Keystone-XL, Coal Leases, Vaccines and COVID-19
Some bad news came for Alberta’s long term fiscal sustainability this week with President Joe Biden cancelling the permit for the Keystone-XL pipeline on his first day in office. Premier Kenney has issued a statement following a phone call with the Prime Minister and written a subsequent letter with calls for economic retaliation and compensation to TC Energy and the Government of Alberta for billions spent already on the project. The call for economic retaliation reportedly received support from the Premiers of Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec. The UCP government agreed to a $1.5 billion equity investment in 2020 followed by a $6 billion loan guarantee in 2021 touting the construction jobs and increased stable supply once the pipeline was operational.
Minister of Energy Sonya Savage issued a statement on the decision to cancel 11 recently issued coal leases and pause any future coal lease sales in former Category 2 lands following heightened attention from the public.
The UCP caucus has been reduced in size by one with the removal of embattled Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn after he was accused by municipal politicians from being absent in the riding and also taking a trip to Mexico over Christmas break. He will sit as the only independent in the Legislature when the House resumes with Budget Day on February 25 and will not be permitted to run for a UCP nomination in the future. Rehn will also pay back unauthorized meal expenses submitted after admitting they were an error.
A relaxing of certain COVID-19 restrictions have taken effect following a steady decrease in transmission in the province. Outdoor gatherings for up to 10, personal and wellness services by appointment only and funeral attendance being increased to 20 were brought in Monday. Provincial and regional trends will continue to be monitored and assessed over the coming weeks to determine if further easing of restrictions may be considered. The easing of restrictions stands in stark contrast to Ontario which began a stay-at-home-order last week.
As of January 21, Alberta has 10,256 active COVID-19 cases with 678 new cases, 726 in hospital, 119 in intensive care and 1,500 deaths. COVID-19 units have been added to the vaccine priority list but vaccines are in short supply as the Pfizer vaccine gets delayed further with only one-fifth of the vaccine promised from the company being delivered the first week of February. You can read New West Principal Monte Solberg’s thoughts on the vaccine rollout here.
Government of Alberta Announcements
- The Calgary Board of Education has made progress to improve its governance and financial management while completing ministerial order directives.
- President of Treasury Board Travis Toews issued a statement on the agreement between nurses and Alberta Health Services to provide additional COVID-related supports and delay bargaining until March 31, 2021.
- Construction of the Willow Square Continuing Care Centre in Fort McMurray is complete and Alberta Health Services has started to outfit the facility with medical equipment and supplies.
- Lakeland College in Vermilion is getting a $1.9-million grant as part of a three year agreement to transition two critical agriculture research programs.
- Premier Kenney and Minister of Health Tyler Shandro both issued statements on the delay of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
- Alberta’s government is expanding its relaunch grant to ensure new businesses have access to the supports they need. By expanding applications to businesses that started operating between March 1 and October 31, 2020, up 5,000 more Alberta businesses will be eligible for this funding.
- Language describing case numbers of COVID-19 in schools is being updated based on feedback from education partners so that one to four cases in a school will be called an alert, while five or more will be called an outbreak (removing the term watch from the vernacular).
- Minister of Energy Sonya Savage issued a statement on the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ projected 2021 energy sector capital investment increase of almost $3.4 billion.
- Nominations are open for the Alberta Order of Excellence with the deadline for 2021 submissions being February 15.
- Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer issued a statement on December’s job numbers which saw Alberta have a reduction in part time employment but an increase of 30,000 full time jobs.
- A contract has been awarded to PCL Construction to build the South Bow River Bridge in Calgary with the contract being touted for coming in under the previously anticipated cost by $10 million.