As promised, I will be providing regular updates to keep you informed and will provide up-to-date information on vaccine rollout and COVID-19 cases each time.
Central to my update today is Budget 2021 which was tabled in the Alberta Legislature on February 25. The two main themes from Budget 2021 are critical investment in health care in a time of COVID-19 and economic recovery through Alberta’s Recovery Plan.
Critical investments in health care:
Health budget for 2021 increases by more than 4% to $23 billion.
$1.25 billion in additional funding is dedicated to COVID-19 response.
Alberta’s Recovery Plan:
$3.1 billion in additional funding dedicated to support strategies in Alberta’s Recovery Plan – a bold strategy to create jobs, build infrastructure and diversify our economy.
Budget 2021 provides $1.7 billion in additional capital funding in 2021-22 than was planned in Budget 2020. The three-year Capital Plan is now $20.7 billion and will support 50,000+ direct and 40,000+ indirect jobs through to 2024.
$1.5 billion is being directed to immediate actions to support jobs and strategic investments in key economic sectors.
$500 million will be dedicated to a Recovery Plan contingency fund.
Government is delivering on its ongoing commitment to responsible spending by identifying goals, called fiscal anchors, to get Alberta’s finances back on track.
Align Alberta’s spending with other comparable provinces.
Ensure the debt we take on can be paid back by keeping it below 30 per cent of GDP.
Set a time frame for balancing the budget and repaying debt. This will be done once the pandemic is over and government has a clearer idea of the long-term global impacts.
I have heard from a significant number of constituents expressing their concern over our staged reopening and the delay to open up to stage 2 as expected, given the low number of COVID-19 cases in hospital. With multiple interruptions and unexpected reductions in vaccine supply from the federal government and the challenge of several COVID-19 variants of concern now present in Alberta, the government is taking a cautious approach to protect lives and livelihoods. It is imperative to consider lagging indicators such as hospitalization rates as well as leading indicators such as reinfection value and percentage of positivity in testing. A lagging indicator reflects decisions from weeks prior, whereas a leading indicator foreshadows the direction case counts are heading. If we focus only on lagging indicators, we risk a rapid spike in cases which jeopardizes the progress already made in reopening. I believe our shared goal is to be wise and follow the data as we continue easing restrictions when possible, without needing to step back into additional restrictions.
That said, I have heard your concerns and your frustration with goalposts that seem to have been moved. Along with multiple colleagues, I raised your concerns to the Premier and the COVID-19 Cabinet Committee and called for clarity within the listed restrictions, a return to common sense, and that the path to staged lifting of restrictions be restated and followed.
I am pleased to report that your feedback has been heard as the Premier has added private members into the COVID-19 response discussions which provides a direct opportunity to raise constituent concerns at the decision-making table. I remain committed to raise your concerns and bring forward constructive ideas to work together for improved response and am encouraged to see the announcement on March 8 of the full stage 2 opening.
Progress to date (as of March 7):
297,692 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Alberta. This is 6,732.2 doses per 100,000 population.
91,027 Albertans have been fully immunized with 2 doses.
125 adverse events following immunization (AEFI) have been reported to Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services.
PROTECTING LIVES AND LIVELIHOODS: Click here for information on COVID-19 restrictions and supports.
I know at times it seems as though COVID-19 will never end, and I want to underscore that I can see the end in sight. March 5, 2021, marked the one-year anniversary of the first presumptive case of COVID-19 in Alberta. Together, we have made it through an entire year and I believe that with additional vaccines being approved and more secure vaccine supply on the horizon, we will see COVID-19 in our rearview mirror in 2021.
Until then, I am committed to be a part of the solution and share the perspective of my constituents with Premier and Cabinet to ensure you are being considered as decisions are made.
I’ve said many times that there is no perfect solution to this imperfect reality and I implore you to consider information critically before you accept it as fact. I want you to know that I am listening and will continue to make myself available to you, my constituents. I continue to collect your ideas and feedback and bring it before the decision makers to improve our situation and I believe we all have a role to play in being part of the solution as we work through the ongoing challenges of a pandemic.
As always, please reach out to me directly at GrandePrairie@assembly.ab.ca if you’d like to connect.
In your service,
Tracy L. Allard, MLA for Grande Prairie