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Alberta

Province says books will be balanced again by 2022-23

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Premier Jason Kenney and Finance Minister Travis Toews present the 2020 Budget: A Plan for Jobs and the Economy.

From the Province of Alberta

Third-quarter results show the deficit has declined more than expected. With the deficit $1.2 billion lower than projected in Budget 2019, Alberta taxpayers can expect to pay $35 million less in debt-servicing costs.

Budget 2020 also provides stable funding for health, education and core social services. The budget focuses on finding cost efficiencies and creating jobs while maintaining the high-quality services Albertans expect.

“Budget 2020 continues our focus on creating jobs, growing our economy and streamlining programs and services to ensure a sustainable future. Our plan is working. We are on track to balance the budget by 2022-23 and Alberta’s surplus in that year is expected to be higher than that projected in Budget 2019. We are also maintaining funding for health and education while ensuring each dollar is wisely spent on what Albertans need most.”

Travis Toews, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance

Included in Budget 2020 is A Blueprint for Jobs – the government’s plan to get Albertans back to work. It supports dynamic growth from the technology, energy, agriculture and forestry sectors and supports diversification in other key sectors through initiatives, including:

  • Improving competitiveness through further reductions in the Job Creation Tax Cut.
  • Accelerating growth-oriented projects through the capital plan to provide job opportunities for Albertans.
  • Reducing red tape in all sectors to make Alberta the best place to do business in Canada.
  • Accelerating the reclamation of “legacy sites” – including orphan wells – in ways that prioritize job creation.
  • Filling gaps in the labour market, such as increasing access to training for Class 1 drivers.

“There is no greater job for our government than getting Alberta back to work. Budget 2020 and A Blueprint for Jobs leverage the natural strengths of our province and support new opportunities for diversification, economic growth and job creation. We are putting a growth and prosperity lens on everything we do to ensure the choices we make as a government support economic growth and jobs for Albertans.”

Travis Toews, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance

Budget 2020 capital plan highlights

The 2020 Capital Plan commits $6.9 billion in 2020-21 to build and maintain key infrastructure projects across the province. Over the course of the three-year fiscal plan, an estimated $772 million in new projects will be added, bringing the total capital plan to $19.3 billion. This will create opportunities for private sector participation and support more than 3,000 jobs, increasing employment by 2022. Some of the new projects include:

  • Twinning Highway 40 to facilitate economic growth and improve safety.
  • Funding to renovate the Peter Lougheed Centre to alleviate pressure on Alberta’s most-congested emergency department.
  • New funding for critical laboratory equipment needs in Edmonton and northern Alberta.
  • The Alberta Surgical Wait-Times Initiative, which will fund new operating rooms and purchase new hospital equipment. The initiative will reduce Alberta’s surgical wait times to an average of four months, funding 80,000 additional surgeries by 2022-23.
  • The launch of a new Rural Health Facilities Revitalization Program to provide infrastructure upgrades across Alberta.
  • Funding for the Red Deer Integrated Emergency Shelter for 160 new spaces for the homeless.
  • Funding for the Bow Reservoir Options project to assess the feasibility of a multi-use dam on the Bow River.

Bill 4, also tabled today, implements a fixed budget period. This provision is an amendment to the Fiscal Planning and Transparency Act and aligns with a recommendation from the MacKinnon Panel.

A fixed budget period will help organizations that provide services for Albertans to better plan their own budgets. The fixed budget period means a budget must be released each year in the month of February.

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Alberta

Positive COVID-19 tests at world men's curling championship deemed “false positives”

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CALGARY — The four positive COVID-19 tests that interrupted the men’s world curling championship are considered “false positives” from potentially contaminated samples, according to the World Curling Federation.

The men’s championship concluded late Sunday night with Sweden’s Niklas Edin winning a record fifth world men’s title.

No games were played Saturday because four participants, including one from a playoff team, tested positive for the virus in “exit” tests before leaving Calgary’s curling bubble. 

None had symptoms of the illness.

All have tested negative in multiple re-tests since then, the WCF said Monday in a statement. All tests were conducted via PCR throat swabs.

“According to Alberta Health, PCR testing remains the gold standard for COVID-19 testing,” the WCF said. “Very rarely, there are occurrences through sampling or testing processes when samples may become contaminated and a false positive may result.

“Following an investigation over the weekend, it appears that this may have occurred in this case and follow-up testing was undertaken.”

All athletes and personnel considered close contacts of the four underwent testing Saturday with all results negative. 

Every playoff team member was tested before and after each game Sunday with those results also negative, the WCF said. Hotel staff were also tested Sunday and cleared.

“With the original four positive test results now deemed as false positives, the integrity of the Calgary bubble remains intact,” the WCF declared.

“The change also allows international athletes who were considered close contacts, and who would have had to remain in isolation in Calgary for 14 days, will now be able to depart Calgary.”

The fifth of seven events in Calgary’s curling hub, the Humpty’s Champions Cup, gets underway Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Pulling the plug: Edmonton Folk Music Festival cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

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EDMONTON — Despite Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s hope that the COVID-19 vaccine will allow summer events like the Calgary Stampede to go ahead, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival has been cancelled

The festival says in a statement that without full vaccination, people won’t be entirely safe from the spread of COVID-19. 

It says that with virus variants and an uncertain vaccine rollout, the impossibility of social distancing at the outdoor festival could lead to community spread.

Kenney has said that two-thirds of the population should have a vaccine shot by the end of June and things should begin to feel back-to-normal.

He says the Stampede, which is held in early July, along with sporting events and other festivals will be possible.

The Edmonton Folk Music Festival says it will continue to offer online content and, if small gatherings are permitted, it hopes to add some community engagement.

“With so many variables at play, the complexity of planning and delivering a festival of our size makes it impossible to move forward in our usual manner,” the statement said Monday.

“As profoundly disappointing as this news is, we believe this is the only safe way forward. The safety of our patrons, volunteers, and artists was of paramount importance in coming to this conclusion.”

The annual four-day festival in the city’s Gallagher Park usually attracts thousands of music fans and boasts approximately 2,700 volunteers.

Alberta introduced new health rules last week, closing restaurants to in-person dining and further reducing customer capacity at retail stores in response to rising COVID-19 numbers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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