New Year's Message 2021
Never have I been more excited to ring in a New Year. As thousands of front-line respiratory technicians, nurses, and physicians receive their first doses of the Coronavirus vaccine, I am filled with hope that there is light at the end of this tunnel.
I know that thousands of Albertans have lost friends or family members to the Coronavirus, while others have felt the awful impacts of higher rates of addiction and depression. Balancing these health concerns with the devastating economic impacts of shutting down businesses, has been a great challenge. Every member of our cabinet and caucus have struggled with these decisions, and the impacts each of these policies has on families.
2021 will not be without its own challenges as our province faces down the global pandemic, the worldwide economic recession, and lingering effects of the collapse in oil prices, but there are good reasons to be optimistic.
In 2019 we ran on a platform summarized in three words: jobs, economy, and pipelines. Despite facing significant challenges to this agenda, we did see some important progress on each of these files.
In July we accelerated the timeline on our job-creation tax cut, bringing down Alberta’s corporate tax rate to 8% - the lowest in Canada and one of the lowest in North America. Economists from across the political spectrum continue to support this measure to attract businesses to our province. We also announced several measures to attract petrochemical investment, and reduce the size of government and its operating costs, including at Alberta Infrastructure where we announced the demolition of the antiquated and underused Legislature Annex building.
Businesses that were shut down through no fault of their own, qualified for provincial government support to make up for some of their lost revenue. The Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant was recently announced and will continue accepting applications until March 31 of 2021.
Closer to home, our constituency office dealt with a tremendous volume of inquiries and suggestions. We did our best to connect constituents with the appropriate ministries and in many cases were able to provide satisfactory solutions in areas like the orphan well reclamation program, local non-profits’ access to pandemic related grants, and just recently successfully advocated to keep massage therapy services open.
Perhaps most importantly as we look to the future, there has been significant progress on the pipeline front. Work on the Keystone XL pipeline has is finally underway - a substantial milestone, while Line 3 cleared important legal hurdles in the United States. As oil prices stabilize, our province will be in a better position to provide fuel to the world with increased pipeline capacity.
Alberta’s $10 billion Recovery Plan was developed to provide jobs at a time of sky-high unemployment, including shovel-ready capital maintenance and renewal projects on schools, roads, and government buildings. I travelled across the province this summer to dozens of communities, announcing projects like the VIVO for Healthier Generations expansion in North East Calgary, and the Fort McMurray Métis Cultural Centre.
Our government also secured financial support from the Canada Infrastructure Bank for an unprecedented $815 million expansion to irrigation infrastructure. With greater access to irrigation, farmers will be able to grow more crops, increase their incomes, while the province can attract new food processing opportunities. Construction work on important major projects in Calgary like Stoney Trail, the Calgary Cancer Centre, and more than a dozen schools, continued apace despite the pandemic. In December, I was also pleased to announce that a successful bidder had been awarded a contract for the North Calgary High School, a project that has been on my radar since I first ran for office in 2012.
We are setting up the province for the next era of growth and will have the facilities we need to provide services for generations to come.
While it’s a little technical, I’m also very proud of the new USP Framework and Guidelines introduced by Alberta Infrastructure just one short month ago. This new framework will help unleash Albertans’ creativity and allow the government to consider unsolicited infrastructure investment opportunities that might previously have been missed or rejected. This work signals to industry that our government is ready for business and that we are interested in partnering on new ideas.
If you would like to read more about the busy year at the Ministry of Infrastructure, I encourage you to read my recent blog post on the government website entitled, Alberta Infrastructure's 2020.
As we begin 2021 Alberta’s government remains laser-focused on the economy. Our new ministry of Jobs, Economy, and Innovation has already made extraordinary efforts to make Alberta an appealing place for technology investment, while Alberta Energy is cutting red tape and regulations and ensuring our voice is heard in Washington and in global financial centres around the world. I am doing my part to attract investment and seek new trade with foreign markets. I have taken the time to introduce the Premier and my colleagues to some of my business investor friends from India and the United States who represent major global conglomerates and senior investment bankers. Alberta has plenty of products and expertise that are in high demand in emerging markets, and Alberta's government is making every effort to tell that story in every corner of the globe.
As the economy recovers, I am very hopeful that my constituents and indeed all Albertans, will see this work begin paying off in the form of jobs and investment in our communities. I also want to thank constituents for their support of the Veteran’s Food Bank Drive where we were able to raise $25,000 worth of groceries for local Calgary veterans, as well as my Christmas moustache shave which raised more than $83,000 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation. In a difficult year for many, the generosity of Albertans has been overwhelming.
On that hopeful note, I wish you and your family a very Happy (and healthy) New Year!