The Alberta Throne Speech: Fighting the “Forces of Destruction”
In today’s Throne Speech Alberta Premier Danielle Smith came out swinging against the federal government, indicating that there will be several measures enabled by the Sovereignty Act to prevent “forces”, aka the Federal Government, from “unconstitutionally inflicting destructive policies” on the people of Alberta. The speech indicated that Albertans will not allow themselves to be forced into altering their economy or their way of life in order to meet federal emissions targets in a timeframe that is unrealistic, according to the Smith government. Measures taken will include:
- Fighting against a production cap that would prevent Alberta from developing their natural resources;
- Ensuring access to affordable and reliable electricity for Albertans, and;
- Allowing Alberta to meaningfully contribute to global emissions reductions by exporting more LNG.
As with any good Throne Speech, it was a high-level document more focused on the “what” than on the “how,” and on the future than on the now. Referring to Alberta as a land of promise, and a shining city on a hill, the speech highlighted the tremendous growth the province is currently experiencing, indicating Alberta is growing faster now than any other time prior, with expectations that the provincial population will top five million within the next 24 months. More alarming for a federal government with little support from Albertans, the province is suggesting that by 2050 Alberta will be the second largest province in the country with a population approaching ten million.
The speech keyed on the following themes:
The Throne Speech insisted that Alberta will forge their own path to prosperity, while ensuring affordable housing and electricity, and low taxes, promising a reduced tax rate that would apply to income below $60,000, creating savings of around $750 annually for Albertans. The commitment to low taxes was reinforced by the immediate introduction of Bill 1, the Alberta Taxpayer Protection Amendment Act that would require the government to seek the opinion of Albertans before bringing in new or increased taxes.
The speech outlined plans to use rent supplements and partnerships to help 12,000 low-income households with rent assistance and grow housing inventory to 25,000 new homes by 2031.
Electricity costs will be lowered by investing in carbon capture technologies, and the use of nuclear, geothermal, and other reliable sources of base load to power the grid, while incenting consumers to install solar panels for their homes.
The insurance industry will see new reforms aimed at limiting increases to premiums or drivers with safe driving records when the freeze on insurance premiums ends.
Reminiscent of the 2023 budget, initiatives to improve public safety in the province’s big cities include plans to attack drug use, tent cities, and recidivism. The speech highlighted the government’s commitments to fund the hiring of hundreds of new police officers, reform the justice system, and take all actions that are possible at the provincial level to arrest and jail criminals. Addiction and untreated mental health issues will be dealt with through a compassionate intervention program for those without capacity, including establishing eleven recovery communities and add to more than 10,000 new addiction treatment spaces across the province.
Healthcare and Education
Commensurate with the province’s growth, additional capacity and reforms to healthcare were promised, for example through decentralized decision making. Similarly for education, the province will work to expand spaces and grow both capacity and choice in education through support for public, independent, charter, and home schooling. Additionally, there will be a focus on attracting trades people, healthcare providers, and other skilled trades.
The province plans to incentivize diversification while growing their oil and gas industry from their current spot as the fourth largest producer in the world. This will be accomplished through a cross-ministry working group to review and reform the regulation of natural resources. Economic diversification will focus on agri-processing as well as hydrogen, rare earth, tech, forestry, tourism, and culture.
Economic reconciliation will be achieved by expanding the capacity of the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation by increasing its ability to lend through a massive further injection of funds.
Finally, the need to invest in infrastructure was mentioned in the Throne Speech, including passenger rail between Calgary and Banff, and between Calgary and Edmonton, at some point in the future. This would be done within the bounds of the fiscal framework which prevents deficit spending, and while investing a portion of future surpluses into the Heritage Trust fund.
Much of the speech was reminiscent of the Smith government’s 2023 budget, with few surprises. Notably, however, the UCP’s AGM will happen later this week in Calgary, with attendance pegged at over 3,300 party faithful. While Smith has been lauded for her robust performance through the summer BBQ season, the AGM will not be without controversy. Among the resolutions is a motion for Alberta to follow the lead of New Brunswick and Saskatchewan in requiring schools to seek permission from parents when a child changes their pronoun at school. The Government is not bound to implement motions that pass at the AGM; however, Smith and her team will certainly be listening to the debate on the floor.