News & Updates

    Weekly Roundup #16

    Posted by New West Public Affairs on Dec 3, 2018 8:22:06 AM

    Here’s the latest on the Legislature, government announcements, and the topic on everyone’s minds, the oil differential and pipeline access.

    *Late breaking news on Sunday night as Premier Notley announced a mandatory curtailment of oil production in Alberta. The Roundup was put together on Friday so for more on the Premier's announcement, we encourage you to read today's Morning Brief.*

    Premier Notley takes market access show on the road

    It was a busy week for Premier Notley with stops in Ottawa and Toronto to sell her message of market access and highlighting the price differential Alberta’s oil currently receives. Of particular note was her pitch to build more capacity for moving oil by rail. Pundit Graham Thomson has a helpful breakdown of the logistics of the plan here.

    The stark contrast in coverage from the centre of the universe (sorry - Ontario) between the recent announcement of GM closures in Oshawa and the ongoing struggles for Alberta’s oil sector are nicely captured in this piece by Robson Fletcher.

    UCP Leader Jason Kenney responded in kind with a call for mandated emergency cuts to oil production in the province.

    Finance Minister Joe Ceci also tied his government’s Q2 fiscal update to the topic of market access Friday, stating that Alberta’s economic recovery faces a serious threat from the widening oil differential. He also stated that the NDP remains on track to balance the budget in 2023.

    Government Legislation Recap

    Below is a recap of the stage bills previously discussed in the Roundup are at, and a brief explainer on new legislation introduced (an asterisk denotes new legislation).

    You can read the bills in their entirety here.

    Bill 19 — An Act to Improve the Affordability and Accessibility of Post-secondary Education

    Stage: Third Reading passed

    Bill 20 — Securities Amendment Act, 2018

    Stage: Royal Assent received November 19, comes into force November 19, 2018

    Bill 21 - An Act to Protect Patients

    Stage: Royal Assent received November 19, comes into force November 19, 2018

    Bill 22 - An Act for Strong Families Building Stronger Communities

    Stage: Committee of the Whole debate, amendments agreed to

    Bill 23 - An Act to Renew Local Democracy in Alberta

    Stage: Committee of the Whole debate, amendments agreed to

    Bill 24 - An Act to Recognize AMA Representation Rights

    Stage: Third Reading passed

    Bill 25 - Canyon Creek Hydro Development Act

    Stage: Third Reading passed

    Bill 26 – An Act to Combat Poverty and Fight for Albertans with Disabilities

    Stage: Third Reading passed

    Bill 27 – Joint Governance of Public Sector Pension Plans Act

    Stage: Second Reading passed 

    Bill 28 – Family Statutes Amendment Act, 2018

    Stage: Committee of the Whole debate

    Bill 29 – Public Service Employee Relations Amendment Act, 2018

    Stage: Third Reading passed on division

    Notes: In his Third Reading speech, UCP MLA Grant Hunter highlighted concerns that the bill “stacks the deck for their [the NDP’s] union buddies”.

    *Bill 30 - Mental Health Services Protection Act

    Stage: Second Reading debate

    Notes: Bill 30 sets out licensing requirements and standards for residential substance use treatment facilities, and if passed would create a college of counselling therapy to ensure standards of practice.

    *Bill 31: Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2018

    Stage: First Reading passed

    Notes: This is a housekeeping bill that cleans up changes like the renaming of AAMDC to RMA.

    *Bill 32: City Charters Fiscal Framework Act

    Stage: First Reading passed

    Notes: With the introduction of this legislation you could hear the City Council’s of Edmonton and Calgary breathing a collective sigh of relief. The new funding framework would replace the existing Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding in 2022. A big asterix on this plan is that funding is tied to the Climate Leadership Plan revenues - also known as carbon tax dollars. It will be interesting to see what alternatives are proposed in the Legislature during debate.

    Private Members’ Legislation

    *Bill 211: Alberta Underground Infrastructure Notification System Consultation Act (Schneider)

    Stage: First Reading passed, referred to Standing Committee on Resource Stewardship Nov. 28, 2018

    Notes: The goal of this Bill from UCP MLA for Little Bow Dave Schneider  is to establish a mandatory underground infrastructure notification system. Alberta One-Call requires that only provincially and federally regulated pipelines be registered with all other buried utilities or infrastructure participating solely on a volunteer basis. The Standing Committee on Resource Stewardship has a timeline of March 4, 2019 to report back to the Legislature with feedback from stakeholders on the legislation.

    Government News Recap

    Over and above the aforementioned railcar news, the NDP government is going full steam ahead with a multitude of government announcements as the Legislative session winds down and the attention of Albertans turns to the holidays.

    • Finance Minister Joe Ceci once again tried to show he’s hip with the latest iteration of a small brewer announcement on Monday. Aside from the catchy soundbite from Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous that “it’s easier to sell Alberta beer in Tokyo than it is Toronto”, the news conference was an opportunity to announce that the NDP has launched a trade challenge against Ontario over policies that make it difficult for Alberta manufacturers to access the Ontario market. You can read Chris Varcoe’s excellent take on the entire matter here.
    • An expansion of a Status of Women grant program was announced by Minister Danielle Larivee with $1 million in new funding being announced to support more projects. Established non-profits and charities will be eligible for up to $100,000 in funding while new organizations can receive up to $10,000 for projects like career workshops or podcasts. To date the grant program has provided funding for 65 community based projects.
    • The creation of a new Fair Practices Office that will serve as a single point of access for injured workers to navigate the workers’ compensation system was announced, with Harold Robinson being appointed as Alberta’s first Fair Practices Commission for a three-year term.
    • You get a solar panel! And you get a solar panel! Another $15 million in carbon tax dollars were allocated by Environment Minister Phillips and Education Minister Eggen to install more solar panels in Alberta’s schools with the catchy moniker ‘Solar for Schools’.
    • In a “how was this not done already” moment, mandatory wear of high heels in the workplace will be banned in the Occupational Health and Safety Code as of January 1, 2019, following similar moves in BC and Ontario in 2017.
    • Finally, the Office of the Utilities Consumer Advocate will be available to Albertans who have concerns about their water utility provider as of December 1. The expansion to water utilities is a result of legislation passed in June.

    Look-ahead to next week

    Next week is the last scheduled sitting week for the Legislature but it is too soon to say if that schedule will be adhered to.

    On the block for Committees next week is the appearance of the Ministry of Treasury Board and Finance appearing at the Public Accounts Committee. Spare a thought for MLAs Derek Fildebrandt and Robyn Luff, who are not on the committee and made some hay about that fact this week.

    Topics: WeeklyRoundup

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