by Stephen Dafoe
The province’s MLAs returned to the Alberta Legislature on Monday to start the fall session. Below are some of the happenings from day one.
Infrastructure Accountability Act
The construction of provincial infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, will fall under new long-term planning and legislated criteria if the Infrastructure Accountability Act is approved.
Labelled a governance framework, the UCP says the Act includes criteria to guide how capital project decisions and spending gets prioritized.
The six criteria address health, safety and compliance needs, align with government priorities and strategies, foster economic activity and create jobs, and improve program delivery and services. Additionally, criteria will consider life-cycle costs and whether it will generate a return on investment and enhance the resiliency of communities.
NDP Infrastructure Critic Thomas Dang said while transparency is always welcome, Bill 73 comes too late.
“The UCP government already gambled away $1.3 billion of Albertans’ money on Keystone XL without any consultation or transparency,” Dang said. “In addition, they’ve funded infrastructure projects in UCP-held ridings that didn’t even appear on their own capital plan list, while delaying critically necessary projects like the South Edmonton Hospital.”
Dang went on to say nothing in the bill requires the UCP to apply it to the Budget 2022 Capital Plan.
“Delaying the implementation of the bill means the UCP can continue their mismanagement of the province’s finances in an attempt to try to buy Albertans’ votes as we head into the next election,” Dang said.
Labour Mobility Act
The UCP says they are addressing the province’s labour shortages with the introduction of Bill 49, the Labour Mobility Act, which the government says would make it faster and easier for Canadians from other provinces to have their professional credentials recognized when moving to Alberta.
The proposed Act applies to more than 100 Alberta regulated occupations, including optometrists, engineers, dentists, accountants, and the skilled trades.
Alberta Chambers of Commerce President and CEO Ken Kolby welcomes the new legislation.
“With Alberta job creators struggling to find workers, this legislation comes at a crucial time,” Kolby said. “The proposed process would provide timeliness, transparency and accountability for employers and employees alike.”
NDP Labour Critic Christina Gray said the UCP has been driving skilled professionals out of the province since taking office and that Bill 49 is designed to hide that fact.
“The UCP’s war on healthcare workers, their lack of an affordable child care deal for growing families, and their backwards curriculum have made Alberta a less desirable place to live and work under the Kenney government,” Gray said.
“Overall, I am supportive of attracting workers to Alberta. However, the government has not provided any information to us about the bill as of yet, and I will need to consult with stakeholders immediately.”
Social recovery gets $7 million injection
A second round of provincial funding is now available to civil society organizations to fund new projects that support Alberta’s social services sector helping the most vulnerable’s post-pandemic recovery.
Seven million is available to civil society groups, not-for-profit organizations, First Nations and Metis Settlements, all of whom can submit proposals up to $1 million.
“We know civil society organizations are best positioned to address many of the challenges Albertans are facing today and provide more tools for future resilience,” said Jason Luan, Minister of Community and Social Services, in a media release Monday. “This investment will kick-start social recovery in the wake of the pandemic.”
More information can be found online at Civil Society Fund.
NDP says UCP fail to take accountability for fourth wave failures
An earlier request by the NDP Official Opposition to form an all-party committee to “seek justice and answers for their failure to manage the catastrophic fourth wave of COVID-19” was refused by the UCP.
The Alberta NDP chose the resumption of legislative session to call for a Select Special Committee on Alberta’s COVID-19 Response. That committee would: “publicly review the pandemic management, fix crucial mistakes, and shine a light on key decisions made by Jason Kenney and the entire UCP caucus.”
The proposal was defeated by the UCP.