Alberta government plans sweeping changes through 2 omnibus bills

Bills 20 and 21 propose to end ban on replacement workers, control where doctors practise

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews at the Federal Building in Edmonton on Thursday, speaking to reporters ahead of delivering his government’s first budget. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The Alberta government on Monday introduced two pieces of omnibus legislation containing sweeping changes that include ending a ban on using replacement workers during labour disputes and controlling where in the province doctors can practise.

Bills 20 and 21 include some changes that were introduced in last Thursday’s budget, and others that were revealed for the first time. There are 35 changes laid out in the two bills.

Finance Minister Travis Toews says they demonstrate the government’s desire to tackle Alberta’s debt, which is costing $2 billion in interest each year.

“Budget 2019 and these bills are a swift first response to these concerns,” he said.

The government intends, through Bill 21, to roll back legislation passed by the previous NDP government that banned the use of replacement workers for essential government services during public sector strikes when an essential services agreement is in place.

The NDP law followed a Supreme Court ruling that upheld the right of public sector workers to go on strike. Toews said the change by the United Conservative government is constitutional.

“I believe this will stand up [in court],” he said. “Our first priority is to Albertans, that we can ensure that we are delivering essential services at a time of a labour walkout.”

NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips says the government is trying to throw labour relations into chaos.

“This is a particular type of playbook from particular kind of government that has a certain orientation to it,” she said.

Bill 21 proposes to give the health minister the ability to tell physicians where they can practise in Alberta when they are issued the identification numbers they require to bill the government for services; forcing them to practise in under-served areas of the province.

Bill 21 also proposes giving the justice minister the power to amend funding arrangements for policing through regulations, not law, so they can make changes more quickly.

Smaller municipalities under 5,000 and municipal districts do not pay for policing. The Alberta government has been holding community consultations on a new funding model this fall.

Other changes in Bills 20 and 21 were announced in last week’s budget. They include suspending indexation on the province’s Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) and Income Support benefits, removing the tuition freeze, and ending tax credit programs like the Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit.

Ending indexation of AISH and Income Support is expected to save the government $300 million by 2022-23.

The government estimates it will save about $7 million in AISH payments in 2019-20; $35 million in 2020-21; $66.4 million in 2021-22 and $101.4 million by 2022-23. For income support, the savings are $3 million in 2019-20; $16.4 million in 2020-21; $29.4 million in 2021-22 and $42.2 million in 2022-23.

Indexing increases payments to match increases in inflation. The Alberta government estimates the inflation rate will hover around two per cent over the next few years.

Measures proposed in Bill 20:

    • End the Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit, Capital Investment Tax Credit, Community and Economic Tax Credit, Alberta Investor Tax Credit, Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Credit.
    • End education and tuition tax credits.
    • Repeal the city charters for Edmonton and Calgary and put a new Local Government Fiscal Framework Act in its place.
    • Suspend indexation of tax brackets for income tax system, saving the government at least $600 million by the end of 2022-23 fiscal year.
    • End the Lottery Fund and move the money into general revenue.
    • End the Access to the Future Fund, the Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund, and Environmental Protection and Enhancement Fund.
    • Roll the Alberta Child Benefit and Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit into the single Alberta Child and Family Benefit.
    • Increase tobacco tax rate.
    • Amend the funding agreements for LRT in Edmonton and Calgary so provincial cash can come after 2023.

Measures proposed in Bill 21:

    • Temporarily suspend indexation of benefits for Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), Income Support and the Seniors Lodge Program.
    • Provide more detailed quarterly financial reports.
    • Exclude budget officers, systems analysts, auditors and employees who perform similar functions from bargaining units.
    • Reverse the replacement worker ban in the public sector.
    • End tuition freeze for three years.
    • Increase student loan interest by one per cent.
    • End regulated rate option cap for electric.
    • Allow health minister to place conditions on new practitioner identification numbers.
    • Allow changes to the master agreement with the Alberta Medical Association.
    • Allow minister to change through regulation how municipalities pay for policing.
    • Change how the province uses fine money it collects on behalf of municipalities.
    • Allow the government to have greater oversight over collective bargaining with public sector employees, including the length of the agreement, and the use of salary surveys.
    • Subjecting funding for disasters to a supply vote in the legislature.


Iceland has made it illegal to pay women less than men

The World Economic Forum has released its annual study on gender equality, and Canada once again is ranked 20th.    Not surprisingly, the Scandinavian countries are once again at the top of the rankings, where the state and strong unions are very actively involved in regulating the economy and redistributed wealth. Perhaps it’s time to write to our ‘feminist’ Prime Minister.

Iceland fan flag

Clive Rose/Getty Images

  • A new law in Iceland making it illegal to pay women less than men came into effect on January 1, 2018.
  • Companies will now have to obtain certification for demonstrating equal pay.
  • Iceland has been ranked the best in the world for gender pay equality for 9 years in a row.

Iceland has made it illegal to pay men more than women.

A new law enforcing equal pay between genders came into effect on January 1, 2018, according to Al Jazeera.

Under the legislation, firms that employ more than 25 people are obliged to obtain a government certificate demonstrating pay equality, or they will face fines.

The law was announced on March 8 on International Women’s Day 2017 as part of a drive by the nation to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022.

Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, told Al Jazeera: “The legislation is basically a mechanism that companies and organisations … evaluate every job that’s being done, and then they get a certification after they confirm the process if they are paying men and women equally.” MORE


‘Equality won’t happen by itself’: how Iceland got tough on gender pay gap

John Horgan announces policy reforms to rebuild coastal forest sector

Premier John Horgan says his government plans to rebuild the solid wood and secondary timber industries by ensuring more logs are processed in British Columbia.

BC Premier John Horgan

Plans are in the works to rebuild the wood and secondary timber industries in British Columbia by ensuring more logs are processed in the province, said Premier John Horgan.

The forest sector revitalization plan will be done through incentives and regulation changes, he said in a speech at the annual Truck Loggers Convention on Thursday.

The policy changes include increasing penalties for late reporting of wood waste, and reducing the waste by redirecting it to pulp and paper mills.

The actions will reverse a systematic decline that has taken place in the coastal forest sector over the past two decades, he said, adding the plan will be implemented through a series of legislative, regulatory and policy changes over the next two years.

More timber can be processed here in B.C. and to accomplish that the government will reform raw log export policy, discourage high grading and curtail the export of minimally processed lumber, he said. MORE

Political climate is heating up

Road sign saying "End climate injustice"

As we head into an election year in Canada, we must ensure that climate and the environment are priorities for all parties.(Photo: Jon Tyson via Unsplash)

In 1988, when NASA scientist James Hansen reported to Congress that evidence for human-caused global warming was near undeniable, conservative politicians including the U.K.’s Margaret Thatcher, U.S. President George H.W. Bush and Canada’s Brian Mulroney agreed that action was needed. In my home province of B.C., a right-leaning government, the B.C. Liberal Party, introduced a carbon tax in 2008.

Now, as the evidence compels us to increasingly urgent action — the latest IPCC report says we have about 12 years to get emissions under control or face catastrophe — politicians from parties that once cared about the future are lining up to downplay or deny human-caused climate disruption and are hindering plans to address it.

There’s little evidence that governments are treating the climate emergency as seriously as is warranted, preferring to focus on short-term economic gains and election cycles instead.

Here in Canada, politicians claim to take climate change seriously but reject plans to mitigate it without offering better alternatives. Some provincial and federal leaders are governing or building campaigns around rejection of carbon pricing, a proven tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It’s interesting, because carbon pricing is a market-based strategy, whereas the kind of government regulation that would be required in its absence is something conservative thinkers usually reject. MORE

Federal Government Moves Forward to Fight Climate Change with Carbon Price Standards


The Federal Government took a big step forward in its fight against climate change today [Dec 20] by releasing new standards for the big emitters of greenhouse gases as part of its carbon pricing plan. It released the draft Output Based Pricing System (OBPS) regulations for the jurisdictions where the federal carbon pricing system will apply.

“By putting a price on greenhouse gases from the big emitters, the Federal Government is using the marketplace to transform our economy away from the fossil fuels that are causing climate change,” stated CAPE President and Yellowknife Emergency Physician, Dr. Courtney Howard.

“According to authorities such as the prestigious medical journal, the Lancet Countdown, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the World Health Organization (WHO), say that carbon pricing is a key policy tool needed to fight climate change. Many economists and the Business Council of Canada also emphasize this point.” MORE

Coal power in Canada must disappear by the end of 2029, new regulations say

The death knell for coal−fired electricity in Canada is set to ring in just over 12 years.

Ottawa put the final regulations in effect this week with such strict pollution standards for coal−power plants that only one plant in Canada can possibly meet them. MORE