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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.

Alberta

Just 28 new COVID cases reported in Alberta, but 3 more deaths for a total of 32

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From the Province of Alberta

Update 27: COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta (April 9)

There are now 592 confirmed recovered cases of COVID-19 in the province.

With 28 new cases reported, the total number of cases in Alberta is 1,451.

Another three Albertans have died since the last report, bringing the total deaths in the province to 32.

Latest updates

  • Expanded access to testing has begun to better trace the spread of COVID-19 in hard-hit areas and in vulnerable residents.
  • Albertans are strongly encouraged to stay home and in the province this long weekend.
  • Cases have been identified in all zones across the province:
    • 878 cases in the Calgary zone
    • 376 cases in the Edmonton zone
    • 97 cases in the North zone
    • 72 cases in the Central zone
    • 26 cases in the South zone
    • Two cases in zones yet to be confirmed
  • Of these cases, there are currently 47 people in hospital, 14 of whom have been admitted to intensive care units (ICU).
  • 192 cases are suspected of being community acquired.
  • There are now a total of 592 confirmed recovered cases.
  • Two new deaths are from the Calgary zone, bringing the total in this zone to 22. One additional person has died in the Edmonton zone, bringing the number of deaths to five in this zone. Four people have died in the North zone, and one person has died in the Central zone.
  • Stronger outbreak measures have been put in place at continuing care facilities. To date, 151 cases have been confirmed at these facilities.
  • There have been 68,116 people tested for COVID-19 and a total of 70,247 tests performed by the lab. There were 1,333 people tested in the last 24 hours.
  • Aggregate data, showing cases by age range and zone, as well as by local geographic areas, is available online at alberta.ca/covid19statistics.
  • All Albertans need to work together to help prevent the spread and overcome COVID-19.
  • Restrictions remain in place for all gatherings and close-contact businesses, dine-in restaurants and non-essential retail services. A full list of restrictions is available online.
  • Tighter restrictions have been placed on visitors to continuing care centres, group homes and other facilities. No visitors will be allowed unless a resident is dying or the visitor is essential for delivering care that cannot be delivered by staff.
  • As Albertans look forward to the holiday weekend, they are being reminded to:
    • avoid gatherings outside of their immediate household
    • visit over coffee remotely and virtually
    • try to shop for groceries outside of peak hours
    • limit Easter egg hunts to inside or on their property
    • find ways to connect while being physically separated
    • worship in a way that does not put people at risk, including participating in virtual or live-streamed religious celebrations

More guidelines for faith-based organizations can be found online.

Expanding testing to meet needs of Albertans

Alberta is expanding access to COVID-19 laboratory tests to better trace the spread of the novel coronavirus in hard-hit areas and in vulnerable residents. Testing is now being offered to three additional groups of individuals exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 including cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat or shortness of breath:

  • symptomatic people living in the Calgary Zone
  • symptomatic people who live with someone aged 65 years or older
  • essential workers whose workplaces remain accessible to the public

Read the full list of people eligible for testing here. People can access tests by completing the COVID-19 self-assessment online.

The chief medical officer of health will examine and adjust testing protocols and access to COVID-19 tests based on the changing situation in Alberta.

Stay home and in Alberta this long weekend

Albertans are being strongly encouraged to stay home, in their communities, in the province and off the highways this long weekend to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Alberta and British Columbia have released a joint statement asking families and friends to stay in their home provinces and celebrate the holidays virtually. This will reduce the risk of highway crashes – tying up emergency and medical responders who are busy with pandemic planning and care – and help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus between families and provinces.

COVID-19 health care for out-of-country visitors

To limit the potential spread of the novel coronavirus, individuals visiting Alberta from another country will receive physician and hospital services for the treatment of COVID-19 – even if they do not have health coverage or the ability to pay. This temporary measure will protect Albertans and encourage visitors to obtain treatment for COVID-19. Physicians may submit claims for this service using the new COVID-19 billing process. More information about the billing process will be provided to physicians.

Alberta Connects Contact Centre

The Alberta Connects Contact Centre continues to operate over the long weekend, and will be available to Albertans from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., April 10-13. Direct lines to specific services (such as MyAlberta Digital Identity) will be closed. Albertans should call 310-4455 for assistance.

Access to justice

The Alberta Court of Appeal has provided an update regarding electronic hearings. More information: https://albertacourts.ca/ca/publications/announcements

Mental health supports

Confidential supports are available to help with mental health concerns. The Mental Health Help Line 1-877-303-2642 and the Addiction Help Line at 1-866-332-2322 are available between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., seven days a week. Online resources provide advice on handling stressful situations or ways to talk with children.

Family violence prevention

A 24-hour Family Violence Information Line is available at 310-1818 to get anonymous help.

Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence is available at 1-866-402-8000 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in more than 170 languages.

Information sheets and other resources on family violence prevention are available at alberta.ca/COVID19.

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 for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face, coughing or sneezing into your elbow or sleeve, disposing of tissues appropriately.
  • Anyone who has health concerns or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should complete an online COVID-19 self-assessment.
  • For recommendations on protecting yourself and your community, visit alberta.ca/COVID19.
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Alberta

Shaw suspends share buybacks amid economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19 impact

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CALGARY — Shaw Communications Inc. says it’s continuing to pay dividends to shareholders but has suspended its share buy-back program in order to preserve cash during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The Calgary-based company says its Shaw internet and video networks and Freedom wireless network have performed well during the unprecedented global pandemic.   

But it says the widespread economic impact of COVID-19 could make it more difficult for its customers to continue with their current level of services. 

Additionally, Shaw says its management has been focused on adapting the company’s operations while protecting the health of its employees and customers.

As a result, Shaw says it’s withdrawing its financial estimates for the financial year ending Aug. 31 and suspending any additional stock buybacks. 

During the fiscal second quarter ended Feb. 29, which was completed before the pandemic was officially announced, Shaw’s revenue and profit were up from a year earlier. 

Shaw delivers internet and video services through Western Canada’s the largest residential cable system. It also owns Freedom Mobile, which operates in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:SJR.B)

The Canadian Press

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