Honourable members of the legislative assembly and my fellow Albertans, I open this third session of the thirtieth legislature as Her Majesty the Queen’s representative, doing so as we celebrate her Platinum Jubilee.
The Crown that I represent has always had a special relationship with the Indigenous Peoples of these lands. So as we gather here on traditional Treaty 6 territory, we renew that relationship, rededicating ourselves to the spirit of the treaties and to the essential work of reconciliation.
For 70 years, Queen Elizabeth II has lived a life of selfless service.
Shortly before her accession to the Throne, then Princess Elizabeth famously declared that “my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.”
Her Majesty has kept that commitment with dignity and grace, a stable symbol of enduring traditions and virtues in an ever-changing world.
When she spoke to this assembly during Alberta’s centennial in 2005, Her Majesty said: “When looking back on the story of Alberta, we see it extend well before 1905... Your First Nations Peoples inhabited the prairies over 10,000 years ago, living in harmony with nature—then, as they do now. By the 1800s, these first citizens, along with the Métis, were joined by explorers, homesteaders, and railway workers from all over the world.
“They had a dream to build homes in a land where freedom reigned. They created a spirit of belonging to a bountiful country under the principles of ‘peace, order, and good government’ and the unifying influence of the Crown. It is a fitting homage to these ancestors that your motto is Fortis et Liber...Strong and Free.”
As the Queen’s representative, I look forward to meeting Albertans in every corner of the province as we celebrate those values this Jubilee year.
The government will introduce the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Recognition Act as Bill 1, to create honours for Albertans who have done remarkable things caring for their communities. The honours include the presentation of 7,000 medals to recognize 70 years of service.
We have all witnessed many such acts of compassion and kindness through the great adversity of the past two years.
Much has been lost through the COVID era.
Our lives have been disrupted in ways large and small.
But the people of this province have risen to the challenge time and again, proving what it means to be Alberta strong.
As restrictions begin to ease here and around the world, and as the signs of economic renewal take hold, we can begin to sense the beginning of an Alberta spring.
Winston Churchill once said “Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in.”
These words are hard-wired into Alberta’s character.
Albertans deserve a province that’s just as resilient as they are.
And we now have reason to believe that we are on the verge of those better days that once felt so far off.
We begin this session with Alberta leading the country in economic growth.
For the first time in years, more Canadians are now moving to Alberta than leaving.
Our taxes are low, our economy is strong, and our quality of life is second-to-none.
This has led to major investments from some of the world’s largest companies that will create good jobs for Alberta families.
Our economy is diversifying, with record investment into technology companies, big film and television productions across the province, and record manufacturing sales.
The government will continue this positive momentum through Alberta’s Recovery Plan, designed to create jobs, diversify the economy, and provide opportunities for every Albertan.
Part of that plan will be a renewed effort to tell Alberta’s story to the world—highlighting the many reasons why there is simply no better place on Earth to pursue a dream, raise a family, and build a life.
This campaign will focus on attracting both job-creating investment and hard-working people from across Canada and around the world.
The important work of the new Environment, Social, and Governance Secretariat will be part of this effort, showcasing Alberta’s achievements in lowering emissions and improving our reputation as a world leader in responsible energy production.
The government will continue to support the Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero Alliance to achieve their goal of net-zero carbon emissions in the industry by 2050, while pressing the federal government to create strong fiscal incentives for investment in carbon capture utilization and storage technology.
Bills will be introduced to advance the vision of making Alberta one of the freest and fastest-moving economies in North America.
This will include a Red Tape Reduction Implementation Act to enhance our regulatory environment and advance the goal of reducing Alberta’s regulatory burden by one-third to attract more job-creating investment.
A bill will be tabled to promote innovation in the financial services sector by allowing companies to test new products and services.
As part of financial services modernization, legislation will make it easier to establish a re-insurer in Alberta, helping to reduce costs and spurring growth in our financial services sector.
To further diversify the economy, the government will create a Clean Hydrogen Centre of Excellence to help achieve Alberta’s vision of becoming a major global hub in this future multi-trillion dollar industry.
And it will begin the process of dissolving the Balancing Pool to reduce costs on our economy.
The government’s strategy to expand access to broadband internet will bring high-speed connectivity to rural, remote, and Indigenous communities, ensuring they can participate in the digital economy.
New legislation will solidify Alberta’s position as a modern electricity powerhouse and a magnet for investment in emerging technology like data storage and cryptocurrency, as well as in traditional sectors like forestry and petrochemicals.
The bill also clears the way for more self-generation of electricity, allowing major consumers to sell power to the grid, thus increasing supply and helping to lower prices for Albertans.
And to protect consumers from higher utility costs, the government will introduce a natural gas consumer protection program similar to rebate programs used in the past.
The budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 will be tabled later this week, reflecting a dramatic improvement in Alberta’s finances resulting from carefully reducing costs and from dynamic revenue growth across all sectors of the economy.
It will focus on building health care capacity, getting Albertans back to work with the skills needed to succeed in the economy of the future, expanding the province’s proven model of school choice, and making key investments to achieve a more diversified economy.
During the COVID-19 pandemic Alberta’s health care system has often been under great stress.
Our brilliant front-line health-care workers have gone above the call of duty over the past two years. We all owe them a debt of gratitude.
Despite having one of the best-funded health-care systems in the world, COVID has revealed shortcomings that we simply must address.
First and foremost, that means building greater capacity while getting more value for our immense health care spending.
To do so, the government will accelerate the Alberta Surgical Initiative, significantly increasing the number of surgeries performed in chartered surgical facilities in order to reduce wait times that have grown during COVID.
Major capital investments will expand and modernize hospital capacity, including completion of the Calgary Cancer Care Centre, an historic expansion of the Red Deer Regional Hospital, and expansion of Edmonton’s Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute.
The government will increase health care capacity by expanding intensive care while training and recruiting more key health care workers. This will make our system more resilient for potential future waves of COVID-19.
The government will improve care for Albertans with a new Continuing Care Act, implementing recommendations of a recent review to make the system more responsive and sustainable.
A bill will propose sanctions for health practitioners who perform the misogynistic practice of female genital mutilation. It’s part of the government’s broader effort to protect vulnerable women and girls from sexual violence.
The government will implement the recommendations of a report from the Member for Peace River on improving access to palliative care.
Patients facing end-of-life decisions must know that there are life-affirming options to physician assisted suicide. Improvements will focus on beginning palliative care as soon as possible, and keeping individuals in their homes and communities with support from those they know and love for as long as possible.
Keeping Albertans safe is as vital as keeping them healthy.
Acting on recommendations from the Human Trafficking Task Force chaired by Paul Brandt, the government will expand its efforts to combat the scourge of this modern form of slavery.
This work will complement recommendations from Alberta’s Joint Working Group on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Amendments to the Missing Persons Act will equip law enforcement with new tools to find victims of human trafficking and bring their captors to justice.
Many vulnerable women and girls have inadequate support during pregnancy, which can effect their child’s health and life chances. To assist low-income mothers and improve health outcomes for their babies, the government will significantly increase and expand prenatal benefits to mothers receiving AISH and Income Support.
The government will ensure full implementation of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, and Motion 501, to simplify and accelerate the adoption process, connecting children with loving parents eager to be their forever families.
Upcoming changes to the Employment Standards Code will provide extra job protection to workers on two fronts.
The three-day bereavement leave currently offered when a family member passes away will be extended to employees who experience a miscarriage or stillbirth, recognizing the pain and grief experienced by parents who lose an unborn child.
The 20-day limit for unpaid military reservist leave will be removed, recognizing that reservists often train for longer periods. We must honour and support those who serve our country in uniform.
Amendments to the Police Act will address the recommendations of the Police Act Review, strengthening local policing and holding officers accountable to the communities that they serve.
New legislation will broaden the services and supports for victims of crime, and a new regional approach will ensure that victims in all parts of Alberta can access support.
Right to Know legislation will allow more information to be shared with the public about individuals on bail, probation and parole, and criminals pending deportation.
These measures will complement the implementation of Clare’s Law, allowing people to be informed if their partner has a violent criminal record.
The Minister of Education will introduce legislation to strengthen protection for school children, ensuring that staff who are found to have engaged in misconduct face the full force of the law.
The bill will ensure that investigations into teacher misconduct are conducted by an independent body, ending the conflict of interest which allows the union representing teachers to regulate its own members.
With this reform Alberta will join the rest of Canada, and teachers will join all other professions in having an independent process for disciplinary issues.
Parents know what is best for their kids, and Albertans have long supported pluralism as a key principle in our education system.
That is why the government will bring forward a package of regulatory improvements to help create new charter schools and better support existing charters to realize the promise of the Choice in Education Act.
A growing number of Alberta families are choosing homeschooling as the best choice for their families, but many home schooled children with special needs cannot access services that are available in the public school system.
Access to specialized services will be expanded to home education families through a new program to ensure all children in Alberta, regardless of educational choice, receive the supports they need to be successful.
Alberta is a pluralistic society, united in its diversity.
All Albertans deserve to live free of fear and prejudice. Yet too often we see people from minority communities targeted by acts of hatred.
To address this, the government will launch a review of recent apparently hate-motivated incidents, working with police to identify common patterns and to make recommendations on how better to prevent such crimes in the future.
Last summer, some 50 Christian churches in Canada, many of them in Alberta, were destroyed or damaged by arson, vandalism, and other forms of hate-inspired violence.
These were attacks on the constitutionally protected freedom of religion, and our belief in peaceful pluralism. That is why the government will more than double the size of the Security Infrastructure Program, which was launched last year to upgrade security for community facilities targeted by hate crimes, including mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras, mandhirs, and other vulnerable facilities.
Last October, 62 per cent of voters endorsed a proposed amendment to the Canadian Constitution regarding equalization. The government will use that mandate to press for negotiations on equalization this year, while also seeking the appointment of Alberta’s elected nominees for the Senate of Canada.
Consultations will be completed on the prospect of an Alberta Provincial Police Force and the government will continue to examine a possible Alberta Pension Plan as potential reforms to strengthen the province.
The effort to build a strong, resilient Alberta will include a program to deepen knowledge of the province’s past, and appreciation for what makes Alberta unique.
As part of this effort, the Minister of Culture will table a bill creating a process for the designation of commemorative days, and a bill recognizing ammolite as Alberta’s official gemstone. The source of the sacred Buffalo Stone, or Iniskim in the Blackfoot language, ammolite is a unique symbol of the province’s natural beauty and history.
Strengthening Alberta’s sense of identity means honouring those who have gone before us to build this remarkable place that we call home.
That is why the government will launch an initiative to memorialize prominent Alberta historical figures by attaching their names to provincial buildings and infrastructure, beginning with the Terrace Building on the legislature grounds, which will be named after Chief Poundmaker, the great Cree peace maker.
The building lies near the site of the original Hudson’s Bay Company’s Fort Edmonton. It is fitting that a great Chief who was a bridge builder between the First Nations and European settlers would now dominate that historic site.
Recognizing our history also means facing the reality of past injustices.
The Minister of Indigenous Relations will complete consultations with Indigenous communities and will establish a memorial on the grounds of the legislature forever to remember the victims of the Indian Residential School system.
Honourable members, the last two years have tested us all both as individuals and as a society.
Together, we have overcome those challenges.
Thank you to Albertans for your perseverance and your courage in the face of the storm.
Prosperity and opportunity are returning to Alberta.
There is space again for big dreams—the kind of dreams that thrive where the prairies meet the mountains.
Where opportunities are limitless and everyone’s full potential can be achieved.
The clouds are breaking and the sun is starting to shine through.
A stronger and more resilient Alberta awaits for all of us.
God save the Queen, and may God bless Alberta.