s Recovery Plan.

Minister Toews is due to deliver Budget 2021 in February.

Alberta’s Legislature was originally scheduled to wrap up by the end of this week, but with 12 bills yet to pass Third Reading, sources say to expect the sitting to extend well into next week, with a likely end date of December 10.

Below, you’ll find a recap of government legislation, announcements and Orders in Council passed since our last edition.

Government Legislation Recap

Bill 35: Tax Statutes (Creating Jobs and Driving Innovation) Amendment Act, 2020
Stage: Second Reading passed November 23, 2020
Notes: The legislation implements two aspects of Alberta’s recovery plan: the acceleration of the government’s corporate tax cut to 8 per cent a year and a half ahead of schedule and the introduction of the innovation employment grant, providing Alberta companies with grants worth up to 20 per cent of qualifying research and development spending.

Bill 36: Geothermal Resource Development Act
Stage: Third Reading passed November 23, 2020
Notes: This legislation will set the foundation for the development of geothermal in the province by clarifying the rules and processes for industry, establishing the framework and legislative authority for land use and liability management, and protecting landowners and mineral rights owners. More specifically it provides the Alberta Energy Regulator with the authority to regulate geothermal projects that take place below the base of groundwater protection.

Bill 37: Builders’ Lien (Prompt Payment) Amendment Act, 2020
Stage: Third Reading passed November 26, 2020
Notes: The changes to the Builders’ Lien Act are the first in almost 20 yearsand address long-standing concerns within the construction industry, including payment timelines, lien periods and adjudication.

Bill 38: Justice Statutes Amendment Act, 2020
Stage: Committee of the Whole passed November 25, 2020
Notes: This legislation recognizes Alberta’s First Nations police forces formallyin the Police Act, enables juror summons to be send via email, allows Albertans to participate in hearings and trials via telephone and video conference, expands the list of offences eligible for civil forfeiture and opens up the list of qualifications necessary for a Queen’s Counsel appointment.

Bill 39: Child Care Licensing (Early Learning and Child Care) Amendment Act, 2020
Stage: Committee of the Whole passed with amendments November 25, 2020
Notes: After the first consultation in more than a decade, Alberta’s government is proposing new legislation and regulation to reduce red tape and improve accessibility of child care. This legislation will work towards more flexibility and transparency for parents including 24 hour care, simplify language and rules for operators including digital record keeping, and increase quality and safety in child care programs through a risk-based licensing program.

Bill 40: Forests (Growing Alberta’s Forest Sector) Amendment Act, 2020
Stage: Committee of the Whole passed November 24, 2020
Notes: The legislation reduces regulatory burden, provides flexibility to foresters on when they can harvest and removes redundant licensing requirements.

Bill 41: Insurance (Enhancing Driver Affordability and Care) Amendment Act, 2020
Stage: Second Reading passed November 18, 2020
Notes: Following recommendations of the Automobile Insurance Advisory Committee, the legislation introduces actions to address affordability of auto insurance, increase medical benefits and cut red tape. The government proposes greater engagement with Albertans and stakeholder for larger reforms down the road.

Bill 42: North Saskatchewan River Basin Water Authorization Act 
Stage: Third Reading passed November 5, 2020
Notes: This legislation is a special act of the Legislature to approve two interbasin transfers from the North Saskatchewan River basin to the Athabasca River basin to address drinking water challenges in two communities. It allows the two small communities to connect to the regional waterline operated by the West Inter Lake District Regional Water Services Commission, providing residents with a reliable supply of high-quality drinking water.

Bill 43: Financing Alberta’s Strategic Transportation Act 
Stage: Second Reading passed November 18, 2020
Notes: This bill will allow the government to establish a user fee (toll road) to finance certain highway and road construction projects and ensure that the fee will be eliminated when a project has been paid for.

Bill 44: Financial Statutes Amendment Act, 2020 
Stage: Second Reading passed November 23, 2020
Notes: This legislation follows industry consultation and amends seven other pieces of legislation to reduce red tape for financial sector job creators while improving the resilience of Alberta’s financial institutions.

Bill 45: Local Authorities Election Amendment Act, 2020 
Stage: Committee of the Whole adjourned November 25, 2020
Notes: This legislation proposes changes to the Local Authorities Election Actto ensure municipal and school board elections are easily accessible and cost-effective for Albertans by holding them at the same time as a Senate vote or referendum. This means a municipality will no longer have the ability to change its local voting date to a Saturday in years where a Senate election or provincial referendum is intended to be held at the same time. In addition, to support transparency and accountability in municipal elections, it establishes contribution limits of $30,000 per donor per third-party advertiser.

Bill 46: Health Statutes Amendment Act, 2020 
Stage: Second Reading adjourned November 25, 2020
Notes: Proposed amendments would focus on improving healthcare governance and accountability, including through strengthening protection of patients by regulating health-care aides, separating regulatory colleges from professional associations and allowing for the amalgamation of some smaller colleges, establishing a centralized, public-facing online registry of health professionals to help Albertans find a health provider and repealing the Hospitals Act.

Bill 47: Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020 
Stage: Second Reading adjourned November 25, 2020
Notes: Bill 47 undoes some labour changes made by the NDP government. It removes duplication and redundancy throughout the OHS Act including streamlining the complaint and appeal process, adding flexibility for health and safety committees and representatives for work sites with multiple employers and a prime contractor and removes prescriptive elements brought in by the previous government in order to improve flexibility for job creators and better align Alberta with other jurisdictions. The legislation also follows through on the government’s commitment to create a Hero’s Fund. NDP Leader Rachel Notley has vowed to fight the changes.

Bill 48: Red Tape Reduction Implementation Act, 2020, (No. 2)
Stage: Second Reading passed November 24, 2020
Notes: For the second time this year, Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction Grant Hunter has introduced legislation to, you guessed it, reduce red tape. This iteration proposes 12 changes across eight ministries that will speed up approvals and reduce wait times, including changes to the Municipal Government Act that will impact development.

Bill 50: Appropriation (Supplementary Supply) Act, 2020
Stage: Second Reading passed November 26, 2020
Notes: The bill requests a total of $5.7 billion from the General Revenue Fund for the government’s COVID-19 response and Alberta’s recovery plan.

Government of Alberta Announcements

  • The U.S. Department of Commerce has lowered tariffs for forest companies that participated in the first administrative review of softwood lumber litigation, including Alberta foresters.
  • President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Travis Toews issued a statement on the request from the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) for a seven per cent pay increase stating that he was disappointed a deal to delay negotiations until March 2021 could not be reached.
  • Alberta’s government is providing more financial support to the Alberta job creators hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic with the opportunity to apply for a second payment from the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant. Additionally, job creators that have experienced a 40 per cent revenue loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic will qualify for the grant.
  • Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer issued a statement on the Canada-U.K. interim trade agreement.
  • Construction is underway on St. Anne’s Haven, a new continuing care centre in Lethbridge that will be home to 102 people needing supportive living and dementia care. The project received $10 million from the Alberta government.

Orders in Council

OC 338-339/2020: Proclaims sections 3(4) and 15(7)(b) of the New Home Buyer Protection Act in force on the date of issue of the Proclamation and makes the New Home Buyer Protection (General) Amendment Regulation.

OC 340/2020: Prescribes the amount of $46 256 000 to be paid to the Crown under agreement by The Workers’ Compensation Board for the purpose of defraying part of the Crown’s costs during the fiscal year 2020-2021 of administering the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

OC 341/2020: Makes the Premier’s and Ministers’ Staff Employment Order with updated salary ranges and code of conduct for staff.

OC 342/2020: Appoints Maria David-Evans as a public member to the Professional Practice Appeal Committee for a term to expire on November 17, 2023.

OC 343/2020: Proclaims the following provisions of the Provincial Administrative Penalties Act in force on the following dates: on December 1, 2020, sections 1 to 37, 39, 40, 42, 43(2) to (9) and (11) to (15), 44(2)(a)(ii) to (iv) and (b), (3) to (15) and (18) to (67) and 45 to 47; on March 31, 2021, sections 38, 41, 44(2)(a)(i) and (17).
OC 344/2020: Designates SafeRoads Alberta in the Department of Transportation as an adjudication branch to conduct reviews under the Provincial Administrative Penalties Act.

OC 345/2020: Makes the Provincial Administrative Penalties (Prescribed Enactments) Regulation.

OC 346/2020: Makes the Use of Highway and Rules of the Road Amendment Regulation.

OC 347/2020: Makes the Access to Motor Vehicle Information Amendment Regulation.

OC 348/2020: Makes the Demerit Point Program and Service of Documents Amendment Regulation.

OC 349/2020: Makes the Transportation Network Companies Amendment Regulation.

OC 350/2020: Makes the Alberta Transportation Safety Board Dissolution Transitional Regulation.

OC 351/2020: Reappoints Terry Whitehead as a member of the board of The Governors of The University of Lethbridge for a term to expire on November 17, 2023.

OC 352/2020: Appoints Ruth Isley, Brian Rudyk and Ron Young as members of The Board of Governors of Portage College, each for a term to expire on November 17, 2023.

OC 353/2020: Appoints David B. Hanson, MLA, as a member and designates him as chair of the Northern Alberta Development Council for a term to expire on November 17, 2022, and rescinds the appointment of one member of the Northern Alberta Development Council.

OC 354/2020: Declares a state of public health emergency in Alberta due to pandemic COVID-19, for the purposes of sections 52.1 and 52.8 of the Public Health Act.

OC 355/2020: Rescinds the appointment of Alain Maisonneuve as chief executive officer of the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission.

OC 356/2020: Makes the City of Edmonton Belvedere Community Revitalization Levy Amendment Regulation.

OC 357/2020: Makes the City of Edmonton The Quarters Downtown Community Revitalization Levy Amendment Regulation.

OC 358/2020: Nominates Myles Morris as a governor of the Council of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, representing the Province of Alberta.

OC 359/2020: Makes the Timber Management Amendment Regulation.
OC 360-61/2020: Proclaims the Corrections (Alberta Parole Board) Amendment Act, 2020 in force on February 1, 2021 and makes the Correctional Institution Amendment Regulation.

OC 362/2020: Reappoints Sharon Anderson and Tracey Maguire as members of The Governors of Athabasca University, each for a term to expire on November 20, 2023.

OC 363/2020: Makes the General Fisheries (Alberta) Amendment Regulation.

OC 364/2020: Makes the Calgary Restricted Development Area Amendment Regulation.

OC 365/2020: Proclaims the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement (Adoption Advertising) Amendment Act, 2017, introduced by then Wildrose MLA Leela Aheer in opposition, in force on the date of issue of the Proclamation.

OC 366/2020: Makes the Financial Institutions Regulations Amendment Regulation.