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Alberta

Province will begin to ease restrictions at long term care homes

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Relaxing restrictions on continuing care visits

High rates of vaccination among residents and staff at continuing care facilities means families will soon be able to more easily visit their loved ones.

 

Starting May 10, updated public health measures will come into effect for continuing care facilities in Alberta. These protocols will increase the number of designated family/support persons for each resident, expand the number of people who can attend outdoor social visits and allow limited indoor social gatherings.

Active cases in long-term care have declined from the peak of 831 on Dec. 27 to 44 as of April 24. Hospitalizations have decreased by 93 per cent and fatalities due to COVID-19 have declined by 94 per cent.

“Long-term care residents need joy, hope, and connection just like everyone else. They have shouldered the burden of this pandemic and sacrificed important time with their loved ones and I’m glad that we are able to ease these restrictions, but we will continue to move cautiously, as evidence is still emerging on vaccines and their ability to both protect residents from variants and limit transmitting the virus to others.”

Jason Kenney, Premier

“We know the ability to connect in-person with loved ones is important. Alberta was one of the few provinces that still allowed visitors in continuing care facilities even during the most difficult points throughout the pandemic, because we understand how important seeing loved ones is. We continue to work to strike a balance between protecting residents from infection and sustaining their overall health and well-being.”

Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health

“We have worked closely with family, residents and operators on the best way to move forward with changes. Based on the feedback of those most impacted, the available data and the power of vaccines, we are striking the right balance between protecting residents and staff from COVID-19 and enabling their quality of life.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health

In April, town halls were held with continuing care operators, residents and staff to discuss the impact of vaccinations and concerns over COVID-19 variants. The majority of participants indicated that they were ready for eased restrictions but wanted some safety measures to remain.

Starting May 10, the following changes to visitation policy will take effect:

  • Where possible, and provided the majority of residents agree, indoor social visits with up to four visitors will be able to resume again, as long as they are from the same household and distancing, masking and other health measures remain in place.
  • Outdoor social visits in these facilities can expand to up to 10 people, including the resident. This is double the current limit of five and brings the limit in line with the current outdoor limit for the rest of the province.
  • Residents may name up to four designated family/support persons for unrestricted access, and visitors will continue to be able to visit when residents are approaching the end of their lives or suffer a change in health status.

These changes are not mandatory and will vary by site based on the design of the building, wishes of residents and other factors.

Each site must develop their own visiting approach that falls within the guidelines set out in the order and reflects the risk tolerance of the residents who live at that site.

All other COVID-19 measures remain in place, including:

  • Mandatory order restricting staff from working at more than one designated supportive living or long-term care facility to help prevent the spread of illness between facilities.
  • Symptom and exposure checks for all who are entering a continuing care facility.
  • Continuous masking and distancing during indoor visits.

As Alberta’s vaccination program expands and community transmission lowers, consideration will be given to easing additional restrictions.

Alberta’s government is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by protecting lives and livelihoods with precise measures to bend the curve, sustain small businesses and protect Alberta’s health-care system.

Alberta

Writer opposing Free Alberta Strategy in national article confuses chartered banks with financial institutions

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From the Free Alberta Strategy Team

In a new article published in the federal-government-funded “The Conversation” publication, Robert L. Ascah, a researcher at the also-federal-government-funded Parkland Institute, attempts to lay the hatchet to the Free Alberta Strategy.

In his piece, entitled “What the Free Alberta Strategy gets wrong about Canada’s banking system,” Mr. Ascah argues that the Alberta Independent Banking Act that is proposed in the Free Alberta Strategy report is unconstitutional because banking is an entirely federal area of jurisdiction.

Here is the key quote from Mr. Ascah:

“The Free Alberta Strategy, however, purports to allow Alberta to incorporate and regulate banks, which is clearly unconstitutional. There’s no mention that this proposal is beyond the powers of the provincial legislature.”

But, as so often seems to happen, this latest Free Alberta Strategy critic clearly doesn’t appear to have read – or taken the time to understand – what the Free Alberta Strategy is actually proposing.

While it’s true that “chartered banks” are federally regulated, that doesn’t mean that any type or form of “banking”, as the term is colloquially used, must be federally regulated.

Credit unions, for example, offer “banking” services, while not being “chartered banks” that are federally regulated.

This definition, while technical, is the crux of the issue.

And while we admit that this is very technical, when you’re talking about writing laws, technicalities matter a lot.

To be clear, here is the exact proposal from the Free Alberta Strategy report itself:

1. Expanding the number of provincially regulated financial institutions and credit unions;

2. Promoting private ownership of these new financial institutions; and

3. Mandating that all provincially regulated financial institutions and credit unions (including ATB) remain compliant with the Alberta Sovereignty Act as it relates to the non-enforcement of federal laws and court decisions deemed to infringe unduly on Alberta’s provincial jurisdiction.

You will note, very clearly, that this proposal in our Free Alberta Strategy report talks about “provincially regulated financial institutions” not “chartered banks”.

This is because the authors of the strategy understand (unlike Mr. Ascah, apparently) that while “chartered banks” must be regulated by the federal government, “financial institutions” can be regulated by the provincial government.

This is exactly why our Free Alberta Strategy report suggests modelling any new “banks” in Alberta on ATB Financial (previously known as Alberta Treasury Branches), which is a long-standing Alberta financial institution.

(Note: Although ATB is a crown corporation, our proposal envisages privately owned and operated financial institutions, not more government-owned and operated financial institutions. Just in case anyone was worried we were suddenly advocating for bigger government!)

Just as Alberta’s credit unions are not “chartered banks” and so are not federally regulated, ATB Financial is not a “chartered bank”, and so it is not regulated by the federal government.

ATB Financial is a “financial institution” that is provincially regulated by the Alberta government under the ATB Financial Act.

This is precisely what the Free Alberta Strategy report proposes – an increase in the number of provincially regulated financial institutions in Alberta.

We can clearly see then that, despite the claim by Mr. Ascah that provincial regulation of banking is unconstitutional, the mere existence of ATB is proof that our proposal is, in fact, constitutional.

The remainder of Mr. Ascah’s article goes on to argue that if Alberta unconstitutionally incorporated its own new “chartered banks”, the federal government would cut those banks off from being able to transfer funds to other banks in Canada, making them impractical for the public to use.

Maybe it’s true that the federal government would cut off any unauthorized provincial “chartered banks” from payment mechanisms.

But, given no one is proposing Alberta incorporate its own new “chartered banks”, this entire second half of the article is an irrelevant straw man argument.

Again, the Free Alberta Strategy proposes to incorporate new provincially regulated financial institutions, like ATB.

And, in case you haven’t noticed, ATB has not been cut off from being able to transfer funds to other banks by the federal government, because – shock – the existence of ATB is perfectly constitutional.

The real question then, is whether or not the first half of Mr. Ascah’s article, where he claims we are proposing to do something unconstitutional, is simply a misunderstanding, or a deliberately misleading diatribe.

Either way, such a fundamental error really makes you wonder why the Parkland Institute would allow the article to be published at all!

Are Parkland Institute staff no longer expected to read the thing they are publicly criticizing anymore?

Are The Conversation editors no longer expected to check whether their authors have their facts straight?

Perhaps the oddest part of this whole situation is that the Parkland Institute, where Mr. Ascah works, has previously written about the benefits of having an Alberta-based, Alberta-regulated financial institution!

They did so in a report that goes into detail explaining the difference between federally regulated chartered banks and provincially regulated financial institutions!

Even stranger still – which Parkland Institute researcher do you think it was who wrote this report?

Yes, you guessed it, it was Robert L. Ascah!

It gets worse…

Once upon a time, Mr. Ascah worked at Alberta Treasury, the government department that is responsible for regulating ATB.

Then, after he worked at Alberta Treasury, Mr. Ascah went to work at ATB itself, where he was responsible for government relations, strategic planning, and economic research.

That’s right folks…

Our Free Alberta Strategy critic, who attacked us by claiming that provincially regulated financial institutions are unconstitutional, actually worked as a senior executive at both the organization he claims is unconstitutional, and the organization that is supposed to regulate the thing that he claims is unconstitutional.

We must either believe, then:

  • That Mr. Ascah, who has written about the benefits of provincially-regulated financial institutions, has worked for a provincially-regulated financial institution, and has worked for the organization that regulates provincially-regulated financial institutions, is somehow entirely unaware that provincially-regulated financial institutions are legal.

Or, we must believe:

  • That Mr. Ascah perfectly understands that provincially-regulated financial institutions are legal and that that is how ATB is established, but that it’s somehow, all of a sudden, now beneficial for him to pretend that he doesn’t, and that anyone suggesting other financial institutions be regulated in that way is suggesting something “unconstitutional”.

How could it possibly be beneficial for Mr. Ascah to pretend that this idea is unconstitutional all of a sudden, I hear you ask?

Well, the answer to that question is actually the least confusing part of his article.

Contained right at the bottom of the article, under “Disclosure statement” (and conveniently excluded from most re-publications of the piece by the media) are 9 little words:

“Robert (Bob) L. Ascah is affiliated with Alberta NDP.”

Of course, affiliated with is a little bit of an understatement in this case.

Mr. Ascah has donated thousands of dollars to the Alberta NDP for many years, while several of his Parkland Institute colleagues are actually running as Alberta NDP candidates in the 2023 Alberta election!

Now, as a non-partisan organization, we generally try to avoid pointing out the political affiliations of individual people.

As an organization, we base our support for ideas on whether the ideas are good or not, rather than on who is proposing them.

But, in this case, we’re not criticizing the person proposing the ideas, but the lack of independence and the conflict of interest inherent in a situation where federal-government-funded researchers are published by federal-government-funded websites and re-printed by federal-government-funded newspapers.

Unfortunately, in a world where government-funded academics get government funding to write government propaganda published in government-funded media, there’s really no incentive to cover the truth anymore.

As to why the federal government would want to fund researchers to write propaganda for them, and fund media outlets to publish it for them, we’ll leave that one to you to answer!

In the end, this is exactly why we need more independent research and independent distribution of ideas in our society.

The Free Alberta Strategy jealously guards our independence.

That’s why we never accept any money or resources from any government, regardless of political stripe.

But that’s also why we need your help.

We need your help so that we can continue to do research and analysis on ways in which Alberta can fight back, such as the Sovereignty Act.

We need your help to further our work to protect Alberta’s interests from a hostile and divisive federal government in Ottawa.

We need your help to grow our supporter, activist, and volunteer network across our great province.

We need your help to share our work with like-minded friends and family in order to get the word out to as many members of the public as possible.

If you’re ready to help, click here:

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Alberta

Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney accepts role in Calgary advising law firm

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By Dean Bennett in Edmonton

Jason Kenney, more than three months after stepping down as Alberta’s premier, has landed a new role as a Calgary-based adviser in law firm Bennett Jones.

Kenney, who is also a former federal cabinet minister, will work in the public policy group.

Kenney says on Twitter he looks forward to the new job and that his work won’t include lobbying the provincial government or its agencies.

He says Alberta’s ethics commissioner has signed off on his new role and Kenney says he won’t be accepting any other jobs without first checking with the commissioner.

Kenney announced last May he was stepping down as premier following a lukewarm 51 per cent vote of support in a United Conservative Party leadership review.

Kenney was instrumental in creating the UCP in a merger with his Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Party, but he fell out of favour with many in the combined party over COVID-19 restrictions and what was seen as a top-down management style.

It was a not an amicable departure.

Kenney publicly clashed with his eventual successor, Premier Danielle Smith, over her plan to introduce sovereignty legislation to challenge what she considers federal intrusions into provincial areas of constitutional authority.

Kenney challenged the legality and economic effect of such a bill, and resigned as a legislature member on the day Smith’s sovereignty act was introduced last November.

Bennett Jones, with offices across Canada and in New York, said Kenney will provide advice on attracting investment in Canada’s energy sector and with Indigenous communities.

“I’m thrilled to be joining this iconic firm, which has both deep Alberta roots and a major national presence,” said Kenney in a statement Wednesday.

“Bennett Jones’ Public Policy group has the greatest policy depth of any Canadian law firm, and I look forward to working with several former colleagues from both senior elected and public service roles.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2023

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