From the Province of Alberta
Aggressive public health measures, including additional limits to mass gatherings, are being implemented provincewide to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect Albertans.
- Government will declare a state of public health emergency.
- 23 additional cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Alberta, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 97. Cases have now been identified in all zones across the province.
- 70 cases in the Calgary zone
- 20 cases in the Edmonton zone
- three cases in the Central zone
- three cases in the South zone
- one case in the North zone
- Mass gatherings are now limited to no more than 50 attendees. This includes worship gatherings and family events such as weddings. Grocery stores, shopping centres, health-care facilities, airports, and other essential services are not included.
- To limit the amount of time Albertans are spending in large crowds and crowded spaces, all Albertans are prohibited from attending public recreational facilities and private entertainment facilities, including gyms, swimming pools, arenas, science centres, museums, art galleries, community centres, libraries, children’s play centres, casinos, racing entertainment centres, and bingo halls.
- Sit-down restaurants, cafés, coffee shops, food courts and other food-serving facilities, including those with a minors-allowed liquor license, are limited to 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 50 people. Take-out, delivery or drive-through service is permitted.
- Licensed restaurants and bars can now sell liquor without selling food as part of their take-out – with the exception of drive-thru windows – and delivery services to help keep businesses open, staff employed and additional options for Albertans who are self-isolating.
- Changes to the Employment Standards Code have been made to provide job protection for Albertans.
- Albertans are prohibited from attending buffet-style restaurants. At this time, not-for-profit community kitchens, soup kitchens and religious kitchens are exempt, but sanitization practices are expected to be in place and support will be in place for this practice.
- Food services in work camps are also exempt, but in addition to appropriate sanitization practices, arrangements should be made to provide for workers if they are self-isolated.
- $60 million is being provided to help social services organizations respond to critical front-line services.
- Until further notice, all Albertans are restricted from attending bars and nightclubs, where minors are prohibited by law.
- Ski hills across the province are strongly encouraged to close by the end of day March 17, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Effective March 18, all passenger ropeways, like gondolas and chairlifts, will be closed until further notice under the Safety Codes Act.
- All provincial historic sites and the Provincial Archives will be closing March 17. Information regarding facility bookings and passes will be available on the facilities’ websites.
- Upcoming expiry dates for Alberta drivers’ licences, vehicle registrations, other permits and certificates are being extended until May 15.
- Effective immediately, the Seniors Information Office, located on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton, will be closed to protect the health of clients and staff. Seniors in need of information on seniors financial assistance programs should contact Alberta Supports at 1-877-644-9992.
- Alberta Court of Appeal is limiting attendance to necessary parties. Matters continue either electronically or with social distancing directives in effect.
- In-person post-secondary classes remain cancelled as institutions move to alternate delivery formats. Campuses remain open.
Access to justice services
The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee will be suspending in-person visits with clients or service providers.
Alternative arrangements will include phone, email, Skype, texting and videoconferencing. Contact information can be found at https://www.alberta.ca/contact-office-public-guardian-trustee.aspx.
Alberta Court of Appeal: https://albertacourts.ca/ca/publications/announcements/notice—covid-19
Full and part-time employees can access 14 days of job-protected leave for the purpose of self-isolation related to COVID-19, retroactive to March 5.
The leave does not apply to self-employed individuals or contractors.
The requirement to have worked for an employer for 90 days to access COVID-19 specific leave is no longer required.
Employees self-isolating due to COVID-19 do not require a medical note to access leave.
Indigenous community response
First Nations are encouraged to develop community response plans with Indigenous Services Canada and their Directors of Emergency Management and First Nations Field Officer. Indigenous Services Canada can be reached at [email protected].
Metis Settlements are encouraged to develop response plans with their Directors of Emergency Management and Field Officer.
Social services organizations
Funding support is being provided through Family and Community Support Services for adult homeless shelters, women’s emergency shelters and civil society organizations to help keep front-line critical services operating and provide support for vulnerable populations.
Information for travellers
Travel outside the country is strongly discouraged. Given the rapid global spread of the virus, it is no longer possible to assess health risks for the duration of the trip.
Any traveller returning from outside of the country should self-isolate for 14 days, even if they are feeling well, and monitor for symptoms.
Any traveller who has returned before March 12 should closely monitor themselves for symptoms. If they experience symptoms, they should self-isolate immediately and call Health Link 811 for follow-up assessment and testing.
The Alberta government is working with Travel Alberta on a strategy to inform Canadians returning from travel outside the province about the need to self-isolate, and how to access medical care, if needed.
COVID-19-related information is now being provided for returning passengers at the international airports in both Edmonton and Calgary. This information has also been shared with the Fort McMurray International Airport and several airlines.
- 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, and staying home and away from others if you are sick.
- 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.
Hot rental market makes search ‘stressful’ for many — and it won’t get better soon
Marissa Giesinger is pictured in Calgary, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. On the hunt for a rental home in Calgary over the last six weeks, Giesinger and her boyfriend trawled through listings morning, noon and night, only to find most come along with dozens of applications and a steep price tag. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
By Tara Deschamps in Toronto
On the hunt for a rental home in Calgary over the last six weeks, Marissa Giesinger and her boyfriend trawled through listings morning, noon and night, only to find most come along with dozens of applications and a steep price tag. As an added difficulty, many landlords are unwelcoming to the couple’s brood — dogs Kado and Rosco and a cat named Jester.
“We made the tough decision recently to house our dogs with someone else until we can find a place that’s affordable and we can take both of them,” said Giesinger, a 23-year-old Mount Royal University student.
“It’s definitely been stressful.”
The competitive rental market Giesinger has encountered in Calgary is being seen across the country as multiple factors combine: high interest rates deter buyers and add to rental demand, still-high inflation is squeezing renter budgets, there’s an undersupply of purpose-built rental units and population growth is fuelling demand.
These conditions have left prospective renters feeling even more frustrated than usual by sky-high rents, the frenzy of interest that surrounds any affordable listing and the litany of demands landlords can make when so many people are interested in their home.
Giacomo Ladas, communications director for Rentals.ca, calls it “almost a perfect storm” — and it isn’t likely to ease up any time soon.
“What this does is create such a burden on this rental housing market that even though we’re out of the (busy) summer rental season, there’s so much demand that (these conditions are) going to continue like this until the fall and into the winter,” he said.
Data crunched by his organization and research firm Urbanation.ca shows average asking rents for newly-listed units in Canada increased 1.8 per cent between July and August and 9.6 per cent from a year earlier to reach a record high of $2,117 last month.
Between May and August, asking rents in Canada increased by 5.1 per cent or an average of $103 per month.
When Giesinger rented a two-bedroom basement unit with a roommate a few years ago, the duo paid $1,000 per month, but now she routinely spots “super tiny,” one-bedroom places for $1,350 a month.
“If you want a basement suite or an apartment, you’re looking at minimum $1,200 and that doesn’t include any utilities or anything like that unless it’s a super rare listing,” Giesinger said.
Rentals.ca data show newly listed one-bedroom properties in Calgary priced at an average $1,728 per month in August, up 21.6 per cent from a year earlier. Two-bedroom homes have climbed 17.4 per cent to $2,150 over the same period.
The picture in Vancouver and Toronto is far bleaker. Rentals.ca found the cities had the highest rents in the country.
Newly-listed one-bedroom properties in Vancouver averaged $2,988 in August, up 13.1 per cent from a year earlier, while two-bedroom units hit $3,879, an almost 10 per cent increase year-over-year.
Newly-listed Toronto one-bedroom homes averaged $2,620 in August, up almost 11 per cent from the year before, while two-bedroom properties had a 7.1 per cent rise over the same time frame to $3,413.
It’s numbers like these that have convinced Kanishka Punjabi to abandon her hopes of moving in the near term.
“Two days ago, I gave up on my search because the rental market is that bad,” she said.
The public relations worker has been living in Mississauga, Ont., but felt it was time to find a home in downtown or midtown Toronto, closer to where she works.
However, few of the two-bedroom homes she spotted in her two-month search were within her $2,800 budget.
For example, one apartment she liked at the intersection of Yonge and Eglinton streets had 25 offers in just over a week.
“Some people actually just sent in their offer without looking at the apartment too because there are so many people who are in desperate need of rental units,” said Punjabi. “There’s just not enough.”
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. has projected that the country needs to build 3.5 million additional homes beyond what’s planned before the market reaches some semblance of affordability.
It also calculated that the annual pace of housing starts — when construction begins on a home — edged down one per cent in August to 252,787 units compared with 255,232 in July.
Despite the nudge down, Rishi Sondhi, an economist with TD Bank Group, said it has been a strong year for starts because the industry is responding to elevated prices by building at a robust pace.
But between population growth and rising interest rates, he said, “supply is struggling to keep up with demand” and that’s bound to weigh on renters for quite some time.
“In the short term, it would be unrealistic to expect too much of a reprieve simply because population growth is likely to remain strong through the duration of this year — and that’s really one of the big fundamental drivers,” he said.
“In addition, it’s unlikely to expect affordability in the ownership market to improve too much either because we think the Bank of Canada (key rate) is going to be on hold for the remainder of the year, but there is some risk that they take rates even higher, especially if inflation doesn’t co-operate.”
For renters like Giesinger that message puts even more pressure on her to settle on a place soon.
“Now I’m scrambling to find the money for a deposit and we’re still never really sure like what kind of place we’re going to get,” she said.
“And when you’re battling dozens of other people for a rental it can be super stressful.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2023.
Alberta is getting serious about nuclear power
Image from CanadianMiningJournal.com
New funding to study small modular reactors
Alberta has approved funding for a multi-year study that will explore how small modular nuclear reactors could be safely, technically and economically deployed for oil sands operations.
Alberta is investing $7 million from the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Fund to help Cenovus Energy study how small modular reactors could be used in northern Alberta, and what additional information might be needed to pursue regulatory approval in the future.
As outlined in the province’s Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan and A Strategic Plan for the Deployment of Small Modular Reactors, Alberta is committed to responsible and innovative energy development, and small modular reactors have the potential to provide zero-emissions energy and further reduce emissions from Alberta’s oil sands in the years to come.
“A few years ago, the idea of expanding nuclear energy use was on the back burner – that is no longer the case. In Alberta, small modular nuclear reactors have the potential to supply heat and power to the oil sands, simultaneously reducing emissions and supporting Alberta’s energy future. This funding is the foundation for that promising future. I want to thank Cenovus Energy and Emissions Reduction Alberta for their leadership in this work.”
Small modular reactor technology involves scalable and versatile nuclear reactors that could potentially supply non-emitting heat and power to the province’s oil sands. Provincial funding delivered through Emissions Reduction Alberta is supporting the work needed to determine how this technology could be effectively used in Alberta.
“Small modular reactors have great potential to supply non-emitting energy in many different applications, including the oil sands. Further studies like this are needed to see if the technology is suitable for those industrial applications. If so, it could be transformational for the in-situ oil sands sector and other sectors in Alberta.”
“This enabling study is a great example of the collaborative approach we’ll need to help us reach our ambition of net-zero emissions from our operations by 2050. We’re exploring multiple technologies that would help significantly reduce our emissions, and small modular reactors show potential. This study will help us understand if this possible solution is economical and technically viable.”
Cenovus Energy’s $26.7-million enabling study will look at whether small modular reactor technology could be applied to steam-assisted gravity drainage projects in the oil sands, which drill into the reservoir and inject steam to soften the oil. Alberta Innovates recently released a study on the feasibility of using small modular nuclear reactors in steam-assisted gravity drainage operations, which is an early step to see if this technology could be part of Alberta’s long-term solutions to reducing emissions from industry operations. While there is currently no project being planned, this study frames the discussion around what is possible in the years ahead.
“Building off the work previously supported by Alberta Innovates, the success of Cenovus’s small modular reactor ERA-funded enabling study could provide substantial economic and environmental advantages throughout Alberta’s industrial sector, helping to advance a clean energy future for Canada.”
- Funding for this project comes from Emissions Reduction Alberta’s Industrial Transformation Challenge.
- Any future adoption of small modular reactor technology in Alberta would require an extensive regulatory and engagement process. The province is currently working to ensure the regulatory framework is in place and ready should private industry pursue this technology.
- On Sept. 12, an Alberta-Ottawa working group on emissions reduction and energy development met for the first time. The working group agreed to commence the development of a regulatory framework for small modular reactor technology and continue work on federal and provincial incentives for CCUS, hydrogen and other emissions-reducing technologies.
- Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick released A Strategic Plan for the Development of Small Modular Reactors in 2022. The plan commits the Alberta Utilities Commission and Alberta Energy Regulator to deliver findings on areas of overlap, uncertainty and duplication between the federal and provincial regulatory systems to Alberta’s government in 2023.
- The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission regulates all stages of life of nuclear power plants in Canada, starting from the initial environmental assessment to decommissioning. The approval process takes several years and offers opportunities for public participation.
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