Jason Copping: December MLA Update

Posted Under: Jason Copping

This month as we start to celebrate the holiday season and spend time with family and friends I would like to remind you to continue to follow the public health measures in place. The holidays are a time for giving and the best gift we can give to each other is our health. Please be mindful of gatherings and stay home if you are not feeling well. 

This week we started to learn more about the new COVID variant, Omicron. The World Health Organization has declared this variant one of concern. I am happy to see that the federal government has implemented a travel ban from areas of concern and we will continue to urge the federal government to do more now to protect Canadians.

Our government is also taking this variant seriously and have implemented enhanced measures to reduce the chance of spread. This week I also announced the expansion of booster shots to Albertans 18 and over. As of now, those 60 and over can go online and book your booster shot. I am hopeful that with supply from the federal government we can open up boosters for all Albertans 18 and older early in the new year. Albertans can also help with transmission of this new variant by continuing to get vaccinated and continuing to follow the public health measures in place. 

In this e-newsletter you will read more about the booster vaccine, the pediatric vaccine for children aged five to 11, and updates to the QR code for those traveling. You will also learn more about affordable child care and Alberta’s mid-year economic update.If you have questions, concerns or would like to chat, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office to schedule a phone call at calgary.varsity@assembly.ab.ca

COVID-19 Update

Expanding COVID-19 booster to all Albertans 18-plus

All Albertans aged 60 and older can now book appointments for a booster dose of mRNA vaccine six months after receiving their second dose. First appointments will be available beginning next week on Dec. 6.

All other Albertans aged 18-plus will be notified when the next age group is able to book appointments. Additional age groups will be announced as quickly as possible.

Current evidence indicates that vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 infection appears to wane over time. While individual protection against severe outcomes remains strong after two doses for most people, there are still many in our communities who are completely unprotected, and third doses will help boost population protection and limit the spread of COVID-19.

Expansion of booster dose eligibility was informed by the advice of the Alberta Advisory Committee on Immunization.

Eligible individuals can book appointments for third doses online with participating pharmacies by using the Alberta vaccine booking system. Albertans can also call 811, participating pharmacies or participating physicians’ offices.

Pfizer pediatric vaccine rollout to begin

Alberta has received its shipment of Pfizer pediatric vaccines for children between the ages of five-11 and the rollout of these vaccines has had great uptake. Pediatric vaccinations will continue to be administered at Alberta Health Services clinics around the province. 

First-dose appointments must be booked through the Alberta Vaccine Booking System at alberta.ca/vaccine or by calling Health Link at 811. Walk-ins are not available at this time.

The recommended interval between the first and second doses for children aged five to 11 is at least eight weeks. It is also recommended that children should wait at least 14 days between receiving the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine and another type of vaccine.

 QR code vaccine record updated for travel

Alberta’s vaccine record has been updated to meet the recommended Canadian standard for domestic and international travel. The updated record is available at alberta.ca/CovidRecords. It also includes middle names and the record is in both official languages.

There is no need for Albertans who already have a QR code vaccine record to save or reprint the updated version if they do not intend to travel. Albertans can continue to use their already saved vaccine record with a QR code to access local businesses and venues taking part in the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP).

Alberta’s QR code scanning app will recognize both the current and updated QR code vaccine record.

Albertans planning to travel need to check the required travel documents with the Government of Canada and their destination ahead of any interprovincial or international travel.

Albertans can get a printed vaccine record with QR code at no cost by visiting a registry agent office or by calling 811.

REP safety training now available

Alberta’s front-line workers can now access safety training to help them keep businesses open and patrons safe during the pandemic. The Restrictions Exemption Program Safety Training is available to employees of Alberta-based businesses and organizations who are implementing the REP and other COVID-19 safety requirements.

The 45-minute online training is available to employers and staff at no cost to help them assess and manage challenging situations that may arise during their daily operations.

The training includes information and resources that workers need to keep themselves and customers safe while implementing COVID-19 safety requirements, such as requesting proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test, physical distancing or masking.

Employers can visit alberta.ca/restrictions-exemption-program-safety-training.aspx to learn more about the training and how to enroll their employees.

 Boosting vaccine development in Alberta

Alberta’s government is growing the province’s pharmaceutical and life sciences sector by funding four COVID-19 vaccine proposals.

As part of the government’s commitment to grow Alberta’s and Canada’s vaccine capacity, government is providing up to $81.2 million to fund four proposals for vaccine development and manufacturing. This will help in the fight against COVID-19 and future infectious disease outbreaks while growing Alberta’s pharmaceutical and life sciences sector.

After an independent third-party review, the government selected four proposals:

  • University of Alberta
  • Entos Pharmaceuticals
  • Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation
  • Northern RNA

Alberta’s government has committed up to $55.1 million to the University of Alberta to support four key projects. These projects include:

  • Vaccine portfolio development
  • Alberta Cell Therapy Manufacturing
  • Biosafety Level 3 Lab
  • Structural Biology Facility with CryoEMs

The University of Alberta proposal will address vaccines but also the broader pharmaceutical and life sciences industry. A strong pharmaceutical and life sciences industry will attract investment, encourage the growth of spinoff industries and create jobs in Alberta.

Alberta’s government is also committing to fund 10 per cent of the following proposals, contingent on the companies receiving financial support from the federal government or private funding. Alberta will provide:

  • $15.5 million to Entos Pharmaceuticals to establish a commercial manufacturing facility in Edmonton.
  • $5.6 million to Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation to build an integrated research, commercialization and manufacturing cluster to ensure security of supply of critical medicines at commercial volumes.
  • $5 million to Northern RNA help build the RNA ecosystem in Alberta.

Government update

Mid-year update: Strong economic recovery continues

Alberta’s fiscal outlook continues to improve along with the economy as revenue increases, the government holds the line on spending and the deficit drops.

According to the mid-year update, the province continues to see strong improvements in the economy, confirming that Alberta’s Recovery Plan to support job creation and broaden the economy is working.

Drilling activity and oil production have increased while business output remains solid, with manufacturing shipments and non-energy exports up more than 20 per cent year-to-date. Housing activity and retail spending also continue to be robust. Private sector construction spending is also picking up and employment will continue to improve.

Alberta has gained more than 103,000 jobs since the start of the year. According to the October jobs report, the unemployment rate fell to 7.6 per cent. Overall, it is forecast to average 8.8 per cent this year, down from 11.4 per cent in 2020. It is forecast to drop to 5.7 per cent in 2024.

The Job Creation Tax Cut and continued efforts to make Alberta the most competitive business environment in North America are working. Corporate income tax revenue of $2.9 billion is forecast for 2021-22, $1 billion more than what was forecast in February’s budget. This revenue is now forecast to increase by an average of 19 per cent over the next two years to reach $4.1 billion in 2023-24 as growth in investment and profits continue. 

2021-22 Mid-year Fiscal Update and Economic Statement (PDF)

Making child care more affordable for families

Following the signing of the historic child-care agreement with the federal government, Alberta is lowering child-care fees for working families. Alberta’s government is reducing fees for parents with kids aged zero to kindergarten in licensed daycares, preschools and family day homes.

Parents will see fees reduced by half, on average, by early 2022, with families most in need receiving additional subsidy. By 2026, families will be paying an average of $10 per day per child.
Beginning in January 2022, the government will reduce fees for more families by offering:

  • Subsidies for families earning under $180,000. Parents can apply online starting in the new year.
  • New operating grants for facility-based child-care programs starting in mid-January 2022. This will help providers lower fees for parents without shouldering extra costs.

$1 million grants to advance women’s economic security

Alberta’s government is committing $1 million in grant funding for projects that increase women’s participation in the economy. The Women’s Economic Recovery Challenge Grant program will help address areas of concern for women entrepreneurs and women working in Alberta.  

Grants are open to non-profit groups, including community organizations, municipalities, First Nation and Métis communities, industry associations and economic development organizations.
Eligible non-profits can apply for up to $250,000 in funding in these focus areas:

  • increasing the representation of women and girls in STEM
  • increasing female entrepreneurship
  • decreasing the challenges women face in the workplace
  • helping women transition to a new career, supporting inclusive employer training and updating employment skills

Examples of eligible projects could include the development and implementation of programs and educational materials, delivering training and networking opportunities and executing media or educational campaigns.

Applications can be downloaded from the Women’s Economic Recovery Challenge Grant Program website and submitted via email. The deadline to apply is Jan. 12, 2022.

In the community

Stars of Alberta Winner – May Han

I would like to congratulate Calgary-Varsity’s May Han for winning this year’s Stars of Alberta award for her outstanding volunteer work to engage the community in actions of anti-racism and anti-Asian sentiments.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the incidence of cultural and racial discrimination against those in Alberta’s Asian community. Recognizing youth as a force for change, May initiated the Covid-9teen Tomorrow Youth Volunteers Team. Youth members participated in a number of events to raise awareness, including the Stop Asian Hate rally in Calgary and the kickoff of Asian Heritage Month. The group has also helped teens connect with their peers, learn new skills, contribute to the wider community, and encourage positive mental and physical well-being during the pandemic.

When COVID-9teen was itself targeted for online hate, rather than back away from the reality of discrimination, May began work in organizing the first Canadian Youth Forum on Discrimination and Mental Health. Students in ages ranging from high school to university level from across Canada were invited to join events and workshops and to take part in panel discussions with guest speakers as they explored ways to navigate social situations and solutions around racial discrimination. COVID-9Teen was also invited to take part in ACT2ENDRACISM, a cross-country campaign to raise awareness and provide communities with the tools to combat racism and anti-Asian discrimination. As a result of May’s work with youth, COVID-9Teen has also been invited to participate in Alberta Education’s, Respect in Schools program.

May continues to serve as a voice for Asian Albertans and was among a group of Chinese and Asian Canadian community leaders invited to join the Calgary Police Service’s Diversity Resource Team “Super Board,” a community outreach effort aimed at supporting greater understanding between communities within Calgary, identifying needs and exploring ways to ensure culturally appropriate service delivery to meet those needs.
From designing workshops, to helping youth build careers and life skills, to producing the Calgary Stampede Spirit Talent Show, to serving on numerous boards and committees promoting Asian culture, to giving a voice to the concerns of Calgary’s Asian community, May Han continues to lead and inspire change for a more diverse, equal, and inclusive Alberta.

South Shaganappi Area Strategic Planning Group celebrates 20 years 

On December 4th I will be joining the current and past members of the South Shaganappi Area Strategic Planning Group’s (SSASPG) 20th Anniversary celebration. This is a group of community members, local community leaders and stakeholders who meet monthly to discuss planning and community issues at a strategic level. This volunteer organization is unique in our city and is an example of how collaboration and communication by all involved can minimize the impacts of developments in our neighbourhoods. 

Banff Trail Santa Parade – December 11

Join the Banff Trail Community on December 11th from 2-6pm for a free, fun filled afternoon and Santa parade. There will be caroling, s’mores, skating, fire pits and YYC food trucks. You can find more details at the community hall.

Silver Springs Community Winter Celebration – December 12

On December 12th come celebrate winter at the Silver Springs Community Association. There will be hot chocolate, skating, sledding and lots of other winter activities, including YYC food trucks. The community asks those attending to bring a non-perishable food item as a donation to the food bank. 

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