It’s all hands on deck as orders of government respond to COVID-19

One year ago, Jason Kenney was running to become Premier with a campaign focus of jobs, the economy and pipelines. Little did the UCP know how prescient those three campaign issues would be in the midst of a global pandemic and collapse in the price of oil that Albertans now face.

Last week, the UCP government took the major step of deciding to invest billions in the Keystone XL pipeline after finalizing an agreement with TC Energy Corporation with accelerated construction to begin April 1. The investment will include $1.5 billion in equity investment in 2020 followed by a $6 billion loan guarantee in 2021. The project is expected to be completed and in service in 2023. The pipeline will carry at least 830,000 barrels per day of Alberta crude and along with the Trans Mountain Expansion, increase the province’s takeaway capacity.

The Alberta Legislature was called back last Tuesday to introduce three emergency pieces of legislation related to COVID-19. All three have now received Royal Assent. The Legislature will sit for three days this week beginning Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. with more emergency legislation anticipated to be tabled.

As of April 5 Alberta now has 1250 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 23 deaths. On Wednesday evening, the UCP government held a Legislative Assembly debate on COVID-19 in the chamber with the Premier and key government ministers giving statements and answering questions from the opposition on Alberta’s response to the pandemic.

The federal COVID-19 benefits program opens today where Canadians facing unemployment due to the pandemic can apply for emergency income support benefits. On Saturday, the Prime Minister said that his cabinet is still putting specific supports together for the oil industry.

Below you’ll find a recap of key government announcements, a legislation overview and a summary of Orders in Council passed this week.

Key Government Announcements

  • The Alberta Bits and Pieces program has been launched by the Premier and is modelled after a similar program established by Canada’s Minister of Munitions and Supply during the Second World War, C. D. Howe. The program coordinated innovative production and procurement efforts from across the Canadian economy to support the war effort. Individuals, private companies and non-profit organizations who can offer products and services, including personal protective equipment should visit the offers webpage at alberta.ca/covid19.
  • Seven appointments have been made to the Alberta Energy Regulator’s Board of Directors for five year terms, effective April 15. David Goldie is chair of the board, and the rest of the appointments and their biographies are available here.
  • Government is directing Alberta Health Services to temporarily suspend parking fees for health-care workers and the general public during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Nine non-profits will receive $3 million to provide additional food assistance for vulnerable K-12 students and families in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • To ensure the continuous operation of Alberta’s food supply chain, the provincial government is partnering with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to increase food inspector capacity.
  • The UCP government is expanding eligibility for select licensed child care centres to provide child care for all all essential service workers.
  • Alberta’s 2020 fishing regulations have been released following public feedback and include more opportunities to harvest walleye, northern pike and yellow perch from water bodies with sustainable populations.
  • The budget of the Canadian Energy Centre, also known as the Energy War Room, has reduced its budget by 90 per cent for three months or until regular operations can recommence.

Government Legislation Recap

Bill 10: Public Health (Emergency Powers) Amendment Act, 2020

Stage: Royal Assent received April 2, 2020. Comes into force April 2, 2020

Notes: Bill 10 makes changes to the Public Health Act The amendments increase fines for violating public health orders and modernize the ability to serve people with legal documents through e-mail and fax and supplement the existing enforcement authorities given to executive officers in the legislation, community peace officers as well as police officers.

Bill 11: Tenancies Statutes (Emergency Provisions) Amendment Act, 2020

Stage: Royal Assent received April 2, 2020. Comes into force on various dates

Notes: This bill makes changes to the Residential Tenancies Act and the Mobile Home Sites Tenancies Act to ensure that rent increases and late fees cannot be retroactively enforced or implemented after the state of public health emergency ends.

Bill 12: Liabilities Management Statutes Amendment Act, 2020

Stage: Royal Assent received April 2, 2020. Comes into force on proclamation

Notes: This act will help strengthen the ability of the regulator and the Orphan Well Association to more effectively manage orphan wells and the associated infrastructure while protecting landowners and ensuring environmental and public safety.

Orders in Council

98/2020: Makes the Traceability Cattle Identification Amendment Regulation.

99/2020: Makes the Meeting Procedures (COVID-19 Suppression) Regulation to allow for municipal meetings to be held electronically and to reduce numbers required for quorum because of quarantine.

100/2020: Makes the Procedures (Public Health) Amendment Regulation that the specified penalty payable by an individual in respect of a contravention of an order of a medical officer of health under Part 3 of the Public Health Act is $1000.

101/2020: Makes the Victims of Crime (Surcharge) Amendment Regulation so that the amount of a surcharge that is to be paid into the Fund is an amount that is equivalent to 20% of the fine, changed from 15% of the fine, rounded down to the nearest dollar, imposed on a person convicted of an offence.

102/2020: Makes the Youth Justice Designation (Surcharge) Amendment Regulation. Pursuant to section 53(1) of the federal Act, the percentage of a fine to provide assistance to victims of offences has changed from 15% to 20%.

103/2020: Makes the Management Employees Pension Plan Amendment Regulation.

104/2020: To facilitate the Keystone XL announcement above, authorizes the President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance to make advances to or purchase securities of the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission, and to raise money under certain terms and conditions to a maximum of $2.0 billion, authorizes the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission to borrow money to a maximum of $2.0 billion, and authorizes the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission to purchase shares, make loans, enter into joint ventures or partnerships, provide indemnities or guarantees or incorporate or acquire one or more subsidiary corporations in respect of the development of a hydrocarbon pipeline project.

105/2020: Reappoints Bill Begemann, Peter Marsden, Calvin (Cal) Ploof and Kathy Vasko as members of the Labour Relations Board, each for a term to expire on April 10, 2023.

106/2020: Effective July 1, 2020, appoints Lynn Faulder as an appeals commissioner to the Appeals Commission under the Workers’ Compensation Act for a term to expire on June 30, 2021; effective September 1, 2020, appoints Jodi Keil, Robert Moore and Jody Saunders as appeals commissioners to the Appeals Commission under the Workers’ Compensation Act, each for a term to expire on August 31, 2021.

107/2020: Outlines which documents may be received electronically by the provincial court and terms of storage for electronic documents.

108/2020: Amends Order in Council numbered O.C. 259/2019 to increase the borrowing limit of ATB Financial from $7.0 billion to $9.0 billion.

109/2020: As mentioned above, effective April 15, 2020, appoints David Goldie as the chair of the board of directors of the Alberta Energy Regulator for a term to expire on April 14, 2025, and appoints Beverly Yee as a member of the board of directors of the Alberta Energy Regulator for a term to expire on April 14, 2025; reappoints Georgette Habib as a member of the board of directors of the Alberta Energy Regulator for a term to expire on April 14, 2025, and appoints Corrina Bryson, Jude Daniels, Gary Leach and Tracey McCrimmon as members of the board of directors of the Alberta Energy Regulator, each for a term to expire on April 14, 2025.

Our New West Public Affairs team has worked hard to adjust well to this ‘new normal.’ We’ve implemented 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.

Please contact us to discuss how we can help you and your organization build a road map through these challenges.

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