Lois Mitchell, the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, delivered the province’s most recent throne speech at 3 pm on Thursday, March 8.
The speech outlined where the Government of Alberta is heading, along with the strides it has made in recovering from the the province’s recession.
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One of the first topics that Mitchell launched into was Alberta’s access to Canadian tidewater.
“Canada’s decades-long inability to diversify our export markets is holding us back, all of us,” she said, referencing to the month-long pipeline war between Alberta and BC that included bitumen restrictions, wine boycotts, and increasing tensions between the two provinces.
“In the past, when workers in our energy industry were attacked and when the resources we own were threatened, Premier Peter Lougheed took bold action.” Mitchell said.
Lougheed had limited the amount of oil sent to Ontario refineries in order to put pressure on the federal government in 1980.
“We will not hesitate to invoke similar legislation if it becomes necessary owing to extreme and illegal actions on the part of the BC government to stop the pipeline.”
The speech outlined the necessity for economic diversity, so that the province would not be left at the whim of the boom-and-bust oil industry.
Mitchell cited infrastructure currently under construction, including a new cancer treatment centre, hundreds of new schools, new petrochemical plants, and the Green Line in Calgary.
She also noted the fact that Alberta is leading the country in economic growth, and that the government is looking into ways to continue that economic success.
“This time, the economic recovery will be built to last.”
Three bills are being introduced into legislature, according to the throne speech, each one aiming to bolster some aspect of Alberta’s economy.
The Energy Diversification Act will be focused on commercializing the partial upgrading of bitumen, a process that would allow for more of the resource to flow through the the existing pipeline, as well as increase the number of refineries that accept Alberta’s bitumen.
The Growth and Diversification Act will expand existing tax credits and introduce new credits to help businesses, as well as funnel resources towards making post-secondary more affordable for students.
New spaces will be created in post-secondary institutions that are dedicated to the technology industry, and any future tuition increases will be capped.
The final bill will aim to protect Albertans from the electricity price swings that many residents have been experiencing since the system was deregulated. Wind, solar, and natural gas will be introduced as replacements for coal in the hope of a more stable energy system in the province.
Crime in rural communities
New initiatives have been created to tackle crime in rural areas of Alberta, including bait-and-tracking technology, technology related to farm equipment, measures to cutback on time spent on paperwork, and having a a larger police presence when necessary.
“Today in Alberta, especially in rural areas, people are concerned for the safety of their homes, their property and the well-being of those they love,” Mitchell said.
“That must change.”
The government will also be introducing legislature that would provide relief to the opioid crisis through public treatment options, harm reduction services, and public education.
“The opioid overdose crisis affects the lives of a growing number of Alberta families,” Mitchell said.
“Every affected person has a right to dignity, respect and medical care.”