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

Bill 35: Tax Statutes (Creating Jobs and Driving Innovation) Amendment Act, 2020
Stage: Second Reading adjourned on amendment October 28, 2020
Notes: The legislation implements two aspects of Alberta’s recovery plan: the acceleration of the government’s corporate tax cut to 8 per cent a year and a half ahead of schedule and the introduction of the innovation employment grant, providing Alberta companies with grants worth up to 20 per cent of qualifying research and development spending.

Bill 36: Geothermal Resource Development Act
Stage: Second Reading adjourned October 26, 2020
Notes: This legislation will set the foundation for the development of geothermal in the province by clarifying the rules and processes for industry, establishing the framework and legislative authority for land use and liability management, and protecting landowners and mineral rights owners. More specifically it provides the Alberta Energy Regulator with the authority to regulate geothermal projects that take place below the base of groundwater protection.

Bill 37: Builders’ Lien (Prompt Payment) Amendment Act, 2020
Stage: Second Reading passed October 28, 2020
Notes: The changes to the Builders’ Lien Act are the first in almost 20 yearsand address long-standing concerns within the construction industry, including payment timelines, lien periods and adjudication.

Bill 38: Justice Statutes Amendment Act, 2020
Stage: Second Reading adjourned October 29, 2020
Notes: This legislation recognizes Alberta’s First Nations police forces formallyin the Police Act, enables juror summons to be send via email, allows Albertans to participate in hearings and trials via telephone and video conference, expands the list of offences eligible for civil forfeiture and opens up the list of qualifications necessary for a Queen’s Counsel appointment.

Bill 39: Child Care Licensing (Early Learning and Child Care) Amendment Act, 2020
Stage: Second Reading adjourned October 29, 2020
Notes: After the first consultation in more than a decade, Alberta’s government is proposing new legislation and regulation to reduce red tape and improve accessibility of child care. This legislation will work towards more flexibility and transparency for parents including 24 hour care, simplify language and rules for operators including digital record keeping, and increase quality and safety in child care programs through a risk-based licensing program.

Bill 40: Forests (Growing Alberta’s Forest Sector) Amendment Act, 2020
Stage: Second Reading adjourned October 28, 2020
Notes: The legislation reduces regulatory burden, provides flexibility to foresters on when they can harvest and removes redundant licensing requirements.

Bill 41: Insurance (Enhancing Driver Affordability and Care) Amendment Act, 2020
Stage: First Reading passed October 29, 2020
Notes: Following recommendations of the Automobile Insurance Advisory Committee, the legislation introduces actions to address affordability of auto insurance, increase medical benefits and cut red tape. The government proposes greater engagement with Albertans and stakeholder for larger reforms down the road.

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.

Orders in Council

OC 295/2020: Proclaims the Real Estate Amendment Act, 2020 in force on December 1, 2020.

OC 296/2020: Orders that the transaction under which Lehigh Hanson Materials Limited or any affiliate of Lehigh Hanson Materials Limited acquires the fee simple interest in certain land for the extraction, processing and selling of aggregates is excluded from the operation of the Foreign Ownership of Land Regulations, except for sections 22 and 25.

OC 297/2020: Makes the Name Search Amendment Regulation, further defining a court order authorizing search and extending the expiry to May 31, 2025.

OC 298/2020: Makes the Real Estate Exemption Amendment Regulation, adding a section on condominium management services.

OC 299/2020: Appoints Cynthia J. Dickins and Nathalie Whyte as members of the Alberta Human Rights Commission, each for a term to expire on October 6, 2022.

OC 300/2020: Makes the Regional Airports Authorities (Expiry Date Extension) Amendment Regulation, extending the expiry to June 30, 2025.

OC 301/2020: Reappoints Patti Dibski as a member of The Board of Governors of Alberta University of the Arts for a term to expire on October 6, 2023; appoints John Faul and Chi Iliya-Ndule as members of The Board of Governors of Alberta University of the Arts, each for a term to expire on October 6, 2023.

OC 302/2020: Proclaims section 12 of the Red Tape Reduction Implementation Act, 2020 in force on the date of issue of the Proclamation.

OC 303/2020: Reappoints Irene Elizabeth Pfeiffer as a public member to the council of the Alberta College of Pharmacy for a term to expire on October 3, 2023.

OC 304-06/2020: Proclaims the Local Authorities Capital Financing Act in force on October 31, 2020 and makes the Local Authorities Capital Financing Regulation. Authorizes the President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance to borrow and to make loans to local authorities under the Local Authorities Capital Financing Act up to the limit in the Local Authorities Capital Financing Regulation.

OC 307-09/2020: Effective October 31, 2020, rescinds the appointment of Lowell Epp as the director of the Alberta Capital Finance Authority, makes the Alberta Capital Finance Authority Act Repeal Regulations and amends Order in Council numbered O.C. 259/2019 to strike out references to the Alberta Capital Finance Authority.

OC 310/2020: Appoints Mohamed Amery, Giuseppa Bentivegna, Christina Clark, Shayne Eldridge, Joshua Fernando, Tiana Field-Ridley, Charles Fisher, Gibson Glavin, Michael Humphreys, Vesna Kavaz, Kevin Kelly, Todd Laycock, Terri Mann, David Melney, Paul Paquette, Gary Peckham, Jamie Tiessen, Rohit Verma and Miles Weatherall as appeals commissioners to the Appeals Commission under the Workers’ Compensation Act, each for a term to expire on April 30, 2022.

OC 311/2020: Appoints Deana Nicole Dumaresque as a justice of the peace and designates her as a full-time justice of the peace for a term of 10 years.

OC 312/2020: Designates Cathryn Aliina Duxbury as a full-time justice of the peace.

OC 313/2020: Appoints Shawna Miller and Kevin Szakacs as members of The Board of Governors of Grande Prairie Regional College, each for a term to expire on October 13, 2023.

That’s it for this week. We hope you all have a safe and spooky Halloween!