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
Government of Alberta Announcements
- Physician assistants will be recognized as regulated health-care professionals beginning April 1, 2021.
- This winter, snowplow operators on Alberta’s highways will be allowed to use flashing white strobe lights to increase their visibility while new signage installed along Alberta highways will remind Albertans to drive to conditions and be cautious near roadside workers.
- Alberta will soon begin piloting point-of-care rapid testing for COVID-19, providing faster, more convenient testing for the disease.
- Albertans are invited to share ideas about outdoor recreation and trails in the province through an online survey open until January 15, 2021.
- New trucking programs announced this week will make the Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) required to earn a Class 1 commercial licence more affordable while the new Experience and Equivalency program will reduce the time it takes for Class 3 drivers to upgrade to a Class 1 licence.
- In a blatant attempt to not be placed on Santa’s naughty list, Associate Minister for Red Tape Reduction Grant Hunter and Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen announced the removal of the $5 fee for harvesting up to three Christmas trees from Crown land for personal use.
- 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.