Speech From the Throne

Return of the Alberta Legislature

Alberta’s Legislature returned, kicking off a new session with a Speech from the Throne (click here to read the full 2023 speech). The opening speech focused on three particular areas: provincial rights, growth pressures, and affordability.
The Throne Speech marks the first return of the Legislature since Premier Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party won the 2023 provincial election last May. The new Legislature is scheduled to sit until December 7, with one break week November 13-16.

Throne Speech highlights

Alberta’s Speech from the Throne began with a focus on provincial rights, reasserting constitutional jurisdiction over natural resource development. The Government of Alberta will “introduce several motions” under the Sovereignty within a United Canada Act “if the federal government continues down its current path.”  The government reasserted its position that “every Albertan must have access to affordable and reliable electricity no matter the weather or time of day.” Several mentions in the Throne Speech noted a commitment to a carbon-neutral electrical grid by 2050, not the current federal Liberal government’s 2035 goal.

A recurring area of focus was provincial growth and the expectation of the provincial population surpassing five million in the coming two years and approaching 10 million by 2050 according to projections. The government committed to “learn from both the successes and mistakes of past governments in dealing with these challenges.” Among other commitments to support growth was investment in expanded transportation, including more commuter rail, as well as the “inevitable” high-speed rail between Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton.

Much of the speech focused on commitments to affordability measures. Following up on a 2023 UCP election platform commitment, the Throne Speech noted that the Government will introduce Bill 1, the Taxpayer Protection Amendment Act, which will mandate that no new taxes or increases in personal or business taxes can happen without approval by Albertans in a provincial referendum.

Another campaign promise that made its way to the Legislature in the Throne Speech was the commitment to lower the tax burden for Albertans by creating a new 8% tax bracket on income under $60,000, saving Alberta taxpayers up to $750 each year. The Government of Alberta will also extend the fuel tax pause until the end of 2023.

Other affordability measures highlighted were the government’s work to support an additional 12,000 low-income households through rent assistance, support housing investments to build 25,000 new units by 2031, and work with municipalities.

While not getting into specifics, the government committed at action to come on electricity prices and insurance. The Throne Speech noted on health care that there will be more to say in the coming weeks, repeating plans to decentralize decision-making and move additional health resources and professionals to the front lines of the health care system.

In many ways, the Throne Speech continued the key themes and areas of focus that formed the 2023 UCP election platform.

What to expect over the coming months

The following legislation is expected soon:

  • Bill 1 – the Taxpayer Protection Amendment Act
  • Bill 2 – the Alberta Pension Protection Act
  • Bill 3 – the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Amendment Act
  • Bill 4 – the Tax Statutes Amendment Act
  • Bill 5 – Public Sector Employer Amendment Act

The Legislature that returned on Monday is in several respects different than the before the last election. The new cabinet will be on display in Question Period and in legislative display. The NDP opposition is also considerably larger, adding fifteen seats in the last election while still failing to form government.
While mentioned in the Throne Speech, one area that will no doubt be a key area of focus in the coming months is health reform. Speaking to municipal officials at last month’s Alberta Municipalities convention this past September, Premier Smith noted that Health Minister Adriana LaGrange will be moving forward with the first steps towards Alberta Health Services (AHS) reforms this fall.
While not mentioned in the Throne Speech, Alberta’s consideration of its own provincial pension will likely continue to be an area of focus.  Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner wrote to federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland last week, extending an invitation to federal, provincial, and territorial finance ministers to hold a meeting in Calgary to discuss a “good-faith, rigorous analysis of the CPP Act withdrawal formula.” Minister Horner also suggested the ministers discuss equalization reform, concerns with the federal Fiscal Stabilization formula, and concerns over the federal government’s consumer carbon tax. The letter was prompted by a letter from Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy to Minister Freeland earlier in the week raising concerns about Alberta’s proposed pension plan.
The Government of Alberta in September released an independent report on the potential creation of an Alberta Pension Plan (APP) ahead of provincewide engagement. Among the findings in the report are that Alberta should be entitled to a $334-billion asset transfer from the Canada Pension Plan in 2027 and savings of up to $1,425 per year for workers. You can read the full LifeWorks report commissioned by the provincial government at this link here. The Government of Alberta has also launched a first campaign site on the issue at albertapensionplan.ca. A panel led by former Provincial Treasurer Jim Dinning will hold public engagements with a report due by May 2024, ahead of a possible referendum in 2025.
To learn more about how the coming year may impact your organization, please reach out to one of our advisors: https://wellingtonadvocacy.com/who-we-are/


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