A Spooky Start to the Legislative Session
Alberta’s Legislature started up with its fall session last Tuesday, and just as soon as it got started, COVID-19 impacted elected officials. It was revealed to Premier Jason Kenney last Wednesday during Question Period that his Municipal Affairs Minister, Traci Allard, had tested positive for COVID-19. While she was in isolation, the two, along with a handful of other UCP MLAs and Ministers, had been together for an announcement in Airdrie just last week. Premier Kenney tested negative but remains in isolation. We wish Minister Allard a speedy recovery.
This session, the UCP government will be focused on economic recovery and job creation and intends to introduce approximately 20 bills. The first group introduced this week are outlined below.
On either side of Alberta, the sitting government has strengthened its position following a pandemic election. In British Columbia, Premier John Horgan is now in majority territory, increasing from 41 to 55 seats. The NDP in Alberta remembers orange waves like this one fondly. In Saskatchewan, there will be “Four Moe Years” of the Saskatchewan Party majority government, the fourth consecutive one for the party and the first under the Scott Moe banner. Mail-in ballots to determine some seats continue to be counted, a likely precursor to what we will see south of the border Tuesday in the Presidential election.
COVID-19 numbers in the province, unfortunately, continue to climb with 4,921 active cases as of October 28, including 130 in hospital, 18 in intensive care, and 318 deaths. For all the ghouls and goblins reading this edition, don’t forget to wear a mask and be safe trick or treating Saturday.
Below, you’ll find a recap of government legislation, key government announcements, and Orders in Council passed since our last edition.
Government Legislation Recap
Government of Alberta Announcements
- Wildcat strikes at Alberta hospitals and health care facilities Monday put further strain on the relationship between the UCP government and health care workers, with the Alberta Labour Relations Board ruling that the AHS employees must immediately return to work.
- The public inquiry into foreign funding of anti-oil and gas campaigns has been granted another extension by the UCP government, this time without additional funding. The final report must now be submitted by January 31, 2021.
- Two new immigration streams have been created to spur entrepreneurship and tech startup ventures. The government is also limiting the number and types of jobs available through the temporary foreign worker program in order to make jobs available to unemployed Albertans.
- New water infrastructure projects will create more than 600 jobs, boost the economy and improve the well-being of residents in seven Alberta communities.
- Alberta’s government is supporting innovative research at the University of Calgary with $11.8 million in funding this year, supporting leading-edge research that will help establish Alberta as a national and international hub for quantum computing and related spinoff industries.
- Alberta and Canada have reached a caribou conservation deal, entering into a conservation agreement under Section 11 of the federal Species at Risk Act.
- Alberta will lift curtailment as of December 2020 and stop setting monthly oil production limits to allow producers to utilize available pipeline capacity and create jobs. While the government will extend its regulatory authority to curtail oil production through December 2021, it will not set production limits due to 16 per cent of Alberta’s crude oil production remaining offline, down from 22 per cent at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Going back to the way things were, the new driver road test system will be once again privatized providing Albertans quicker access to road tests and reversing the public system implemented by the NDP that created major delays.
- A new COVID-19 pilot was announced for international travellers arriving in Alberta. A joint pilot program from the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada – the first of its kind in the country – will safely test an alternative to the current 14-day quarantine requirement for international travellers while continuing to protect Canadians from COVID-19.
- Minister of Energy Sonya Savage issued a statement on the federal cabinet’s approval of the 2021 NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd. (NGTL) expansion project.
- Flu shots are now available free of charge at pharmacies and doctors’ offices across the province and the Health Minister is pushing the message for Albertans to get them as we also face the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Alberta’s government is investing $5 million into the Alberta Enterprise Corporation’s (AEC) Accelerate Fund III, an additional investment that will bring the total funding available to tech startups to $15 million.
- Alberta’s government has reached an agreement with the energy industry and municipalities at a time when business is in a slump and municipalities have seen a significant drop in the tax base. Supports to energy companies will include an exemption from property taxes for three years when drilling new wells and building new pipelines, elimination of the Well Drilling Equipment Tax provincewide for new drills, lower assessments for less productive oil and gas wells and a continuation of the 35 per cent assessment reduction on shallow gas wells for three years.
- The University of Alberta will receive a $3.7-million grant to assist in the transition of critical agriculture research programs and researchers. The university is also receiving an additional almost $6.3 million to fund leading-edge research in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), health science, seniors care, and uses of advanced laser technology.
- Parliamentary secretary for small business and tourism Martin Long issued a statement on small business week and the importance of small businesses to Alberta’s economy.
- A $37 million annual agreement has been reached between Agriculture and Forestry and Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR) for research in the province. RDAR has also finalized its initial research priorities and will release a targeted call for proposals.
- They just don’t make them like Myron Thompson anymore, and to honour the late, great pillar of the Sundre community, the Sundre Hospital has been renamed to the Myron Thompson Health Centre.
- Agriculture and Forestry’s field crop development centre will now be housed at Olds College, leveraging research capacity and creating new teaching opportunities. An initial $10.5 million grant over three years will initially fund the program.
- Money from the industry-funded Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) system will support a new, innovative facility that will create jobs, cut emissions and transform agricultural and plant waste in Lacombe. Alberta’s government will provide $10 million from the TIER fund through Emissions Reduction Alberta to build a $45-million clean energy and organic fertilizer facility in Lacombe.
- A new 40th avenue interchange has been announced for Airdrie, with construction expected to begin in 2021-22 and be completed by 2024. The project is estimated to cost up to $83 million.
- Alberta’s government is increasing research capacity by supporting the transition of the Alberta Irrigation Technology Centre (AITC) and the Brooks Greenhouse to Lethbridge College with details of the $2 million agreement being finalized. It was also announced that Agriculture and Forestry is increasing research capacity by transferring three priority agriculture research programs to the University of Lethbridge, growing its research depth and range.
- The UCP government will repeal Bill 10 the Public Health (Emergency Powers) Amendment Act in the fall session of the Legislature. Health Minister Tyler Shandro issued a statement on the matter.
- More high school students will have a hands-on summer experience solving world problems with science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) following a partnership with Shad Canada for Grade 10 and 11 students and a four year funding partnership.
- Finance Minister Travis Toews set the stage for a grim spring budget with a call to Albertans to have their say regarding the first budget since the crash in oil prices and global pandemic. An online survey is live until December 4, and telephone town halls will be held in the first week of December.
- Alberta Health Services will lay off up to 11,000 staff following a review of the organization with the majority of the jobs in food services, cleaning, laundry and lab services to be outsourced to private industry.
- Finance Minister Toews issued a statement on Alberta Health Services and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta extending bargaining until March 31, 2021 in exchange for job security extended until that date.
Orders in Council
That’s it for this week. We hope you all have a safe and spooky Halloween!