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Alberta

Watch: Calgary woman in her 50’s is Alberta’s first presumptive case of Coronavirus – Recently returned from cruise off California

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From The Province of Alberta

Presumptive COVID-19 case reported in Alberta

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health has confirmed the province’s first presumptive case of novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.

The individual is a woman in her fifties who lives in the Calgary zone. The case is travel-related and she is recovering in isolation at home with support from public health officials.

“We take this extremely seriously, and are doing all we can to minimize risk and to keep Albertans safe. While some may be concerned, I remind Albertans that the risk is still low in our province. We are already taking the necessary precautions to prevent the infection from spreading.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health

“Alberta’s health-care system is ready and already taking swift action. Measures to protect both the public and front-line health-care workers have been in place for weeks. I have full confidence that our front-line health-care workers are ready and able to handle this challenge.”

Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health

The affected individual had recently returned from travel on board a Grand Princess cruise ship in California. Officials detected the case on March 5.

Health officials are currently identifying close contacts of this individual. They will also be asked to self-isolate at home, away from the public, and will be closely monitored by public health officials. If they do develop symptoms, health officials will coordinate getting them into care immediately while ensuring that the public and health-care workers are not exposed.

Health officials are asking anyone who has returned from a Grand Princess Cruise to Alberta in the last two weeks to self-isolate until 14 days have passed since their visit.

Since January, Alberta’s public health officials have been working closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada and other partners to monitor COVID-19 and assess public health risks.

Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services will continue to closely monitor the situation, conduct surveillance and appropriate laboratory testing, and provide public health and infection control guidance.

The risk is still considered low in Alberta.

Quick facts

  • The most important measures that Albertans can take to prevent respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, is to practise good hygiene.
    • This includes cleaning your hands regularly, avoiding touching your face, coughing or sneezing into your elbow or sleeve, disposing of tissues appropriately, and staying home and away from others if you are sick.
  • Anyone who has health concerns or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should contact Health Link 811 to see if followup testing is required.
  • For recommendations on protecting yourself and your community, visit alberta.ca/COVID19.

 

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

Alberta government should create flat 8% personal and business income tax rate in Alberta

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From the Fraser Institute

By Tegan Hill

If the Smith government reversed the 2015 personal income tax rate increases and instituted a flat 8 per cent tax rate, it would help restore Alberta’s position as one of the lowest tax jurisdictions in North America

Over the past decade, Alberta has gone from one of the most competitive tax jurisdictions in North America to one of the least competitive. And while the Smith government has promised to create a new 8 per cent tax bracket on personal income below $60,000, it simply isn’t enough to restore Alberta’s tax competitiveness. Instead, the government should institute a flat 8 per cent personal and business income tax rate.

Back in 2014, Alberta had a single 10 per cent personal and business income tax rate. As a result, it had the lowest top combined (federal and provincial/state) personal income tax rate and business income tax rate in North America. This was a powerful advantage that made Alberta an attractive place to start a business, work and invest.

In 2015, however, the provincial NDP government replaced the single personal income tax rate of 10 percent with a five-bracket system including a top rate of 15 per cent, so today Alberta has the 10th-highest personal income tax rate in North America. The government also increased Alberta’s 10 per cent business income tax rate to 12 per cent (although in 2019 the Kenney government began reducing the rate to today’s 8 per cent).

If the Smith government reversed the 2015 personal income tax rate increases and instituted a flat 8 per cent tax rate, it would help restore Alberta’s position as one of the lowest tax jurisdictions in North America, all while saving Alberta taxpayers $1,573 (on average) annually.

And a truly integrated flat tax system would not only apply a uniform tax 8 per cent rate to all sources of income (including personal and business), it would eliminate tax credits, deductions and exemptions, which reduce the cost of investments in certain areas, increasing the relative cost of investment in others. As a result, resources may go to areas where they are not most productive, leading to a less efficient allocation of resources than if these tax incentives did not exist.

Put differently, tax incentives can artificially change the relative attractiveness of goods and services leading to sub-optimal allocation. A flat tax system would not only improve tax efficiency by reducing these tax-based economic distortions, it would also reduce administration costs (expenses incurred by governments due to tax collection and enforcement regulations) and compliance costs (expenses incurred by individuals and businesses to comply with tax regulations).

Finally, a flat tax system would also help avoid negative incentives that come with a progressive marginal tax system. Currently, Albertans are taxed at higher rates as their income increases, which can discourage additional work, savings and investment. A flat tax system would maintain “progressivity” as the proportion of taxes paid would still increase with income, but minimize the disincentive to work more and earn more (increasing savings and investment) because Albertans would face the same tax rate regardless of how their income increases. In sum, flat tax systems encourage stronger economic growth, higher tax revenues and a more robust economy.

To stimulate strong economic growth and leave more money in the pockets of Albertans, the Smith government should go beyond its current commitment to create a new tax bracket on income under $60,000 and institute a flat 8 per cent personal and business income tax rate.

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Alberta

Province to stop municipalities overcharging on utility bills

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Making utility bills more affordable

Alberta’s government is taking action to protect Alberta’s ratepayers by introducing legislation to lower and stabilize local access fees.

Affordability is a top priority for Alberta’s government, with the cost of utilities being a large focus. By introducing legislation to help reduce the cost of utility bills, the government is continuing to follow through on its commitment to make life more affordable for Albertans. This is in addition to the new short-term measures to prevent spikes in electricity prices and will help ensure long-term affordability for Albertans’ basic household expenses.

“Albertans need relief from high electricity costs and we can provide that relief by bringing in fairness on local access fees. We will not allow municipalities – including the city of Calgary – to profit off of unpredictable spikes in electricity costs while families struggle to make ends meet. We will protect Alberta families from the extreme swings of electricity costs by standardizing the calculations of local access fees across the province.”

Danielle Smith, Premier

Local access fees are functioning as a regressive municipal tax that consumers pay on their utility bills. It is unacceptable for municipalities to be raking in hundreds of millions in surplus revenue off the backs of Alberta’s ratepayers and cause their utility bills to be unpredictable costs by tying their fees to a variable rate. Calgarians paid $240 in local access fees on average in 2023, compared to the $75 on average in Edmonton, thanks to Calgary’s formula relying on a variable rate. This led to $186 million more in fees being collected by the City of Calgary than expected.

“Albertans deserve to have fair and predictable utility bills. Our government is listening to Albertans and taking action to address unaffordable fees on power bills. By introducing this legislation, we are taking yet another step towards ensuring our electricity grid is affordable, reliable, and sustainable for generations to come.”

Nathan Neudorf, Minister of Affordability and Utilities

To protect Alberta’s ratepayers, the Government of Alberta is introducing the Utilities Affordability Statutes Amendment Act, 2024. If passed, this legislation would promote long-term affordability and predictability for utility bills by prohibiting the use of variable rates when calculating municipalities’ local access fees.

Variable rates are highly volatile, which results in wildly fluctuating electricity bills. When municipalities use this rate to calculate their local access fees, it results in higher bills for Albertans and less certainty in families’ budgets. These proposed changes would standardize how municipal fees are calculated across the province, and align with most municipalities’ current formulas.

“Over the last couple of years many consumers have been frustrated with volatile Regulated Rate Option (RRO) prices which dramatically impacted their utility bills. In some cases, these impacts were further amplified by local access fees that relied upon calculations that included those same volatile RRO prices. These proposed changes provide more clarity and stability for consumers, protecting them from volatility in electricity markets.”

Chris Hunt, Utilities Consumer Advocate

If passed, the Utilities Affordability Statutes Amendment Act, 2024 would prevent municipalities from attempting to take advantage of Alberta’s ratepayers in the future. It would amend sections of the Electric Utilities Act and Gas Utilities Act to ensure that the Alberta Utilities Commission has stronger regulatory oversight on how these municipal fees are calculated and applied, ensuring Alberta ratepayer’s best interests are protected.

“Addressing high, unpredictable fees on utility bills is an important step in making life more affordable for Albertans. This legislation will protect Alberta’s ratepayers from spikes in electricity prices and ensures fairness in local access fees.”

Chantelle de Jonge, Parliamentary Secretary for Affordability and Utilities

If passed, this legislation would also amend sections of the Alberta Utilities Commission Act, the Electric Utilities ActGovernment Organizations Act and the Regulated Rate Option Stability Act to replace the terms “Regulated Rate Option”, “RRO”, and “Regulated Rate Provider” with “Rate of Last Resort” and “Rate of Last Resort Provider” as applicable.

Quick facts

  • Local access fees are essentially taxes that are charged to electricity distributors by municipalities. These fees are then passed on to all of the distributor’s customers in the municipality, and appear as a line item on their utility bills.
    • The Municipal Government Act grants municipalities the authority to charge, amend, or cap franchise and local access fees.
  • Linear taxes and franchise fees are usually combined together on consumers’ power bills in one line item as the local access fee.
    • The linear tax is charged to the utility for the right to use the municipality’s property for the construction, operation, and extension of the utility.
    • The franchise fee is the charge paid by the utility to the municipality for the exclusive right to provide service in the municipality.
  • Local access fees are usually calculated in one of two ways:
    • (1) A percentage of transmission and distribution (delivery) costs, typically 10-15 per cent.
    • (2) A fixed, cents per kilowatt-hour of consumed power charge (City of Edmonton).
  • Calgary is the only municipality that employs a two-part fee calculation formula:
    • 11.11 per cent of transmission and distribution charges plus 11.11 per cent of the Regulated Rate Option multiplied by the consumed megawatt hours.

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