The last few weeks have been busy as the fall session of the legislature resumed and our government introduced legislation to implement Alberta’s Recovery Plan. We also continue to see COVID numbers and hospitalizations decline. This is in large part to Albertans following the guidelines set in place through the Restricted Exemption Program and continuing to see our vaccination rates increase. Again, thank you to everyone for doing your part to reduce transmission and for getting your vaccine. I would also like to thank all health care professionals during COVID and particular during the fourth wave.
As the Health Minister this week I was able to announce COVID booster shots for an additional four groups, including front line health care workers, Albertans over 70 years of age, First Nation, Metis and Inuit 18 years of age and older and those who had two doses of AstraZeneca or one dose of Jansen while abroad.
In this newsletter you will also read about COVID supports for education, including an update on diploma exams and more about legislation to cut emissions, diversify our economy and create jobs, including further support for our small businesses.
I also invite you to all join my townhall where I will update you on COVID, the fall session and take your questions. Details, including the link to my townhall are below.
As we head into next week and Remembrance Day I would like to ask that we not only remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy our way of life, but we must remember those who are still with us today who served during times of war and on peace missions. If you are able please find a Remembrance Day ceremony and take a moment to remember.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 email@example.com
Eligibility for booster doses expands across Alberta
Emerging evidence and recent recommendations made by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization suggest immunity levels and protection against severe outcomes may decline sooner in certain groups. Receiving a third dose will help boost immunity levels and improve protection.
Starting Nov. 8, the following Albertans will be eligible to book a third dose:
- All Albertans aged 70 and older
- First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) people aged 18 and older
- Front-line health-care workers who received their first two doses less than eight weeks apart
- Albertans who received two doses of AstraZeneca or one dose of Jansen while abroad
FNMI people and front-line health workers must also have received their second dose more than six months ago to be eligible.
Booking a third dose
Beginning Nov. 8, eligible individuals can book appointments for third doses online with AHS and participating pharmacies by using the Alberta vaccine booking system. Albertans can also call 811, participating pharmacies or participating physicians’ offices.
Individuals aged 18 and older who live on a First Nations reserve will be able to access third doses through public health clinics or nursing stations on-reserve.
Albertans eligible for third dose
Eligible at least six months after receiving their second dose:
- Albertans aged 70-plus
- First Nations, Métis and Inuit people aged 18-plus
- Health-care workers providing direct patient care and who received their second dose less than eight weeks after their first dose
- Individuals who received two doses of AstraZeneca or one dose of Janssen vaccine
Eligible at least five months after receiving their second dose:
- Seniors living in congregate care
Eligible at least eight weeks after receiving their second dose:
- Individuals with eligible immunocompromising conditions
Anyone in the general population who receives a complete two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series can be confident that they have strong protection against severe illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19. Albertans who have not yet been vaccinated are encouraged to book their first and second-dose appointments as soon as possible to protect themselves and their communities.
Helping students catch up after pandemic disruption
In May 2021, Alberta’s government announced $45 million would be available for school authorities to offer targeted programming to enhance literacy and numeracy skills.
School authorities have completed learning assessments to identify students who could benefit from targeted programming and now funds will be distributed at a per-student rate of $490.
School authorities have the flexibility to use this funding to design programming to best meet the needs of their students. Programming will be above and beyond classroom learning. The initial focus will be on students in grades 2 and 3, with targeted support for students in Grade 1 starting in February 2022.
In response to feedback from students, parents and education partners about stress and anxiety around academic achievement exams, Alberta Education will temporarily change the weighting of diploma exams to 10 per cent from 30 per cent for the 2021-22 school year.
The ministers of Advanced Education and Education have sent an open letter to Alberta’s post-secondary institutions to advise them of this change and encourage them to further consider the impact the pandemic has had on students who are applying to their post-secondary institutions.
At-home rapid tests
Alberta’s government is continuing to use all available tools to stop the spread of COVID-19. Beginning Oct. 27, at-home rapid test kits will be provided to schools with kindergarten to Grade 6 students across the province that are on outbreak status. The program is optional, free, and starts immediately.
Schools will provide the students and staff who wish to participate with 10 tests to take home, and they will be required to test twice weekly for five weeks. Testing regularly ensures testing is most effective. A how-to video for parents and a fact sheet translated into multiple languages offer tips on how to use the kits.
Cutting emissions and diversifying the economy
Our government is moving Alberta forward with climate policies that are creating jobs and reducing emissions. Alberta’s government is using up to $176 million from the TIER system and Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund (LCELF) for 16 projects that will cut almost 7 million tonnes of emissions by 2030.
Funding is being delivered through Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA)’s Shovel-Ready Challenge, and will support around 5,600 jobs while injecting $2 billion into Alberta’s economy. This is the largest investment announcement in ERA’s history. The funding originates from the carbon levies paid by large emitters in Alberta’s Technology Innovation and Emission Reduction Framework (TIER).
Large operations across nearly every sector in Alberta are benefitting from this funding – including oil and gas, chemicals and fertilizers, cement and concrete, forestry and agriculture, electricity, and manufacturing.
A project example:
- Canadian Pacific’s Hydrogen Locomotive Program will feature three diesel locomotives retrofitted to operate using low-carbon hydrogen. The only emissions these locomotives will produce is water vapour, showing the potential for nearly emissions-free freight rail transport.
For more examples go here.
Helping Alberta businesses go digital
The Government of Alberta is investing $10 million over two years toward the Digital Economy Program, which will help Alberta small businesses increase their digital presence to reach more customers and compete in an increasingly online world.
Business Link and Digital Main Street™ are delivering the Digital Economy Program on behalf of the government. The program consists of two initiatives to support eligible small businesses across Alberta.
The ShopHERE powered by Google program allows eligible small businesses to create and operate an online store. Businesses can access help through Digital Main Street to establish an online store and receive training and support to manage it.
Eligible businesses can now apply to the program. To be eligible, businesses must be registered in Alberta and have fewer than 50 employees. More information on the program, including full eligibility details and how to apply, can be found on the Digital Main Street Alberta website.
The Digital Service Squad Grant program will provide funding to eligible organizations to hire Alberta post-secondary students and recent graduates to regional digital service squads.
Eligible organizations can now apply for funding to create a digital service squad. Eligible organizations include non-profits, economic development agencies, business improvement associations, chambers of commerce, Indigenous organizations and municipalities that work to develop small businesses in Alberta.
More information on the Digital Service Squad Grant program, including full eligibility details and how to apply, can be found on Business Link’s website.
The Digital Economy Program will provide employment opportunities for post-secondary students and recent graduates looking to apply their technology skills, helping to build a highly skilled workforce in Alberta’s tech sector.
Constituency Town Hall
In the community
I had the honour of recording a video as the guest speaker for Colonel Belcher to have at this year’s Remembrance Day ceremony.
I appreciate that the last few years in dealing with COVID has meant the freedoms we all enjoy were put to the test. It meant making sacrifices so that we could stop the spread and keep each other safe. We have all had to adapt and live very differently. Restrictions and mandates have never been about taking away one’s freedoms, but rather to protect our vulnerable populations and our overall health care system.
As the Minister of Health, I want you to know that the Alberta government and I continue to be committed to making the best policy decisions that will protect Albertan’s lives and to ensure that our health care workers have what they need to protect those Albertans who need health care.
We need to be aware of the effects of isolation on our veterans and senior population. Not being able to see family or friends and learning new ways to stay in touch virtually has been challenging. The strength and courage they endure shows us all that we can all make sacrifices and come out stronger on the other side.
To watch the Colonel Belcher Remembrance Day service go here.
Leaves of gratitude campaign
University District set to open theatre complex
University District continues to grow and offer the community new amenities with a new theatre complex about to open this month. VIP Cinemas is an 18+ movie-going experience through Cineplex. This is Alberta’s first standalone VIP Cinemas and only the third in Canada. You can get more information here.