New Mandatory Provincewide Measures
As we bid a very hearty adieu to 2020 and the mayhem it brought, it is worth revisiting the busy fall session of the Alberta Legislature. In total, 15 government bills were passed this fall on a wide range of topics largely outside the focus of the COVID-19 pandemic as the UCP continues to chip away at fulfilling platform commitments made during the campaign. At this point, they are about 75 per cent of the way through that list. Royal Assent was received on the 15 government bills outside of the House on December 9, 2020. During the spring sitting that will begin in February, you can expect the focus to be on a provincial budget due at the end of that month, and further plans to reignite and diversify a lagging economy.
The focus of most Albertans for the past month has been on COVID-19 and the measures announced by Premier Jason Kenney. The new mandatory provincewide measures largely went into effect December 13 and included an immediate ban on all indoor and outdoor social gatherings, mandatory masking, a limit to 15 per cent occupancy for places of worship and retail, the closure of bars and restaurants for in-person dining and the closure of casinos, fitness centres, libraries, hair salons and others in similar categories. Mandatory work from home measures where available are also in effect. It was announced yesterday that the sweeping measures will continue until at least January 21with the exception of in-person learning for K-12 students that will resume as planned on Monday.
As of January 7, Alberta has 13,298 active cases of COVID-19, 968 new cases, 871 in hospital, 139 in intensive care and 1,217 deaths. There are currently 25 acute care outbreaks in the province. Immunizations with both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are underway in the province for healthcare workers and at continuing care homes. As of January 6, 33,864 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Alberta, depleting close to 60% of delivered supply. The Premier will provide another vaccine update today where he is expected to announce a significant acceleration of vaccination rates, while joining provincial counterparts in warning of dwindling supply
December also saw the unveiling of the Trudeau Liberals $15-billion climate plan, including a five-fold jump in the carbon tax over the next ten years. By 2030, the price under the plan will have climbed to $170 per tonne. UCP Environment Minister Jason Nixon reacted to the Liberal plan calling it “another attack on Alberta’s economy and Alberta’s jurisdiction”.
Shortly before the Christmas break, the team at New West Public Affairs spent an hour prognosticating on what may come for Alberta in the year ahead. Thank you to the hundreds who signed up to watch it live and to those of you who missed it, you can catch the webinar here.
Below, you’ll find a recap of other government announcements and Orders in Council passed since our last edition.
Government of Alberta Announcements
- Following a tumultuous year for Alberta’s parks system and fears that parks would be delisted, Alberta’s government has secured or maintained partnerships for 170 parks and public recreation area sites across the province under a model that began in 1932.
- Up-to-date substance use data is now accessible via the new Alberta Substance Use Surveillance System, which will replace quarterly reports.
- Minister of Energy Sonya Savage issued a statement on the launch of the federal action plan for small modular nuclear reactors, calling it an exciting step forward.
- Premier Jason Kenney issued a critical statement on the estimates for major federal transfer payments released Thursday, saying he was profoundly disappointed in the transfers the province will receive this year.
- Amendments to Alberta’s fisheries regulations will provide new opportunities for the private stocking of tiger trout, establish a fishing guide licence and help municipalities address the ongoing issue of abandoned ice fishing shacks in the spring.
- Starting December 18, rapid COVID-19 testing were expanded across the province to reach Albertans in homeless shelters, long-term care facilities and remote rural communities.
- Minister of Energy Sonya Savage and Associate Minister of Natural Gas and Electricity Dale Nally issued a supportive statement on the federal government’s newly released hydrogen strategy.
- The Alberta-Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations Protocol Agreementwas signed between the GoA and Treaty Six First Nations, including 16 First Nations that span central Alberta, outlines a formal process for ministers, chiefs and councils to meet several times throughout the year.
- The UCP government unveiled new outreach programs and supports specifically for 11 communities in Edmonton and Calgary with very high rates of COVID-19 infection and transmission including self-isolation hotels and financial aid.
- Alberta’s government is launching the Municipal Measurement Index to improve local decision-making and help Albertans see how all of Alberta’s 338 local governments spend their money.
- The Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute (AVI) at the University of Alberta will receive $20 million in funding over four years to accelerate world-class science to help combat COVID-19 and related diseases.
- Alberta’s government has expanded its relaunch grant to help small and medium-sized job creators impacted by new COVID-19 restrictions. With a new lower threshold and increased grant amount, up to 15,000 more businesses may be eligible for funding.
- Starting January 1, 2021, Albertans will no longer require expiry stickers on their licence plates as the province moves toward adopting reflective plates.
- Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer issued a statement on the November Labour Force Survey commenting that we have seen encouraging signs of recovery.
- Alberta’s government is providing additional supports to the province’s tourism sector by extending the abatement period for Alberta’s hotels and lodges to retain the tourism levy from December 31, 2020 to March 31, 2021.