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
The Department of National Defence says Canada is working with the United States to protect sensitive information from foreign intelligence threats after a high-altitude surveillance balloon was detected.
Magic mushroom dispensaries are popping up in cities across Canada, with customers ranging from those looking for treatment for depression or PTSD to people wanting to 'micro-dose' a small amount of psilocybin, the hallucinogenic compound in magic mushrooms. But while the situation is in some ways reminiscent of when cannabis retailers set up shop before marijuana was legalized in 2018, Health Canada says there are no plans to legalize or decriminalize psilocybin products.
Hundreds of customers who scan QR codes for restaurant menus across Canada are being surprised by secret menus instead, revealing the hidden costs behind the food they eat.
With the anniversary of Ukraine's invasion by Russia around the corner, CTV News sat down with a Russian warfare expert to discuss how he sees the conflict playing out and what happens next.
According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, as of Thursday morning there were extreme cold or winter storm warnings active from coast to coast, with the harshest extreme cold warnings stretching from northern Alberta all the way to Nova Scotia.
A paramedic signing off for duty for the last time got choked up and teary-eyed during his final radio call to colleagues.
Quebec is changing its vaccine strategy: public health officials are now recommending booster shots only for vulnerable people who have never had COVID-19.
Would you pay $300 a year for quick access to a nurse? Dealing with demand, Ontario doctors get creative
Paid subscriptions to on-demand care are among the many strategies primary health-care providers in Ontario are adopting in order to meet increased demand for access to doctors in the past year, while also managing staffing shortages.
After years of decline, demand for Calgary's downtown commercial real estate is showing signs of returning to life.
Artur Pawlowski is charged with breaching a release order and mischief for inciting people at the border crossing, where truckers gathered to block a highway.
Curling Canada says it is opening up its pregnancy exemption eligibility to all teams competing at next year's Canadian women's and men's championships, with the announcement coming a day after the organization came under fire for limiting the exemption to just the top five teams in the rankings.
Aaron Benneweis, 46, has been charged by Saskatoon Police with sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a minor while in a position of trust or authority.
Brian Hodgkinson always knew there was benzene in natural gas — after all, he spent 40 years working with it for SaskPower, then SaskEnergy.
A report written and reviewed by Saskatoon Water is calling on the city to create a warning system, in particular for drivers, when roadways become “dangerously flooded” due to heavy rain.
The final details are being chiselled into place at the REAL District in preparation for the second annual Frost Festival taking place Feb. 3 to 12.
The Farmer and Rancher Mental Health (FARMh) Initiative has launched a mental wellness network along with a virtual toolbox full of mental health resources for the agriculture community.
On the day that Shubenacadie Sam predicted six more weeks of winter, there are extreme cold warnings cautioning that the coldest air of the season is about to arrive in the Maritimes.
Police in Sackville, N.B., are investigating after seven children ingested cannabis edibles at a middle school on Wednesday.
An extreme cold warning has been issued across the region, with some saying the arctic air could break record-low temperatures in the Maritimes.
'We win or it’s free' paralegal bribed court clerk in traffic ticket fixing scheme: testimony alleges
A paralegal firm whose tagline is “we win or it’s free” bribed a Toronto traffic court clerk to change legal records to make it look like they had won, said the clerk in the first time he has testified publicly about the case.
Toronto and most of Ontario are in for a frigid bout of winter weather, according to Environment Canada.
A group of Ontario Greens have put together a counteroffer for Liberals trying to poach their leader.
After an extremely mild month of January, the province is bracing for a blast of arctic air that will move in tonight and last until Saturday. Environment and Climate Change Canada has issued extreme cold warnings that covers most of the province with wind chills expected to be between -38 and -42 across the South and -50 across Northern Quebec.
A beloved man who was a fixture on the streets of Montreal's Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighbourhood died last year from a combination of street drugs in his system, including fentanyl, a coroner has ruled.
Medicago's parent company has announced that the Quebec City-based biopharmaceutical company, which developed a vaccine against COVID-19, will cease operations.
EXTREME COLD WARNING
EXTREME COLD WARNING | Temperatures to drop to -30 C the next two nights in Ottawa
Environment Canada has issued an extreme cold warning with Ottawa expected to see its coldest temperatures in years.
Two parents are facing charges of criminal negligence causing bodily harm after a toddler suffered an opioid overdose at a home in Kingston, Ont. last week.
As March Break approaches, travel agents are experiencing a surge in bookings, with many families choosing to travel to Disney World in Florida despite the rising cost.
Police say they’ve arrested multiple people and one person was taken to hospital following reports of an armed robbery at Conestoga Mall on Thursday.
'Time to move on': Reaction as Udo Haan found not criminally responsible for wife’s death, house explosion
A Kitchener man, who was charged with killing his wife and then blowing up their home in 2018, has been found not criminally responsible.
A blast of cold Arctic air is expected to reach southern Ontario Thursday night paired with possible heavy blowing snow, according to Environment Canada.
An argument between two young children playing outside together escalated to violence when a parent got involved, a North Bay mom says.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. is holding a big reveal Friday morning: the winner of a $48 million Lotto 6/49 Gold Ball draw.
The past few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster for 16-year-old Ra'Jah Mohamed, a student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School.
New documents show what led to a couple handing out cannabis-infused gummies to children in Winnipeg - and what happened in the hours directly after.
Ducks Unlimited Canada is celebrating World Wetlands Day by highlighting a success story in Niverville, Man.
A mobile home owner could potentially be out thousands of dollars after learning her home might not be insurable.
CTV News has learned that four of five RCMP officers facing charges in the death of an Indigenous man during an arrest in Prince George are still on active duty.
A man who was gunned down outside of his business in South Vancouver never got the chance to meet his daughter, a court heard as his killer was sentenced.
A nationwide billboard campaign that appears to promote grunge-chic clothing for street youth is causing confusion and igniting debate.
A teenager from Nanaimo is being hailed as a hero by his family after a suspect wielding a knife entered their business and the boy scared them off using a baseball bat.
Hazmat teams were called to the BC Cancer Agency building in Victoria on Thursday due to reports of a "noxious odour" in the building.
A furry mascot endemic only to Vancouver Island is predicting six more weeks of winter on Groundhog Day.