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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith marks first anniversary

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Premier Danielle Smith released the following statement on the one-year anniversary of being sworn in as Premier: 

“It is a tremendous honour to serve Albertans as their Premier. Alberta is truly one of the best places in the world to live, work and raise a family. Over the last 118 years, we have written an incredible story together. And I am proud that in the last year, I have had the opportunity to work with an incredible team to help write this latest chapter.
“When I was sworn into office on Oct. 11, 2022, I promised that we would not have our voices silenced or censored by Ottawa, we would address the inflation and affordability crisis driven by the fiscally destructive policies of the federal government, we would get our own fiscal house in order and balance the budget to enable us to afford to be compassionate, and we would address concerns in our public health system.
“I am proud to say that over the past 12 months, we have made significant progress for Albertans in every one of those areas.
“In the fall 2022 legislative session, we passed the Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act to stand up for Alberta, Albertans and our constitutional jurisdiction. In the spring 2023 legislative session, we introduced and passed the Alberta Firearms Act to continue to strengthen Alberta’s position within Confederation. Continuing in 2023, we also released a strategy to reform the broken equalization formula, pushed the federal government on bail reform, resulting in the introduction of federal Bill C-48, and fought back against the federal government’s so-called Just Transition.
“With inflation at its worst in decades and life getting more expensive for Albertans, we provided a suite of inflation-relief measures to help families pay their bills. Because we recognized the extra difficulty on families and seniors, we provided $100 monthly payments for up to six months for every eligible child and senior, and provided an additional $10 million to food banks throughout the province to help those who were struggling most. We expanded the low-income transit pass and indexed AISH, income supports and the Alberta Seniors Benefit. We extended the pause on the fuel tax to save Albertans more money every time they fill up their tanks, while the federal government continues making life more expensive for families through their ever-growing carbon tax.
“We extended supports for Ukrainian evacuees fleeing Russia’s war in Ukraine and offered disaster support for Türkiye and Syria following the terrible earthquake. We increased pay for staff who work with persons with developmental disabilities, who had not seen increases since 2014, and we improved tax credits and grants to support families pursuing adoption. We pushed the federal government to further improve the daycare deal to better meet Alberta families’ unique needs. We opened the Bridge Healing convalescence facility for Edmonton’s vulnerable citizens to ensure they have access to the health care and community supports they need to be well.
“We extended interest-free student loans to 12 months, offering students more certainty in their personal budgeting, and we capped tuition increases so Alberta’s post-secondary institutions can retain their competitive advantage when attracting students. We paused rate increases on auto insurance to protect Albertans from premium increases when they can least afford it, and we ended the Graduated Driver Licensing program, saving drivers on their licensing costs.
“For only the fourth time in 15 years, we presented Albertans with a balanced budget in February. That budget also provided Albertans with a fiscal framework to guide future government spending, debt repayment and savings so that Alberta can continue moving forward in prosperity. We paid off $13 billion in debt, significantly reducing our annual interest payments – ¬funds that are better spent on providing the services and infrastructure Albertans need. We also added $2 billion to the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, which will increase our investment income each year and provide more fiscal stability for the province in the long term.
“Our improved finances enable us to provide additional funding for schools, hospitals and roads so Albertans have access to the infrastructure they need for a growing population. We have also provided funding to close learning gaps experienced by younger students and have expanded seats at universities in high-demand programs. To improve outdoor and recreation opportunities for Albertans and visitors, we allocated $200 million to improve the province’s campgrounds and trails.
“We are continuing to build our economy by creating an Agri-Processing Investment Tax Credit, building strong partnerships with other western provinces to build economic corridors that connect markets across the Prairies, expanding the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program to invite nearly 10,000 newcomers, and by creating pathways for more skills training opportunities for the most in-demand jobs in our province. At the same time, we are working with Alberta municipalities by changing the municipal funding model to provide them with funding stability and by making the payment of municipal taxes a condition of wellsite transfers.
“We are also growing relationships with Indigenous and Métis communities, which includes the signing of a new Metis Settlement Agreement. We continue to recognize the important role of Indigenous Peoples in Alberta in our economy and remain committed to ensuring they are partners in prosperity. To accomplish this, we doubled the loan capacity of the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation from $1 billion to $2 billion.
“We indexed personal income taxes, so Albertans keep more of their hard-earned money to spend on the things that are important to them. We are working to increase access to halal financing, so members of Alberta’s Muslim community are better able to pursue their dreams of home ownership.
“Health care remains a top priority for Albertans and we have begun the hard work of repairing and improving our health care system. We brought in more ambulances during peak hours in Calgary and Edmonton and we fast-tracked patient transfers at hospitals to ensure our highly skilled paramedics can respond to more emergencies and do so more quickly. We introduced alternative transportation for non-urgent hospital transfers and have reduced the number of code reds that occur in the province. We have fixed problems with emergency department patient flow, helping us reduce overall hospital wait times, and we have increased our surgical capacity and are projected to eliminate the surgical backlog in the new year.
“I am proud to have addressed the concerns of many Albertans in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. We put an end to provincial mask mandates, and we replaced the chief medical officer of health and the AHS board. We established a public health emergencies governance review panel to examine the pandemic response and to recommend changes to improve how we handle potential future public health emergencies.
“We have stopped at nothing in our pursuit to improve health care services and supports for Albertans. We worked with our provincial colleagues to fight for increased federal health transfers, and I am proud to have signed a $24-billion health deal with the federal government. When our province and country faced supply issues with children’s pain and fever medication, we stepped up to ensure that parents would have access to these medications. And we honoured Alberta firefighters and the health risks they face by providing them with presumptive cancer coverage.
“In addition, we’ve prioritized recovery for those suffering from the deadly disease of addiction and from mental health challenges. We are progressing on the Alberta model and have opened recovery communities in both Red Deer and Lethbridge, with nine more on the way including four on First Nations land. We are investing in training more mental health professionals and are expanding mental health supports for children and youth in communities and schools, making sure no child is left behind.
“We recognize that public safety is another top concern for Albertans. We share that concern and are taking action to ensure all Albertans feel safe in their communities. This includes establishing public safety task forces in Edmonton and Calgary, committing to provide funding to hire 100 more police officers, increasing the scope and number of sheriffs, and increasing the number of prosecutors available in Alberta’s courts.
“Furthermore, we are introducing additional accountability measures in partnership with police services. We have passed an updated Police Act that will establish a new, independent body for investigating complaints against police, and have taken steps to mandate body-worn cameras for police. At the same time, we are working with municipalities and Indigenous communities that want to establish their own, local police services.
“In addition to this work, we have released a provincial emissions reduction strategy, created a regulatory framework for brine-hosted minerals, established an energy future panel, launched expressions of interest for hydrogen fuelling stations, introduced a new science and French curriculum, and strengthened free speech on campuses.
“As a united government, we accomplished all this while managing the pressures of an unprecedented wildfire season that included support for more than 38,000 evacuees from Alberta communities and more than 21,000 evacuees from the Northwest Territories.
“I could not have accomplished all of this without my dedicated colleagues in cabinet and caucus. I look forward to accomplishing even more, with the ongoing confidence of Albertans, as we begin our second chapter together, ensuring Alberta remains the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

This is a news release from the Government of Alberta.

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Alberta

Indigenous-owned LNG projects in jeopardy with proposed emissions cap, leaders warn

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Indigenous leaders meet with Japan’s ambassador to Canada Kanji Yamanouchi. Photo courtesy Energy for a Secure Future

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Cody Ciona

‘It’s like we’re finally at the table and we’re having to fight to keep our seat at the table’

A proposed cap on oil and gas emissions will threaten opportunities for Indigenous communities to bring cleaner alternatives to coal to international markets, Indigenous leaders warned during a recent webinar. 

Karen Ogen, CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, fears Indigenous-led projects like Cedar LNG and Ksi Lisims LNG are threatened by the cap, which is essentially a cap on production. 

“If we’re going to help China and India get off of coal and help reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, it makes common sense for us to be selling our LNG to Asia and to other countries. To put a cap on, it would just stop us from doing that,” Ogen said. 

“It’s like we’re finally at the table and we’re having to fight to keep our seat at the table.” 

Indigenous communities across Canada have increasingly become involved in oil and gas projects to secure economic prosperity and reduce on-reserve poverty. 

Since 2022, more than 75 First Nations and Metis communities have entered ownership agreements across western Canada. Among those are key projects like the Coastal GasLink pipeline and the joint investment of 23 communities to obtain a 12 per cent ownership stake in several oil sands pipelines. 

The planned federal emissions cap will stall progress toward economic reconciliation, Ogen said. 

“Our leaders did not accept this and fought hard to have rights and titles recognized,” she said. 

“These rights were won through persistence and determination. It’s been a long journey, but we are finally at the table with more control over our destiny.” 

Chris Sankey, CEO of Blackfish Enterprises and a former elected councillor for the Lax Kw’alaams Band in B.C., said the proposed emissions cap could stifle Indigenous communities pushing for poverty reduction. 

“We’re working hard to try to get our people out of poverty. All [the emissions cap is] doing is pushing them further into debt and further into poverty,” he said. 

“When oil and gas is doing well, our people do well.” 

Together, the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion, LNG Canada project and Coastal GasLink pipeline have spent more than $10 billion in contracts with Indigenous and local businesses

Indigenous employment in the oil and gas industry has also increased by more than 20 per cent since 2014. 

For Stephen Buffalo, CEO of the Indian Resource Council, an emissions cap feels like a step in the wrong direction after years of action to become true economic partners is finally making headway. 

“Being a participant in the natural resource sector and making true partnerships, has been beneficial for First Nations,” he said. 

“So, when you see a government trying to attack this industry in that regard, it is very disheartening.” 

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Alberta

Taxpayers Federation hoping for personal tax relief in Alberta budget

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From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Albertans need income tax relief now

Author: Kris Sims 

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling on the Alberta government to stick to its promise of cutting its income tax in tomorrow’s provincial budget.

“Cutting the provincial income tax was a huge campaign promise from the UCP and it needs to happen right away,” said Kris Sims, CTF Alberta Director. “Finance Minister Nate Horner should announce this income tax cut in the budget tomorrow.”

The provincial budget will be presented Feb. 29.

During the 2023, election the UCP promised to create a lower income tax bracket for the first $59,000 of earnings, charging eight per cent instead of the current 10 per cent.

The UCP said that move would save Albertans earning $60,000 or more about $760 per year.

The Alberta government currently charges workers who make under $142,292 per year a 10 per cent income tax rate.

By comparison, British Columbia charges an income tax of five per cent on the first $45,654 of earnings and seven per cent up to $91,310.

In B.C., a worker earning $100,000 pays about $5,857 in provincial income tax.

In Alberta that same worker pays about $7,424 in provincial income tax.

“Taxpayers need to see a balanced budget, spending restraint and our promised lower income taxes in this budget,” said Sims.

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