CSG Weekly Review – November 30, 2017

Posted by | January 16, 2018 | News

Session Schedule & Activities

  • Fall legislative session is scheduled to run until Thursday, December 7, 2017
  • Calgary-Lougheed by-election will be held on Thursday, December 14, 2017.

Government News and Announcements

Government Releases Second Quarter Fiscal Update
On Tuesday Hon. Joe Ceci, President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Finance released the second quarter fiscal update and the report painted an increasingly positive picture for Alberta’s economy and according to Ceci the recession is coming to an end. Ceci highlighted several positives signs including:

  • The economy is projected to grow 4% in 2017, which is 2.6% higher than projected in last year’s budget;
  • Alberta’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to be back to 2014 levels by 2019;
  • More than 70,000 full time jobs have been created since mid-2016. Despite unemployment rates still at 7.8% the government anticipates overall employment growth of 1% this year.

Signs of recovery can also be seen in the oil and gas industry despite oil prices remaining low. Non-renewable resource revenue is $96 million higher than projected and investment has grown by 40 percent. Additionally, the sale of crown drilling rights has increased significantly, which is often viewed as a precursor to future exploration

Despite these positive signs the credit rating agency DBRS has downgraded the longterm debt rating of the province to AA from AA high due to large operating deficits and rapid debt accumulation.

Government Introduces Bill Proposing Major Changes to WCB and OHS
On Monday, the government introduced Bill 30, An Act to Project the Health and Well Being of Working Albertans, with proposed changes to both the Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Through the changes in the bill the government is aiming “modernize Alberta’s health and safety systems”. Changes introduced in Bill 30 include:

  • Giving Alberta workers the right to refuse unsafe work without facing loss of pay or termination;
  • The establishment of an independent Fair Practices Office to held Albertan’s navigate the Workers Compensation Board (WCB);
  • An end to the $98,700 cap on insurable earnings for worker’s compensation benefits. This also means people who earn more than that amount would receive benefits based on their current income;
  • Provisions to ensure workers will still get paid even if a stop work order is imposed on their worksite to encourage more people to report unsafe conditions;
  • Spouses of workers killed on the job would be treated equally and all would receive benefits for five years. Spouses with children would receive benefits until the youngest child is 18, or 25, if that child is in college or university.

The OHS act hasn’t been amended since its creation in 1976, while the WCB has not seen a review in 15 years. Changes to the OHS Act would take effect on June 1, 2018 while changes to the WCB would take effect on January 1, 2018. The changes will cost an additional $94 million per year. For more on the bill please click here.

Consumer Protection Bill Introduced
Hon. Stephanie McLean, Minister of Service Alberta introduced Bill 31, A Better Deal for Consumers and Businesses this week. The bill includes measures to strengthen consumer protections, tighten rules for high-cost credit lenders, require mechanics to provide written estimates, banning bots from online ticket sales and get approval to make repairs and create a Consumer Bill of Rights.

Also of note, the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC) will become a public agency. AMVIC was an independent not-for-profit delegated authority that was accountable to government through an agreement with the Minster of Service Alberta. Making AMVIC a public agency will not raise costs for taxpayers as it is funded through industry fees and levies.

Minister McLean said the changes introduced on the bill will boost consumer confidence and help create a more trusted marketplace.

Political News

Former Alberta Premier Advising Afghanistan on Energy
Former Alberta Premier Alison Redford is now serving as a policy advisor to Afghanistan’s Minister of Energy. Her position is a partnership between the World Bank and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum and her position will focus on helping the country develop its oil and gas industry and address corruption issues, with the priority is restoring the electricity grid. Redford will split her time between Calgary and Kabul. Redford is a lawyer by trade and had worked in Afghanistan earlier in her career during her time with the United Nations International Election Commission, and as an advisor to the Canadian government on the country.

Municipal News

City of Calgary Receives Low Grade on Fiscal Report Card
The C.D. Howe Institute released its annual edition of its Municipal Accountability Report Card which evaluates the countries 28 largest municipalities on their financial presentations earlier this week. The City of Calgary tied with the Durham region in Ontario for the least clear financial documents in the country, with a grade of D+. Of
note, Calgary had been an A- in 2016. The city’s 2017 budget documents contained significant changes from the year previous which made them less complete and contained less information, mix their presentation of gross versus net figures, do not provide updated historical results and nets non-property tax revenues against spending.

The report states the annual budgets in many major municipalities are a mess which make it difficult for citizens to hold the municipal governments to account. According to Nenshi the city’s comprehensive four-year budget documents planned for next year will raise the score as it has been in years passed. The City of Edmonton received a grade of B- which is an improvement on the C- they received in 2016.

Alberta Weekly Review 11-30-17 Weekly Review