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 suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that was found floating over sensitive military sites in the western United States had been tracked by Canada's government since last weekend as it passed through Canadian airspace, sources tell CTV News.
The oldest preserved vertebrate brain has been found in a 319-million-year-old fossilized fish skull that was removed from an English coal mine over a century ago.
It took 40 years, but former NHL player and coach Ted Nolan is now one of eight Indigenous ex-NHL-ers being honoured hockey trading cards as a part of Upper Deck's First Peoples Rookie Card series.
A B.C. man who was mistaken for the target in a police takedown and shot by an officer in 2013 has had his lawsuit alleging negligence dismissed.
Three bodies found in a vacant Detroit-area apartment building have been identified as those of three aspiring rappers who went missing nearly two weeks ago, police said Friday.
For much of disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh's double murder trial, witnesses have talked about a generous and loving man -- but prosecutors want jurors to know that same man stole over US$4 million from his housekeeper's relatives after she died at work, and killed his wife and son to cover up his crimes.
A senior aide to Japan's prime minister is being dismissed after making discriminatory remarks about LGBTQ2S+ people.
A jury on Friday decided Elon Musk didn't deceive investors with his 2018 tweets about electric automaker Tesla.
A new research from a citizen science program suggests that stars are disappearing before our eyes at an 'astonishing rate.'
Alberta's high court is being asked to overturn a review board decision relating to the stabbing deaths of five young people at a Calgary house party on the grounds the former provincial justice minister interfered.
Police are investigating a series of tire slashing incidents in northeast Calgary.
Thousands of Alberta lawyers are expected to take part in an online debate Monday morning over the issue of mandatory Indigenous history training.
BHP is moving forward with its plans to build the world's largest potash mine.
After months of driving around the city with an advertisement for a kidney donor on her bright red car, Debbie Onishenko will soon be able to rip off the decals as her search has ended.
The community of Dundurn is rallying behind a firefighter who lost her home in a fire.
Saskatchewan is reacting to the removal of controversial amendment G4 to Bill C-21 by the federal Liberals, which banned certain semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.
Residents in Regina's North Central community are voicing safety concerns after a water main break resulted in icy sidewalk and road conditions.
A local non-profit is hoping a new office space can help reconnect Indigenous youth to their culture.
Temperatures are plummeting across the Maritimes as a blast of Arctic air moves into the region.
A seafood processing plant in Portage, N.B., has been completely destroyed following a major fire Friday afternoon.
Atlantic Lottery says it has been contacted by a player who believes they have the winning ticket to this week's $31 million Lotto Max Draw.
Speed cameras clocked a car driving 70 km/h over the limit. Here's how the owner fought the ticket and won
After being charged with speeding by a city-operated photo radar device, a Toronto family was able to successfully fight the charge in court largely due to one small detail.
The death of a longtime CBC journalist who was shoved to the ground in Toronto has now been classified as a homicide and police have issued an arrest warrant for a suspect in the case.
Police are investigating a stabbing in downtown Toronto Friday night.
The ongoing cold snap has Quebecers cranking up the heat in their homes, which Hydro-Quebe says has caused a record peak in electricity demand. In a Tweet Friday, the hydroelectricity supplier said that around 5:30 p.m., demand across the province reached 42,700 megawatts.
A reclusive billionaire who headed a Montreal tech company is stepping down one day after Radio-Canada/CBC published a report that alleged he paid teenage girls for sex for more than a decade.
The Montreal fire department is advising people to avoid Sherbrooke Street East at Carignan Avenue in the Longue Pointe neighbourhood as a five-alarm fire is burning.
NEW THIS MORNING
NEW THIS MORNING | This was Ottawa's busiest photo radar camera in 2022
The 17 automated speed enforcement cameras set up in school zones across the city of Ottawa issued a total of 127,939 speeding tickets in 2022.
NEW THIS MORNING
NEW THIS MORNING | Winterlude's outdoor activities resume today after an extremely cold start to the festival
Canadian Heritage says Winterlude's outdoor activities will resume in Ottawa and Gatineau on Saturday, one day after the extreme cold weather cancelled all outdoor events.
A federal government department has fired 49 employees who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit while they were employed.
Police say they’ve arrested three people and one person was taken to hospital following an armed robbery at Conestoga Mall on Thursday.
Ontario Provincial Police are once again reminding drivers to clear the snow and ice off of their vehicles before they head out onto the road.
Waterloo regional police issued a robbery warning Thursday evening after they said two convenience stores and a restaurant in Kitchener were robbed within a 30 minute span.
Canada's newest millionaire, an 18-year-old university freshman from northern Ontario, has achieved a lot of firsts with a recent lottery win. Here is her story.
Ontario Provincial Police have closed a portion of Highway 400 north of Toronto following multiple collisions due to whiteout conditions.
An investigation that lasted almost two years has resulted in moose hunting violation convictions for six people and a lodge in Red Lake in northwestern Ontario.
Winnipeg police released a new image of a 31-year-old woman who has been missing since early last year on Friday in the hope it may generate new information on her whereabouts.
A fire destroyed a popular paint and hobby shop in Winkler Thursday afternoon with black smoke prompting Winkler police to close off a stretch of Highway 32 for more than an hour.
Manitoba has expanded the types of identification acceptable for use to purchase liquor, cannabis and lottery tickets in the province.
The mayors of Port Coquitlam and Port Moody want Nav Canada — the organization that creates flight paths for airports across the country — to pause its plans for a new YVR arrivals route that will direct many large airplanes over their communities.
'Just absolute scum of the earth': Family upset after senior with dementia defrauded by someone posing as care worker
Seventy-nine-year-old William Herbert thought the woman coming to see him was a nurse who needed to do bloodwork. But instead of helping him, it’s alleged she stole from him.
Homicide investigators are looking into whether a vehicle fire in Surrey on Thursday morning is connected to the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy in Burnaby hours later.
An emergency room doctor on Vancouver Island is calling on the leadership of the health authority to resign, saying harassment by Island Health officials is prompting doctors to abandon the region amid a critical shortage of health-care workers.
A local state of emergency that was issued in Campbell River, B.C., following a landslide in mid-January has been lifted, the city announced Friday.
A man accused of fatally stabbing another man outside a busy mall in Nanaimo, B.C., has been charged with second-degree murder, according to the Nanaimo RCMP.