Supreme Court Rules the Carbon Tax is Constitutional

A Supreme Court 6-3 ruling issued Thursday morning that found the federal government’s carbon tax to be constitutional was the end of the road for legal challenges by the UCP government against the tax. Premier Jason Kenney held a media availability and issued a statement on the ruling saying he was obviously disappointed and that it creates a “new federal power that erodes provincial jurisdiction and undermines our constitutional system.” When asked if Alberta would implement a carbon tax, the Premier stated his government would consider all options and continue to listen to Albertans.

Any hope for moving Alberta in the short term to Step 3 of the government’s reopening plan was quashed by Health Minister Tyler Shandro earlier this week as active cases, variant cases and hospitalizations continue to climb. As of March 25, Alberta has 6,835 active cases with 764 new cases, 294 in hospital, 55 in intensive care and 1,976. To date there have been 532,171 vaccine doses administered in the province.

With spring break for students in some areas of the province next week and Easter next weekend, the Legislature is now on a break until April 6.

Another date to mark on your calendar come April is the 19th, which the Trudeau government revealed this week will be when they (finally) table their budget.

Below you’ll find a recap of legislation introduced and debated this week, government announcements and Orders in Council.

Government Legislation Recap

Bill 51: Citizen Initiative Act

Stage: First Reading passed March 16, 2021

Notes: Under Bill 51 an Albertan could, through Elections Alberta, petition other Albertans on proposed legislative policy or constitutional initiatives that they would like explored. Successful legislative or policy initiatives would then be referred to a committee of the Legislative Assembly for consideration. Successful constitutional initiatives would proceed through the process established in the Referendum Act.

Bill 52: Recall Act

Stage: First Reading passed March 15, 2021

Notes: This act would allow Albertans to initiate a process that could lead to the removal and replacement of MLAs, municipal officials, and school trustees. The rather involved and cumbersome proposed process is outlined here.

Bill 53: Service Alberta Statutes (Virtual Meetings) Amendment Act, 2021

Stage: Third Reading passed March 24, 2021

Notes: If passed, Bill 53 will change five pieces of legislation to allow organizations the option of conducting meetings and votes electronically, instead of in person and would apply to thousands of Alberta businesses, non-profits, societies, cooperatives and condominium corporations that have legislated meeting and voting requirements.

Bill 54: Irrigation Districts Amendment Act, 2021

Stage: Second Reading adjourned March 24, 2021

Notes: Bill 54 would allow irrigation districts to borrow funds for large-scale expansions of their irrigation works, increase confidence for financial lenders and lead to more consistent, secure access to funding for irrigation districts. Last fall, Alberta’s government announced an $815-million investment in irrigation modernization and expansion in partnership with eight irrigation districts and the Canadian Infrastructure Bank. The legislation would also enable irrigation districts to pass bylaws allowing them to set board term limits.

Bill 55: College of Alberta School Superintendents Act

Stage: Second Reading adjourned March 17, 2021

Notes: Bill 55 would make the College of Alberta School Superintendents a legislated organization responsible for upholding the superintendent profession. The legislation stems from consultation and builds on professional practice standards for superintendents and would ensure professional development and learning requirements are set for members.

Bill 56: Local Measures Statutes Amendment Act, 2021

Stage: Second Reading adjourned March 15, 2021

Notes: Bill 56 extends capital funding under the Municipal Sustainability Initiative to 2023-24 and defers the introduction of the Local Government Fiscal Framework until 2024-25. The proposed act also modernizes emergency 911 systems through amendments to the Emergency 911 Act. The act makes nine secondary 911 centres eligible for funding from a 51-cent larger wireless 911 levy.

Bill 57: Metis Settlements Amendment Act, 2021

Stage: Second Reading adjourned March 15, 2021

Notes: Following consultation with Metis Settlements, Bill 57 would increase Metis Settlement council responsibility to charge for services such as water, sewer and roads, leave it to Settlement councils to determine the number of elected councillors needed, reduce the size of the Metis Settlement General Council executive from four officers to a maximum of two and remove the minister of Indigenous Relations from any decision-making powers related to the Metis Settlements General Council’s financial policies.

Bill 58: Freedom to Care Act

Stage: Second Reading adjourned March 24, 2021

Notes: The legislation, if passed, would allow cabinet, through an order in council, to grant one-time, short-term exemptions to nonprofits for some government regulations and require the Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women to report annually to cabinet on exemption requests that cannot be addressed through existing processes or legislation. It would also provide individual volunteers with liability protections.

Bill 59: Appropriation (Supplementary Supply) Act, 2021

Stage: Third Reading passed March 24, 2021

Notes: The supplementary estimates include $1.3 billion in expense and $750,000 in capital investment, primarily focused on the government’s COVID-19 response and Alberta’s recovery plan.

Bill 60: Appropriation Act, 2021

Stage: Third Reading passed on division March 25, 2021

Notes: The bill requests a total of $44.8 billion from the general revenue fund for the government to meet funding commitments as laid out in the 2021-22 government estimates. Additionally, the bill requests a total of $131 million to cover the Legislative Assembly’s expense for the year as detailed in the offices of the Legislative Assembly estimates. The bill also includes $3.8 billion for capital investment, $1.1 billion for financial transactions, and $2.5 billion for contingencies.

Bill 61: Vital Statistics Amendment Act, 2021

Stage: First Reading passed March 22, 2021

Notes: The bill would prohibit anyone who is designated as a dangerous, long-term or high-risk offender from completing a legal change of name, and would also prohibit another person from requesting a change on their behalf.

Private Members’ Public Bills

The following Private Members’ Bills were debated in the Legislature this week.

Bill 205: Genocide Remembrance, Condemnation and Prevention Month Act

Bill Sponsor: Peter Singh, UCP, MLA for Calgary-East

Stage: Third Reading passed on division March 22, 2021

Notes: An amendment was passed this week to make the comprehensive list of genocides that are recognized in the bill synonymous with what the House of Commons has recognized in Parliament.

Bill 212: Official Sport of Alberta Act

Bill Sponsor: Muhammad Yaseen, UCP, MLA for Calgary-North

Stage: Proceeded with on division March 22, 2021

Notes: This bill would make rodeo Alberta’s official sport. Yahoo!

Bill 213: Traffic Safety (Maximum Speed Limit for Provincial Freeways) Amendment Act, 2021

Bill Sponsor: Searle Turton, UCP, MLA for Spruce Grove-Stony Plain

Stage: Reported to Assembly March 23, 2021

Notes: Bill 213 would increase the maximum highway speed limit for some divided highways from 110 km/h to 120 km/h.

Government of Alberta Announcements

  • The GoA is allocating $9.7 million in grants for child care operators to create 1,500 more spaces in day homes and daycare centres, including overnight care.

  • Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer issued a statement in response to the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association annual report that showed huge momentum in tech and innovation in the province.

  • Minister of Health Tyler Shandro issued a statement on passing the threshold of half a million doses of vaccine administered in the province with one in ten Albertans having received at least one dose.

  • Alberta’s government will be testing a new Digital Overdose Response System mobile app in Calgary this summer that will help protect people using opioids and other substances while alone in their homes.

  • The government is offering at least two million free rapid testing kits to public, private and not-for-profit employers and service providers provincewide with any employer or service provider able to apply for the tests.

  • President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Travis Toews issued a statement on the AUPE’s rejection of Alberta Health Services’ proposal to delay labour negotiations, stating that he was disappointed.

  • Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon issued a statement on the Government of Canada’s recognition of Alberta’s progress in recovering southern mountain caribou.

Orders in Council

OC 80/2021: Effective April 1, 2021, rescinds the appointment of Dr. Christopher de Gara as the Medical Panels Commissioner; effective April 1, 2021, appoints Dale Wispinski as the Medical Panels Commissioner for a term to expire on September 30, 2021.

OC 81/2021: Proclaims sections 1 and 2(2)(a) and (e), (15)(b), (18), (49), (136)(a)(ii) and (140), to the extent that it enacts section 317 of the Companies Act, of the Red Tape Reduction Implementation Act, 2020 in force on March 29, 2021.

OC 82/2021: Makes the Justices of the Peace 2021 Compensation Commission Regulation to create a commission setting compensation levels from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2025 for Justices of the Peace.

OC 83/2021: Makes the Provincial Court Judges and Masters in Chambers 2021 Compensation Commission Regulation setting compensation levels for judges and masters from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2025.

OC 84/2021: Effective June 14, 2021, reappoints Shannon Ryhorchuk as a member of The Board of Governors of Mount Royal University for a term to expire on June 13, 2024.

OC 85/2021: Effective May 29, 2021, reappoints Priti Laderoute and appoints Linda Palladino as members of the Board of Governors of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, each for a term to expire on May 28, 2024.

OC 86-87/2021: Proclaiming the Disclosure to Protect Against Domestic Violence (Clare’s Law) Act in force on April 1, 2021 and makes the Disclosure to Protect Against Domestic Violence Regulation.

OC 88/2021: Proclaiming section 5 of the Fiscal Measures and Taxation Act, 2020 in force on April 1, 2021.

OC 89/2021: Appoints Patrick Aherne and Heather MacCallum as members of the Audit Committee, each for a term to expire on March 23, 2024.

OC 90/2021: Reappoints Laurene Beloin and John McGowan as directors of the Credit Union Deposit Guarantee Corporation, each for a term to expire on April 30, 2024; appoints Camille Bérubé, nominated by Credit Union Central Alberta Limited, as a director of the Credit Union Deposit Guarantee Corporation for a term to expire on April 30, 2024.

OC 91/2021: Transfers $107,996,000 of the contingencies supply vote of the President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021 to the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry and authorizes the Minister to spend the amount for agricultural income support programs of the AFSC and emergency assistance for 2020-21 wildfires.

OC 92/2021: Reappoints Charlene Butler as a member and appoints her for a further term as chair of the Automobile Insurance Rate Board for a term to expire on July 14, 2023; effective July 23, 2021, reappoints Patricia Matthews as a member and as vice-chair of the Automobile Insurance Rate Board for a term to expire on July 22, 2024.

OC 93/2021: Amends Order in Council numbered OC 1/2016, the Deputy Ministers and Senior Officials Salary Schedules Order, to extend the expiry date to March 31, 2022.

OC 94/2021: Makes the Reform of Agencies, Boards and Commissions (Post-secondary Institutions) Compensation Amendment Regulation adding additional terms regarding total remuneration, administrative leave, severance and excluded benefits.

OC 95/2021: Makes the Salary Restraint Amendment Regulation for agencies boards and commissions, stating that no increases to total remuneration are permitted for post-secondary executive positions while total remuneration may be increased for other ABC executives under specific conditions until March 31, 2022.

OC 96/2021: Effective July 1, 2021, reappoints Stan Magidson as a member and redesignates him as Chair of the Alberta Securities Commission for a term to expire on June 30, 2026; effective April 1, 2021, reappoints Steven Cohen and Raymond Crossley as members of the Alberta Securities Commission, each for a term to expire on March 31, 2024; effective April 1, 2021, appoints Douglas Mair as a member of the Alberta Securities Commission for a term to expire on March 31, 2024; effective April 1, 2021, designates James Oosterbaan as the lead independent member of the Alberta Securities Commission for a term to expire on March 31, 2022, and prescribes the powers, duties and functions of the lead independent member.