Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members of the legislative assembly and fellow Albertans; I open this Fourth Session of the Thirtieth Legislature as His Majesty the King’s representative.
I would like to begin by acknowledging the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Alberta’s and Canada’s longest-serving monarch. Her dedication to duty and service is an example that all of us in this chamber should aspire to emulate.
Queen Elizabeth had a great affection for our province, which is shared by His Majesty King Charles III.
I am honoured to open this legislative assembly for the first time on His Majesty’s behalf.
Today we gather on Treaty 6 territory, and I invite all Honourable Members to reflect upon and acknowledge the traditional territories of Alberta’s First Peoples, and their invaluable contribution to our province and country.
Today’s speech from the throne will outline the commitments of His Majesty’s government for the people and province of Alberta.
Honourable Members, this is a challenging time for our province.
Rising inflation is impacting the ability of Albertans to provide for themselves and their families; our healthcare system is under significant strain; and we’re combatting unprecedented interference and overreach from the federal government in Ottawa.
These may be harsh headwinds, but Albertans are strong.
We have faced difficult challenges before, and not only have we overcome them, we have grown the stronger for it. We will do so again.
Albertans are an independent and self-reliant people. We do not often ask the government to assist us with meeting our needs. However, during times of crisis and hardship, Albertans expect their government to use our vast resource wealth to assist those in need. We must never lose sight of the fact that our natural resources are not the property of government. They are the property of the people of Alberta.
And too many Albertans are facing an inflationary crisis that is forcing them to make choices they should never have to make. Parents are choosing between food and after-school activities for their children, and seniors are choosing between lifesaving medication and heating their homes. Although most Albertans are feeling the financial pressure of this crisis, low- and middle-income seniors, families with children at home and vulnerable Albertans are being hit the hardest.
This crisis is not of Alberta’s making. It has been thrust upon us from elsewhere. It is the result of supply chain disruptions and war internationally, combined with anti-energy policies and economic mismanagement by politicians in Ottawa.
But whatever the cause, this government has a responsibility to take immediate action to help make life more affordable for all Albertans. The new Ministry of Affordability and Utilities will lead work across government to implement a package of targeted inflation-relief measures starting with the introduction of the Inflation Relief Act.
Under this legislation, households earning under $180,000 will be provided with a tax-free payment of $600 over six months starting this January for each senior, to parents for each dependent child under 18, and to each vulnerable Albertan collecting AISH, PDD and Income Support.
The government will also index for inflation AISH, PDD, Income Support, the Alberta Seniors Benefit and the Alberta Child and Family Benefit, while providing additional support for food banks and expanding access to low-income transit passes.
Protecting and supporting the most vulnerable among us has, and always will be, the Alberta Way; and this government is committed to ensuring that its support for those in the most need continues to be among the most generous in all of Canada.
Although most of this government’s affordability measures will target those with the most need during this inflationary crisis, all Albertans will also benefit.
The majority of Albertans must drive to go to work, buy groceries, and get their families to appointments and activities. The government will provide immediate relief at the gas pumps by suspending the entire provincial fuel tax for at least six months, and by making the current fuel relief program permanent thereafter.
As temperatures drop and the days shorten, Albertans pay more for electricity and heating. This government will provide increased rebates on consumer electricity bills through the winter months totalling an additional $200 per household. The government will also make the current natural gas rebate program permanent and is working with providers on a plan to flatten out spikes in winter electricity rates this winter and permanently thereafter.
And to keep the tax burden on Albertans as low as possible, the government will index personal income taxes retroactively to 2022 levels, meaning a larger rebate for each Alberta taxpayer this spring.
Together, these measures will save Alberta families and businesses more than $2.4 billion dollars over the next 18 months.
Again, this is just a start. More affordability measures are in the works – because every decision this government makes until this inflation crisis is over will balance affordability for Albertans with protecting our province’s financial well being and that of the of next generation.
Albertans must have access to world-class healthcare where and when they need it most. However, across our province critical surgeries are being delayed. Parents are waiting hours with their children to receive basic treatment in the emergency room. Ambulances are taking far too long to arrive when needed. The government must take action – more words and platitudes will not shorten wait times or free up hospital beds.
Thankfully, our doctors, nurses, paramedics and all front-line healthcare professionals are the best in the world and are heroes in our midst. And they are literally the key to fixing healthcare. We need many more of these great Albertans on the front lines caring for patients.
To our front-line professionals, we thank you. We know you are tired, yet you soldier on to serve and love and care for all of us. We love and salute you. On behalf of all Albertans, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
This government is here for our healthcare workers. That is why it is committed to supporting our public healthcare system and ensuring resources are directed where they are needed most – to emergency and operating rooms, rather than to board rooms and consulting companies.
Although fixing our healthcare challenges will take time, we will see progress on these issues immediately. The government’s health minister, Jason Copping, along with AHS Official Administrator, Dr. John Cowell, have initiated the health reform action plan. The plan includes instructions to Alberta Health Services to maximize the use of all surgical facilities across the province while using chartered facilities to deliver more needed surgeries more quickly for more Albertans.
The government’s healthcare reform action plan also includes reforms to decrease ambulance response times significantly by shortening patient transfer times at emergency rooms, using specialized non-emergency vehicles for inter-facility transfers, and empowering our paramedics to provide on-site evaluation and treatment where medically appropriate.
The government will also bring additional health professionals into our emergency rooms to assist with treatment and triage, so that those who need a simple prescription or alternative care get the assistance they need without taking a hospital bed away from those who truly need one.
And critically, the government will continue to lead with our world-renowned treatment-first approach for Albertans with mental health and addictions challenges while expanding mental health supports for youth and children. The government understands that investing significantly in mental health saves thousands of lives and improves the lives of hundreds of thousands more in our province. It is time to double down on our success on this issue; and the government will do so.
Jobs and Economy
The Alberta government also remains focused on its steadfast commitment to job creation and economic diversification. To achieve Alberta’s full potential, the government will champion innovation while reducing the barriers of entry to entrepreneurs and innovators who want to invest in new ideas and industries in our province.
We know Alberta’s greatest asset is its people. This government is committed to nurturing the best education and training programs in the world. Training the next generation will meet the needs of both traditional and emerging industries to attract the best and brightest from across the nation and around the world to our province.
The government must also support the economic sectors that have brought so much continued wealth and prosperity to our great province. Alberta’s foundational industries of agriculture and energy produce what the world needs most: food and clean, dependable energy.
As Albertans, we will never be ashamed of feeding and powering the world. In fact, now more than ever, the world needs more Alberta energy and agriculture, and this government is going to make sure that is exactly what happens.
This government will work to reduce inter-provincial trade barriers, work towards new customs pre-clearance for agricultural exports, and expand and improve Alberta’s irrigation network.
It will maintain and greatly expand exportation of our natural resources to world markets. And it will contribute to lowering emissions by investing in Alberta-based environmental technology – like carbon capture and hydrogen – while replacing the world’s reliance on coal and wood with clean and ethical Alberta LNG.
Humankind has not solved its challenges by cutting economic growth and making people more poor. That is a recipe for environmental disaster and poverty. We overcome our greatest challenges through innovation, technology, wealth creation and economic growth. And that is exactly how Alberta intends to take on the challenge of lowering our province’s and the world’s emissions. It is time for our federal government to get on board with that plan, and rather than land-locking our province’s energy and technology, work with us to take our clean energy and technology to all the world.
And speaking of technology and innovation – this government will work to diversify our economy. It will do that through the development of a technology and innovation strategy, a new digital media tax credit, and the expansion of high-speed rural broadband services to attract new investment and change-makers to all parts of our province. This also means continuing to lead the way when it comes to harnessing the power of our natural resources such as hydrogen, helium, liquified natural gas and geothermal energy while exploring new economic corridors.
All of these opportunities will help Albertans benefit from the province’s economic potential, including Indigenous Peoples who have always called these lands home. As a part of needed economic reconciliation, this government will strengthen its partnership with Indigenous Peoples by listening, learning and ensuring that Indigenous Peoples are not only participants in our economic growth – but partners and owners of the developments they choose to permit on their treaty lands.
Standing up to Ottawa
It is important to address our province’s relationship with the federal government.
As Albertans, we have individual and provincial rights enshrined in Canada’s constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These rights underpin the very foundation our nation and who we are as Canadians and Albertans.
These include our freedoms of speech and religion, liberty, equality, the rights of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples, the right of provinces to deliver healthcare, education and social programs free from federal interference and, of course, the rights of all provinces to develop our natural resources for the benefit of our people.
These personal and provincial rights are not something the federal government can simply supersede when it chooses. Ottawa is not our ruler; Ottawa is our partner – and it needs to begin acting like it.
The Canadian Constitution is clear. The federal and provincial governments both have exclusive and sovereign areas of jurisdiction, and this government will no longer sit idly by as Ottawa infringes on our Constitutional rights to develop our resources, develop our economy and deliver our social programs in the manner that Albertans see fit.
That is why the first piece of legislation this government under our new Premier will introduce will be the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act. This act is to be used as a constitutional shield to protect the personal and provincial rights of Albertans from any unconstitutional or harmful acts by the federal government taken against our province, our people, or its economy.
Whether it be Ottawa restricting the use of fertilizer by our farmers, or attempting to prevent us from developing the very energy resources that power our provincial and national economies; whether it be persecuting owners of legal firearms, inappropriately invoking emergency powers, or intentionally interfering in the delivery of provincial healthcare, education or child care, the government will not enforce any unconstitutional federal measure or policy within the boundaries of Alberta going forward.
Let us make no mistake, Albertans are proud Canadians, and we love our country. This legislation will never be used to undermine the rule of law or the unity of our nation. Just the opposite – it will be used to uphold and restore the intent of the most foundational document of our law – the Canadian Constitution and Charter of Rights.
Alberta’s voices will be heard. Albertans’ rights will be respected. And the Alberta government invites every one of its fellow provinces to work with the government in ensuring that same respect is demonstrated to every single province by our nation’s capital on a go-forward basis.
In so doing, the government will ensure Canada becomes stronger and more unified than ever before.
Overcoming challenges together
Honourable Members of this legislature, whatever your party affiliation, the government asks that you work together to overcome the challenges facing this province.
For we are all Albertans and we love this province deeply.
Our magnificent cities, our breathtaking mountainscapes, our boundless fields of grain and natural resources and, of course, our greatest treasure of all – the indomitable and compassionate spirit of our people.
Our nation and the world need Alberta to lead. And that is what the government shall do. Because that is the Alberta Way, and Albertans must never apologize for it.
God save the King, and may God bless Alberta to be forever strong and free.