Smith announces affordability measures including cheques, tax holiday, utility rebates
Alberta's premier is dipping into the province's surplus to help people struggling with the rising cost of living with rebates, tax breaks and cheques bound for families, seniors and people with disabilities.
Danielle Smith made the announcement Tuesday in a nine-minute, pre-recorded address broadcast on 6 p.m. newscasts.
She did not take questions from journalists and did not say how much the new initiatives will cost the provincial treasury.
Her office later revealed that the cost of the aid package is $2.4 billion. Alberta was on track for a $13-billion surplus, thanks in large part to high oil and gas revenues.
Smith began her remarks by blaming the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for rising inflation.
"The severity of this crisis has been primarily caused by years of record spending and debt by the federal government in Ottawa, combined with the continual string of anti-energy policies that are driving up the price of fuel, electricity, heating, food and everything else we need to live and raise our families," Smith said.
"As a province, we can't solve this inflation crisis on our own. But due to our strong fiscal position and balanced budget, we can offer substantial relief so Albertans and their families are better able to manage through this storm."
Smith then outlined nine initiatives, some of which were previously announced. She called them "first steps" to providing inflation relief.
Inflation Relief Act:
- $600 over six months to parents for each child under 18 as well as for every senior (household incomes under $180,000)
- $600 over six months to AISH, Income Support and PDD recipients
- Suspension of entire provincial fuel tax for at least six months
- Index all provincial tax brackets retroactive to 2022
- Index AISH, PDD, Seniors Benefit, Alberta Child and Family Benefit and Income Support program beginning in January
- Provide $200 per home in rebates on consumer electricity bill (January-April)
- Limit spikes in winter electricity rates
- Continue natural gas rebate program
- Invest in food banks and low-income transit passes
'BETTER HEALTH CARE FOR ALBERTANS'
Smith also took a few minutes to speak about ongoing work aimed at improving Alberta's health-care system.
Last week she replaced Dr. Deena Hinshaw as chief medical officer of health and fired 11 board members of Alberta Health Services.
Dr. Mark Joffe will take over from Hinshaw on an interim basis and Dr. John Cowell will serve as administrator of the system.
- Alberta's Dr. Hinshaw to be replaced by interim chief medical officer of health
- Alberta announces health-care reform: AHS board fired, administrator appointed
- AHS board dismantling just a 'new round of chaos,' no real solutions: NDP
In her address, Smith promised more health-care staff in emergency rooms, more convenient prescription filling and expanded options for "alternate care" not in hospitals.
She also wants to see fewer ambulances waiting to transfer patients into facilities and is pledging to complete more surgeries and reduce wait times for them by using "specialized surgical centres" and "underutilized" rural hospitals and operating rooms.
Health-care action plan:
- Decrease emergency wait room times
- Improve ambulance response times
- Reduce wait times for surgeries
"This will take time and patience, of course, but I am confident it will result in better health care for Albertans when and where you need it most," Smith said.
On Friday, one of the board members that Smith fired released a scathing open letter accusing her of abusive and divisive attacks blended with “warped” anti-science beliefs.
“(Albertans) are entitled to governance that is principle-based, respects decency and inspires confidence in its citizens,” Tony Dagnone wrote.
“The current premier defies all those aspirations as she spews wacko accusations at Alberta Health Services and its valued workforce.”
'BLACK HOLE OF BUREAUCRACY AND VOTE-BUYING'
Smith also provided a brief update on her proposed sovereignty act, which she referred to Tuesday as the "Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act."
The controversial bill she promised while running for United Conservative Party leader was called "dangerous and damaging" on Friday by Chiefs from Treaty 6, 7 and 8 who vowed to fight the act.
Several UCP MLAs also spoke out against the act during the leadership race and former leader Jason Kenney called it "cockamamie" and "the Alberta suicide act" during his final days in office.
- Danielle Smith faces renewed attacks in final Alberta UCP leadership debate
- Kenney attacks 'cockamamie' sovereignty act, defends Alberta Lt.-Gov. comments
But Smith is standing by the idea, saying it will make the country "more unified than ever."
"Canada is our home, and Canadians are family. However the federal government's treatment of provinces, especially Alberta is unacceptable," the premier said in her address.
"The government in Ottawa is intentionally and systematically attempting to control and regulate all aspects of our province's economy, resources and social programs. Through equalization and transfers they funnel billions of your tax dollars away from you and into a black hole of bureaucracy and vote-buying arrangements in other parts of the country."
Smith also addressed recent criticism she's faced.
- Smith fails to back up Indigenous heritage claims after report finds no proof
- Premier under fire for health savings account comments, calls it 'spin'
Last week, a room of First Nations people erupted in laughter when a panel of Chiefs was asked by CTV News Edmonton about her claiming to have Indigenous ancestry.
And on Monday, Smith was blasted by the NDP for a 2021 video where she suggested Albertans pay out of pocket to see a doctor.
"I know that I'm far from perfect and I make mistakes…I'm not a talk show host anymore or a media commentator any longer," the premier said without specifically naming what errors or comments she was talking about.
"When I'm wrong or make a mistake I will look to follow the example of our dear departed friend, Premier Ralph Klein. Admit to it, learn from it and get back to work. Because that is the Alberta way."
'WE’RE NOT BUYING IT': NDP
Smith's words Tuesday amount to nothing more than false promises and reversing of "bad" UCP decisions, NDP Leader Rachel Notely said shortly after the announcement.
"Decisions that have cost Albertans well over two billion dollars to date. We’re not buying it. And neither should you," Notley said in her own address that was delivered live from Calgary.
"Many people won’t remember but six months prior to the last election, the UCP voted to increase benefits for vulnerable Albertans only to then break that promise within weeks of taking office."
Notley argues that Smith's 2021 health care comments are proof she believes that Albertans should pay "out of pocket" for family doctor visits and called that "un-Canadian."
"I commit to you that an Alberta NDP government will end the chaos. We will rebuild public healthcare and make sure you can always see a nurse, a doctor or paramedic when you need to in your community," she stated.
The NDP pledged to reverse cuts to programs like AISH, the Seniors Benefit, Child and Family Benefit and Income Support. Notley also promised to help Albertans lower the cost of gas, food and tuition.
Political scientist Lisa Young from the University of Calgary said Smith's plan had something for every Albertan.
"The retroactive de-indexing of income tax rates will mean that everyone ends up a little bit better off, and there I think high-income earners will actually see the benefit," Young said.
"With the provincial gas tax being removed, certainly drivers will benefit. So it's both broad and targeted. It certainly is going to be a significant amount of money but it will let her say that she's taking action to help with the affordability crisis."
With the UCP trailing the NDP in some polls, Young said it's not surprising Smith is making this announcement ahead of a spring election.
With files from CTV News Calgary's Michael Franklin and The Canadian Press
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
In an unusual move, the Russian Defence Ministry broadcast that one of its newest warships, the Admiral Gorshkov, had tested the strike capabilities of a hypersonic Zircon missile in a virtual drill.
The federal Liberal government is joining the Opposition Conservatives in no longer allowing its members of Parliament to expense taxpayers for home internet services.
In an exclusive interview with CTV’s Power Play, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is praising the moves from Western countries to send tanks to Ukraine.
On Feb. 27, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country needed fighters, and foreigners were welcome to join the front line in the defence against Russian aggression. Some Canadians were among the first to answer the call.
Canada is sending four combat-ready battle tanks to Ukraine and will be deploying 'a number' of Canadian Armed Forces members to train Ukrainian soldiers on how to operate them.
For some people, relaxation looks like settling down with a nice glass of wine and the most graphic, disturbing tale of murder imaginable.
One of the planet’s most unique wildcats has been detected for the first time on the tallest mountain on Earth — Mount Everest.
Retailers and tech companies use many tools to mine consumers for data they can share with third parties, but there are steps consumers can take to protect and safeguard their personal information.
Following the deaths of more than 300 children from contaminated cough syrups in several countries, Health Canada says it's been more than a decade since similar cases were identified here.
Calgary police have arrested one suspect and are still looking for another in connection to a December incident in a southwest parking lot that left the victim severely injured.
A tip from a concerned citizen led to a firearms and weapons bust by Mounties at a home in Golden, B.C.
Rookie goaltender Jaxson Stauber made it two wins in as many career starts by making 34 stops on Thursday to help the Chicago Blackhawks to a 5-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.
A Saskatchewan mother says her 13-year-old daughter is being shamed for her past mental health challenges.
More than 70 cats found by the Saskatoon Fire Department from a single apartment will have to be put down, Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan (APSS) says.
Christina Martens-Funk has used a wheelchair for nearly 30 years, where getting around Saskatoon streets can be a chore no matter the time of year.
Regina’s new emergency shelter is set to open its doors. The facility is located in the former YMCA building downtown. Already, the 40 beds are fully booked with a waiting list.
Rising rent costs and limited options are making it challenging for Regina renters to find the right place to settle into.
A Regina police officer said he caught 11 drivers on mobile devices in three shifts.
A soggy winter storm made its way to the Maritimes Thursday morning, with Environment Canada issuing a combination of rain, snow and wind warnings for the region.
A new report shows the rental market in Nova Scotia has been hit hard with increased demand and short supply.
A jury has delivered a guilty verdict in the 2020 murder of a Yarmouth, N.S., area man.
Exclusive club in Toronto fined $35K for telling man with autism he required supervision at all times
The family of a prominent Toronto artist with autism is speaking out after one of the city’s oldest private clubs demanded he be supervised at all times while using the facilities – a decision that prompted the artist to file a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
The Toronto police will be rolling out an increased presence across the TTC following a rash of violent, and sometimes random, incidents on the city’s transit system.
New video has emerged showing the moments before a Toronto man attacked his boss using two samurai swords at a North York bakery – an incident the man has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for.
A 28-year-old son has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of his mother Wednesday morning in Montreal's Centre-Sud neighbourhood.
In 2021, 22-year-old Taylor Halperin moved BEEhind The Lens Photography into a new home: a studio on St-Charles Boulevard in Pierrefonds-Roxboro. Early Wednesday morning, her studio and several businesses next door caught fire.
Housing in Quebec is becoming increasingly expensive and increasingly difficult to find. Data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMGC) shows the housing crisis is worsening, both in terms of rental costs and availability. Although landlord and tenant groups interpret the federal agency's data differently, both agree: it's no longer possible to ignore the situation or rely on the market to correct it.
Ottawa police and Bylaw Services are telling residents and visitors they will be taking a zero-tolerance approach to parking, noise and fireworks violations downtown this weekend, on the one-year anniversary of the 'Freedom Convoy' demonstration.
Police in Renfrew County have arrested an 18-year-old suspect after a homicide Wednesday night.
A year after the 'Freedom Convoy' protest shut down Wellington Street, a city of Ottawa committee has voted to reopen it to cars.
Two people are facing charges after a police officer was allegedly assaulted in Stratford.
An Ancaster mom is mourning the death of her 19-year-old son who died in a Brant County crash on Jan. 21.
Remediation work on the Region of Waterloo’s nuclear bunker is now complete, but what’s next for the Cold War-era building is yet to be decided.
A 36-year-old Sault Ste. Marie woman was killed after being hit by a vehicle on Highway 17 east of Bruce Mines last week, police say.
The body of a 29-year-old Sudbury nurse was recovered Wednesday night from a lake near Parry Sound after her snowmobile went through the ice, police say.
Anyone who received a single-use needle from Réseau ACCESS Network in Sudbury in the last several months is at risk of serious infection, the group announced Thursday.
The Manitoba government is issuing a second round of cheques to help people deal with inflation in a move that critics say has more to do with boosting the governing Progressive Conservatives' chances in the next election.
A small dog - likely a Pekingese cross - is on the mend at a Winnipeg animal hospital after being attacked in northern Manitoba two weeks ago, thanks in part to a new light treatment.
Some rural Manitoba school divisions are advertising substitute teaching positions where a teaching degree or certificate is not required in an attempt to address a shortfall.
A coroner's inquest into Nicole Chan's death heard testimony Thursday about the Vancouver police officer's visit to the hospital just hours before she took her own life in 2019.
'She was a nightmare': Parent, former staff member speak out on ex-principal accused of stealing $170K from East Van school
More people are coming forward after the Vancouver School Board filed a lawsuit against former principal Tricia Low, also known as Tricia Rooney.
Fourteen months after Dave Martens' chicken barns on Abbotsford's Sumas Prairie were flooded, the repairs are almost complete and he finally has birds again. Now, he's trying to keep it that way.
A Saanich, B.C., massage therapist has been banned from practising for 25 years after he secretly recorded video of female patients undressing before their appointments.
A Vancouver Island sawmill where work has been curtailed since last October will not be reopening in its current configuration, its owner announced Thursday.
The University of Victoria plans to build a mixed-use housing and commercial development on the site of its aging Ian Stewart Complex.