Jason Copping – MLA Update January 29, 2021

Posted Under: Jason Copping

One year ago this week Canada had its first case of the COVID-19 virus.  For so many this has been a most challenging year and one I am sure we will never forget.  Today, Premier Kenney announced Alberta’s COVID plan for gradually opening up our province. I want to once again thank you for doing your part to help slow the spread so that we can start to move forward with easing the restrictions in place. 

I realize the mental toll this past year has taken on so many Albertans.  Yesterday was Bell Let’s Talk Day which calls for global action on the conversation around mental health.  Mental health is more than just one day for so many.  We must recognize that those who are suffering need supports every day. 

Over the course of this last year we have seen a rise in mental health and I remind everyone that the following supports are available:

  • The Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642 and the Addiction Help Line at 1-866-332-2322 operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Resources are also available online.
  • The Kids Help Phone is available 24-7 and offers professional counselling, information and referrals and volunteer-led, text-based support to young people by texting CONNECT to 686868.
  • Online resources provide advice on handling stressful situations and ways to talk with children.

In this edition I will speak to government updates, including the updated COVID plan, the decision to rescind the Keystone XL pipeline by the Biden administration, investments to stabilize Alberta’s performing arts, sports and rodeo sectors and our progress on red tape reduction. 

I will also highlight two organizations in Calgary-Varsity who have received government funding for their work in mental health.  In addition, you will also find information about the Leaders in Equality Award of Distinction Program and how to nominate individuals for Alberta’s Order of Excellence. 

As always, if you have questions or would like to share your feedback please reach out to my office at http://calgary.varsity@assembly.ab.ca


COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 Plan for easing restrictions
I have been hearing a lot from constituents, business owners and parents of athletes who want to see the current COVID restrictions lifted, especially since over the last week our COVID cases have been lower. However, it is our hospitalization rates that remain our key benchmark to guiding the decisions being made to lift restrictions.

Easing of provincewide health measures will occur in steps based on hospitalization and ongoing reduction in cases with Alberta moving to the first step on February 8.  The next steps will again all be based on hospitalization rates and will occur a minimum three weeks after the previous step. If daily case rates begin to increase rapidly as they did in the fall, we will have no choice but to bring restrictions back.

Hospitalization benchmarks:

  • Step 1 – 600 and declining (February 8):  
    • Potential easing of some restrictions related to indoor and outdoor children’s sport and performance (school-related only); indoor personal fitness, one on one and by appointment only; and restaurants, cafes and pubs.
  • Step 2 – 450 and declining:
    • Potential easing of some restrictions related to retail, community halls, hotels, banquet halls and conference centres and further easing of some restrictions eased in step 1.
  • Step 3 – 300 and declining:
    • Potential easing of some restrictions related to places of worship, adult team sports, museums, libraries, indoor seated events such as movie theatres and further easing of some restrictions eased in step 1 and 2.
  • Step 4 – 150 and declining:
    • Further restrictions eased similar to last summer.

Easing of restrictions – effective Feb. 8
Indoor and outdoor children’s sport and performance:

  • School-related activities only, such as physical education classes.
  • This will allow K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions to use off-site facilities to support curriculum-related educational activities.

Indoor fitness:

  • Only one-on-one training is permitted for indoor fitness activities.
    • Such as, fitness in dance studios, training figure skating on ice, one-on-one lessons. 
    • One-on-one sessions cannot interact with others and there must be a minimum of 3 metres distance between sessions in the same facility.
    • Sessions have to be scheduled or by appointment.
    • No drop-in for individuals or groups allowed.
  • No sports games, competitions, team practice, league play, or group exercise of any kind.
  • Trainers must be professional, certified, and/or paid trainers who are providing active instruction and correction. Passive supervision of a physical activity is not considered training.
  • Trainers should remain masked during the session; clients are not required to wear a mask while exercising.
  • More than one trainer and client ‘pair’ are allowed into the facility, studio, rink, court, pool, ice surface, etc. so long as:
    • Each trainer and client stays 3 metres away from all other trainers and clients at all times, including in entryways and exits.
    • Each trainer can only interact with their assigned client, and each client can only interact with their assigned trainer.
    • No interaction between clients or between trainers is allowed.
    • No ‘cycling through’ multiple trainers as in circuit training. 

Restaurants, cafes, and pubs:

  • Restaurants, cafes and pubs must collect the contact information of one person from the dining party.
  • Up to a maximum of 6 people per table; individuals must be from same household or the 2 close contacts for people living alone.
  • Liquor service ends at 10 p.m.
  • In-person dining must close by 11 p.m.
  • No entertainment allowed (e.g., no VLTs, pool tables, live music, etc.)

You can find further information here.

COVID-19 vaccination program
Due to the interruptions in the vaccine supply, in which we are dependent on the federal government to supply, AHS will not be booking any further first dose appointments.  We will continue to advocate with the federal government on increasing the supply so we can move forward on our vaccination program.

More information on Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccination distribution is available here.

Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant
Small businesses from across Alberta have applied for the SMERG, and the government has given more than 45,000 grants to date – with the majority of these being paid within 11 calendar days. This has resulted in more than $311 million being placed into the hands of the small businesses that form the backbone of our economy.

Job creators have been using the money to rehire staff (over 227,000 Albertans are employed by the SMERG applicants), pay everyday business costs, purchase personal protective equipment, and more. The goal of the program is not to tell small businesses where to spend the money, but for them to determine where the money is needed most.

One business owner told us the grant money was “a game changer, we were able to bring our staff back on mostly full time.” We’ve heard from other business owners they were able to put the money towards buying hand sanitizer and face masks, pay rent, and renovate their business to properly follow Alberta’s COVID-19 guidelines.

The SMERG program is still open and accepting applications. If you own a business and were forced to close or reduce your services as a result of COVID-19, I encourage you – businesses, cooperatives, or non-profits – to apply. If you received the first payment in the spring, apply now for the second payment and receive up to triple the funding from your first payment.

Government Update

Keystone XL Decision
In regards to the cancellation of KXL, it is unfortunate that this was one of President Biden’s first actions as it has resulted in the loss of 2,000 good union jobs and has eliminated another 59,000 jobs that would have been created for this project.

Canada is the most important ally and trading partner of the United States. Of all the provinces, Alberta has the deepest economic ties to the United States, with $100 billion worth of exports.

The purpose of Keystone XL is to strengthen the historic Canada-United States relationship by building modern infrastructure for safe and secure energy exports. This project would help the United States become less dependent on foreign imports from OPEC countries who don’t share Canada’s commitment to environmental sustainability or human rights.

Alberta’s government invested in this project for a number of reasons.  First, there is a need for further pipeline access to export our resource.  Our government ran on a platform to support pipelines. Second, this project would have not proceeded last year if our government did not invest.  Finally, there was a detailed risk assessment made at the time of the investment recognizing the political risk and a strong belief that this project could proceed given the two approvals under the Trump administration and the findings made under the Obama administration.

During former U.S President Barack Obama’s tenure, the United States State Department found that Keystone XL would reduce emissions by removing oil from more emission-intensive methods of transportation. Moreover, the project had been improved since that time.  Notably, here in Alberta, our oilsands producers rank at the top of the world in global assessments of social and environmental standards, and most of our producers have committed to net-zero emissions in their operations.

We are calling on the Canadian government to enter into a respectful dialogue with the Biden administration about energy, the environment, and how Keystone XL can operate in this context.

$17 million investment to stabilize the performing arts, sports and rodeo organizations 
Alberta’s live experience organizations have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. They have lost a full season of programming and revenue but still have ongoing overhead costs. The Stabilize Program will provide one-time grant funding to support live experience presenting and performing arts, sport and rodeo organizations. The funding will help these organizations continue to operate and reopen when it is safe to do so.

Non-profits that host rodeos, professional and elite amateur sports organizations, and non-profits that own and/or operate dedicated presenting and performing arts venues can apply for operational funding through the Stabilize Program to offset financial losses.

Qualifying organizations will be eligible for a one-time grant of up to 25 per cent of eligible expenses based on 2018 and 2019 financials. Organizations may use funds for ongoing operational costs, such as utilities, rent, insurance and programming, to support their reopening. The Stabilize Program allocates $12 million, and applications will be accepted until midnight Feb.18.

The Stabilize Donation Matching stream will allocate $5 million to match private donations (from a minimum $250,000 to a maximum $1 million) dollar-for-dollar to eligible non-profit organizations that host rodeos and professional and elite amateur sports. Non-profit organizations that own and/or operate dedicated presenting and performing arts venues or live experience venues are also eligible.Red Tape Awareness Week 

This week has marked the 12th annual Red Tape Awareness Week aimed to push government’s across Canada to reduce regulatory burden.

This is an area Alberta’s government has taken very seriously since becoming elected.  With the appointment of Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction and the Red Tape Reduction Implementation Act, Alberta is cutting red tape to speed up regulatory processes and to attract investment.

According to the CFIB who created this awareness week, “Alberta stands out as most improved moving from an F grade a few years ago to joining the A club this year.”  

The first annual report on red tape reduction highlights key initiatives that have eased the regulatory burden in Alberta; saving Albertans over $476 million.  In addition, our government has a baseline count of nearly 671,000 regulatory requirements with a goal to reduce these requirements by more than one-third in our first mandate. 

Ongoing red tape reduction efforts are being driven by excellent advice from key leaders in Alberta through panels including small business, oil and gas, and tourism and hospitality.

The new Leaders in Equality Award of Distinction (LEAD) Program is open for applications. This scholarship program, underneath the Ministry of Culture, Multiculturalism, and the Status of Women supports students who work to reduce gender discrimination in their communities or increase gender representation in their field of study.  $225,000 is available through the program and 90 students will receive $2,500 each for their studies.  
The first intake deadline is February 21, 2021.
For more information please go here

Do you know a remarkable citizen, leader or innovator in our riding?  Our government is looking for nominations for individuals to be included into the Alberta Order of Excellence.  Up to 10 individuals will be inducted into the Order this year in recognition of contributions to their community, the province and beyond.  

Nominations must be received by February 15 to be considered for investiture this year.  Information about the Order, including nomination guidelines, nomination forms and biographies of previous inductees, is available on the Alberta Order of Excellence website.

Information is also available by calling 780-449-0517.

In our community

Community Grant Funding Program – supporting mental health
Congratulations to Wood’s Homes and the Huatuo Institute located in Calgary-Varsity for being approved for funding through Alberta’s Community Grant Funding Program.  

This program is a key part of our government’s strategy to support the mental wellness and addiction recovery of Albertans during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both these organizations are doing tremendous work in the mental health field and supporting Albertans in need.

I want your feedback.  Please take a moment to answer the following question.

How would you best describe the COVID stepped approach to easing of restrictions? 

a/ The plan strikes the right balance
b/ The restrictions are being eased too slowly
c/ The restrictions are being lifted too quickly
e/ Not sure

To answer please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XK325N9

Thank you to those who took time to answer the previous survey question:

Do you feel the government is on the right track with the vaccine roll-out?

Yes – 46.88%
No – 25%
Not sure – 28.13%

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