The past few weeks have been busy and encouraging. The number of COVID-19 cases have reduced as we have slowly opened up Alberta under Step one of our reopening plan.
Our government has also provided Albertans with a comprehensive vaccination roll out so you know when you can expect to receive your vaccine. Further details of the rollout are below.
Yesterday we also began the spring session of the legislature with the announcement of the 2021 provincial budget focused on protecting both lives and livelihoods, strengthening the health-care system to fight COVID-19 and creating jobs through the economic recovery plan.
Since the pandemic began, Alberta’s government has balanced bending the curve and protecting the health care system with helping people and businesses with targeted support and relief. As the pandemic continues – and no matter what happens – Alberta’s government will continue to be there for Albertans, every step of the way.
I am happy to share with you that today Minister Shandro and Dr. Paul Boucher, President of the AMA, announced a tentative agreement that will be brought before the AMA to be ratified over the coming weeks. This tentative agreement is based on three pillars: Fiscal sustainability, a fair and equitable solutions for physicians and a focus on patient care.
The full news release from today can be found here and I look forward to seeing further details on this agreement once ratified.
Finally, I want to take a moment to recognize Chinese New Year – the year of the Ox. The year of the Ox symbolizes strength, perseverance, and hard work. Nothing rings truer for 2021 as we work together to get through the pandemic, rebuild our economy and bring back strength to Alberta. As we close out the 2021 Chinese New Year celebrations, I want to wish everyone all the best for 2021.
As always, if you have questions or would like to share your feedback please reach out to my office at http://firstname.lastname@example.org.
COVID-19 vaccination program
This week we were able to move to Phase 1B of our vaccination program which included vaccines to all seniors aged 75 years and over. By immunizing those most at-risk groups first, we protect vulnerable Albertans, protect our critical workforce, and help prevent outbreaks.
You can book your appointment through AHS by calling 811 or by visiting their website. Community pharmacies are also now offering vaccines as of March 1. A list of participating pharmacies is available online at Alberta Blue Cross.
Phase 2 of the rollout is scheduled to begin in April, depending on the supply of the vaccine, with more than 1.79 million Albertans anticipated to receive this spring. This second phase is based on health evidence and risks of severe outcomes, with age and underlying health conditions being major factors.
Phase 2 is broken into Groups A to D. Vaccinations for each group will begin once the previous group has been completed. Timelines are subject to change depending on vaccine supply.
Detailed information on how eligible Albertans will receive the vaccine will be released prior to each group and further information can be found here.
Critical Worker Benefit
As the Minister of Labour and Immigration I was pleased to be able to announce the Critical Worker Benefit, a one-time payment of $1,200 to eligible Albertans in recognition of their hard work to provide Albertans with the care and critical services they need.
The benefit will be distributed to up to 380,000 eligible workers in the health-care, social services, education and private sectors. These workers were selected due to their critical roles in the delivery of frontline services to Albertans and supporting our food and health care supply chains.
For more information go to https://www.alberta.ca/critical-worker-benefit.aspx
Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit
The Government of Alberta has committed $120 million in funding for the Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit which will be available in April to small and medium-sized businesses that have been most affected by the pandemic and ongoing health restrictions.
The benefit will provide funding to businesses that have experienced a revenue reduction of at least 60%. Payments will be calculated based on 15% of the eligible business’s monthly revenue, up to a maximum of $10,000.
This additional $10,000 payment can be used to offset costs associated with COVID-19, like purchasing personal protective equipment, paying bills or hiring staff.
Yesterday, Finance Minister Travis Toews tabled Budget 2021: Protecting Lives and Livelihoods – a budget that invests in health care while positioning the province for economic recovery and a continued focus on the efficient delivery of government services.
The economic outlook is slightly more positive than in previous reports. This is mainly due to rapid vaccine development, higher oil prices and slightly better 2019 ‘actuals’ than expected. Alberta’s economy is now expected to reach pre-COVID levels by 2022, one year earlier than expected at mid-year.
Alberta remains in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Alberta’s government is preparing for brighter days. Budget 2021 was developed in response to these challenges and is a plan that will see Alberta move past its current crisis by focusing on what matters most.
You can read the full budget here.
Investing in health care
- Budget 2021 provides record investment in health care to fight COVID-19, including:
- $1.25 billion in new spending specifically for COVID-19
- Increased spending to help address the surgical backlog caused by the pandemic
- $143 million for new health care facilities
- The government’s four-year, $140 million investment to increase access to mental health and addiction services continues
Preparing for recovery
- Budget 2021 paves the way for growth in Alberta’s post-pandemic economy:
- $21 billion in capital projects to create jobs
- $1.5 billion to support core sectors like agriculture, technology, energy and tourism
- $500 million contingency to further economic recovery initiatives
Maintaining responsible spending
- Budget 2021 takes a balanced approach to get Alberta back on track.
- Sticking to strong fiscal anchors:
- Keeping debt-to-GDP below 30%
- Bringing spending in line with other provinces
- After the pandemic, re-establishing a timeline and a path to balance the budget
- Sticking to strong fiscal anchors:
- In 2021-22, total revenue is estimated to be $43.7 billion. This is $1.4 billion more than the 2020-21 forecast of $42.3 billion.
- The revenue forecast for 2022-23 is $47.4 billion and $50.9 billion in 2023-24.
- The increase in 2021-22 is due mainly to strengthening personal income tax, resource revenue, and government business enterprise (GBE) net income.
- Total expense in 2021-22 is $61.9 billion:
- $21.4 billion per year for health services
- $8.2 billion per year for K-12 education services
- $6.3 billion per year for social service ministries
- $20.7 billion over 3 years for the Capital Plan
- A deficit of $18.2 billion is targeted for 2021-22. This is $2 billion less than the 2020-21 forecast.
- Deficits of $11 billion and $8 billion are targeted for 2022-23 and 2023-24 respectively.
- The declining deficit can be attributed to decreasing expense as the costs of the pandemic subside and government works to streamline and modernize service delivery, and to increasing revenue as the economy recovers.
2021-22 Minister’s Youth Council is now accepting applications
Junior and senior high school students across Alberta can have their voices heard by joining the 2021-22 Education Minister’s Youth Council.
About 40 student applicants from across Alberta will provide direct input to the Minister of Education – reflecting their diverse interests, backgrounds and perspectives on education issues. Youth council members will also gain experience in leadership, building positive working relationships and collaborating with Alberta Education staff.
Students can apply on the Alberta Education student engagement page by March 24.
As the MLA for Calgary-Varsity and the minister of labour and immigration, I would like to invite you to Women in Leadership: Creating an open and welcoming workplace.
This event will be moderated by the Honourable Leela Aheer, minister of culture, multiculturalism and status of women, and feature guest speakers Geeta Sankappanavar, Marissa Reckmann and Catriona Le May Doan.
DATE: Friday, March 5, 2021
TIME: 3:30 p.m. – 5 p.m.
HOSTED BY: AGAT Foundation at the Michael DeSanti Centre for Excellence/AGAT Laboratories
We are asking for donations to be made to either the YWCA Calgary or Fast & Female.
You can find further information on the event, organizations to make a donation to and live stream links here.
In our community
Did you know?
March is Community Association Awareness Month
I want your feedback. Please take a moment to answer the following question.
Budget 2021 includes funding to support health care and job creation, and a deficit of $18.2 billion. What statement best describes how you feel about budget 2021?
a/ This budget spends too much?
b/ This budget is not spending enough?
c/ This budget strikes the right balance?
To answer please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MXKQ8ZK
Thank you to those who took time to answer the previous survey question:
How would you best describe the COVID stepped approach to easing of restrictions?
a/ The plan strikes the right balance: 40.74%
b/ The restrictions are being eased too slowly: 22.22%
c/ The restrictions are being lifted too quickly: 37.04%
e/ Not sure: 0%