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Business expert says PST is in Kenney’s toolbox

Premier Jason Kenney confirmed his government would not implement a provincial sales tax in Alberta without a referendum

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Discussions surrounding a possible provincial sales and carbon tax for Alberta have re-emerged in light of rising deficit spending throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Melissa Caouette, Vice-President, Government Relations & Business Development to Canadian Strategy Group, states: “A sales tax is one of many fiscal tools available to the UCP government to stabilize its revenues.”

However, she acknowledged such a request would have to come from the grassroots and not be imposed top-down.

In September, Finance Minister Travis Toews said a discussion about the PST would occur later in the UCP’s mandate.

“In terms of the discussion around revenue structure, income tax structure, that will be an important discussion for Albertans in the future,” said Toews.

“This is not a time to talk about raising taxes.”

Alberta is the only province in the country without a PST.

Recently, Premier Jason Kenney confirmed his government would not implement a provincial sales tax in Alberta without a referendum and had no intention to ask Albertans at this time.

During a zoom webinar with UCP members, Kenney emphasized a provincial sales tax was out of the question, stating: “The worst thing we could do amid this [COVID-19] crisis is to force people to pay more when they’re already going through incredible financial stress.”

“With high unemployment, with incomes down, and financial uncertainty, now is the worst time to be digging deeper into people’s pockets. I think we have no right as a government to ask people to pay more until we can demonstrate that the Alberta government is operating efficiently,” he said.

However, during his time with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in the early 1990s, Kenney didn’t rule out a consumption tax as long as there were cuts in personal income taxes.

“Any talk of increasing Albertans’ tax burden should be offset by an appropriate adjustment in personal income tax and should ensure Albertans will not be not worse-off than before,” said Caouette.

“The tax dollars collected through a sales tax should be put towards supporting critical public goods, including education, healthcare, and infrastructure. The benefit of a sales tax is that Alberta can ensure those who do business here but pay personal or corporate tax elsewhere are supporting the fiscal stability of the province and paying their fair share,” she said.

“We’ve been spending about 20 per cent more per person than the average Canadian province,” said Kenney, who acknowledged his government’s first challenge was to get its fiscal house in order.

“You’ll see that in next week’s budget, where the focus will be on protecting lives and livelihoods, namely health care and jobs. We will continue to drive towards efficiency by gradually reducing expenditures, including a public sector compensation that has become higher than any other province and higher than the private sector.

“Frankly, it’s not sustainable.”

Caouette praised the government for making promising strides in supporting and investing in startups and small businesses and acknowledging the need to diversify our economy while continuing to champion the oil and gas sector.

With declining oil and gas royalties and investment coming to a standstill, despite rebounding commodity prices, Alberta will need to be creative to offset reduced resource revenues.

Even if the province relies on other sectors to fill the fiscal hole, such as tech or film, Caouette suggests it will not offset the systemic need to stabilize revenues long-term.

Dhaliwal is the Western Standard’s Edmonton reporter

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Alberta moves fully into Phase 2 of reopening

Up to six UCP MLA’s spoke publicly against their government not moving fully into Phase Two.

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After a UCP caucus revolt last week against current COVID-19 lockdown regulations, the Alberta government announced Monday afternoon they are fully moving into Phase 2 of their reopening plan.

The updated health measures are now in place for retail, hotels and community halls, performance groups, and youth sports, performance and recreation.

The changes are effective immediately. They are in addition to the small Step 2 measures announced on March 1, as pressure eases on the health system and hospitalizations remain well below 450.

Up to six UCP MLA’s spoke publicly against their government not moving fully into Phase Two.

Medicine Hat UCP MLA Michaela Glasgo has joined colleagues Todd Loewen, Dave Hanson, Ron Orr, Angela Pitt and Drew Barnes in condemning current regulations.

Despite reaching Phase 3 benchmarks, Premier Jason Kenney only announced March 1 that libraries could open and gyms to start offering some services.

“Every day, we administer more vaccines and every day fewer Albertans are in hospital due to this virus. With cases stable and more vaccines arriving, it’s time to take another safe step forward. Our government is listening to the evidence and protecting both lives and livelihoods across the province,” said Kenney in a Monday statement.

Phase 2 reopenings now include:

Banquet halls, community halls, conference centres and hotels

  • These facilities can now open for all activities permitted under Step 1 and Step 2.
  • This includes hosting virtual meetings/conferences/events, permitted performance activities, wedding ceremonies with up to 10 individuals, and funeral services up to a maximum of 20 individuals.
  • Wedding receptions, funeral receptions or trade shows are not permitted.

Retail

  • All retail services and shopping malls must limit customer capacity to 25 per cent of fire code occupancy, not including staff. This is an increase from 15 per cent.
  • This includes individual stores and common areas.
  • Curbside pickup, delivery and online services are encouraged.

Performance activities

  • Individuals or groups can now rehearse and perform in preparation for filming or live streaming a performance, provided they adhere to public health guidance.
  • For adult performers and performance groups (over the age of 18), the following activities are permitted:
    • Individual performers or performance groups (up to a maximum of 10 individuals) can access facilities for rehearsals or filming/virtual broadcasting.
    • Larger indoor film and other performances will be allowed provided there is no audience and subject to an approved plan that follows strict new guidance, including regular lab-based PCR testing.
  • No in-person audiences are allowed for any type of performance.
  • Masks are required and three-metre physical distancing must be maintained at all times.
  • For children and youth, performance activities are permitted provided they follow the same requirements set out for youth sport, performance and recreation activities in Step 1:
    • Up to a maximum of 10 individuals with three-metre distancing between all participants.
    • No spectators or in-person audiences are allowed for any type of performance.
    • Masks are mandatory at all times.
    • Includes lessons and practices.
    • Includes youth development activities such as Scouts, Girl Guides and 4-H.
  • Performance activities include dancing, singing, theatre and playing instruments.

Youth sports and recreation

  • There is no change to the restrictions around youth sport and recreation.
  • The Step 1 restrictions around youth sports and recreation have been expanded to include members of college and university athletic programs:
    • Lessons, practices and physical conditioning activities are allowed.
    • Games are not allowed.
    • Maximum of 10 total individuals, including all coaches, trainers and participants.
    • Physical distancing must be maintained between participants at all time.
    • Participants must be masked at all times, except during the training activity.

“We continue striking a safe balance between easing restrictions and preventing cases from rapidly rising once again. The strain on our health system continues to decline, which benefits every Albertan. Proven health measures remain in place in all sectors, and we must all do our part to keep each other safe and continue driving hospitalizations downward,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

Any decisions on Step 3 will be made on March 22, at the earliest, based on hospitalizations and the current spread of COVID-19. 

“While targeted measures are being eased, we all must remain vigilant and keep going the extra mile. COVID-19 remains a serious health threat, and variants of concern can spread more easily if given the chance. Until we have more vaccine for our population, it is essential that every Albertan continues to be the vaccine for each other,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Hinshaw also reported 6 new deaths since last Friday, bringing total to 1,920. She said there 278 new cases on March 7; 304 on March 6.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Calgary mother angered by lack of special needs’ accommodation for mask bylaw

Distraught by her experience at Indigo, Fatima Elrafie was angered by their “no room for dialogue” attitude to ensure its customers’ comfort, especially vulnerable Calgarians.

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A Calgary mother is furious after a local Indigo store refused to allow her in because her special needs son wasn’t wearing a COVID-19 mask.

Fatima Elrafie, a make-up artist said on Sunday, the Cross Iron Mall Indigo management team refused her autistic son, Zayd service because he could not wear a mask.

Distraught by the experience, she told the Western Standard Indigo demonstrated no room for dialogue on improving or ensuring its customers’ comfort. 

“There was no empathy to the situation or understanding of the special needs’ realities and their exemption, as there was no attempt at understanding or accommodation,” said Elrafie.

“I would ask that businesses such as Indigo be sensitive to special needs’ challenges and provide a supportive environment. It is very difficult because this pandemic has arguably hurt special needs and the vulnerable population the most.

“My son has had to endure long periods outside of the classroom without social interactions with others which have had a detrimental effect on his mental health and overall progression. A simple getaway to a bookstore should not have resulted in being forced out and deprived of shopping simple for being uninformed and uneducated on our bylaws.” 

According to the data released on March 5, the City of Calgary has issued 258 violation tickets for failure to wear a face-covering indoors since August 1, 2020.

The temporary COVID-19 Face Coverings Bylaw came into effect on August 1. It was extended on December 11 by Calgary City Council with increased penalties for failure to wear a face covering and repeat violations for the next 12 months. 

Her concerns regarding the mask bylaw extend to those beyond special needs as well.

“Everyone should be free to shop in an environment that adheres to government bylaws that specifically protect the vulnerable,” said Elrafie, who asks that special needs Canadians protect themselves and know their rights as outlined in local bylaws. 

“You are protected by law and must have these handy to recite in any situation like this that might arise. Not everyone can wear a mask, and if it is difficult for one to fathom that, they must realize their privilege for comprehending others’ simple limitations. 

“Perhaps it is a lesson to all of us that others face different, maybe worse struggles and that the government must protect them from discrimination.”

Last week, the City of Calgary was informed that the Ministerial Order enabled community peace officers to respond to violations under the CMOH had expired. 

Alberta’s Human Rights Commission states masks may not be suitable for children and adults with certain physical, intellectual, mental, or cognitive disabilities, such as autism or anxiety.

Indigo nor its Cross Iron branch were available for comment at the time of publication.

Dhaliwal is the Western Standard’s Edmonton reporter.

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YouTube censors plea from Canadian doctors to end COVID lockdown

“This video has been removed for violating YouTube’s Terms of Service,” was what viewers saw when they clicked on the video.

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A video put up Monday on YouTube from a group of Canadian doctors demanding an easing of COVID-19 restrictions was quickly removed by the company.

“This video has been removed for violating YouTube’s Terms of Service,” was what viewers saw when they clicked on the video.

“The Canada Health Alliance is a non-profit collaboration of medical doctors, nurses, chiropractors, naturopaths, pharmacists, and other healthcare practitioners from across Canada whose common goal is to protect the rights of our patients to access the highest quality healthcare available, continued freedom of choice, and autonomy through informed consent,” says the group.

“Our goal is to halt the misuse of power by politicized public health “experts” currently being conveyed through damaging COVID-19 public health policies that are destroying Canadian society and the health of Canadians.”

In partnership with the Liberty Coalition Canada, the groups are calling for governments to end:

• Lockdowns and physical distancing

• Promoting the use of masks

• Handwashing and cleaning surfaces with toxic disinfectants ·

• Quarantines of asymptomatic people and social isolation

• Using RT-PCR testing on people

• Advocating inadequately tested gene-modifying COVID-19 vaccinations (insufficient human and animal trials)

• Unnecessary COVID-19 policies at hospitals and other health care facilities

• Business closures or restrictions

• Restrictions on churches and places of worship

• Closures of public facilities including schools, playgrounds, parks and recreational facilities

• Misrepresentation of the COVID situation in the media

• The use of fear and other psychological coercion techniques

“The first principle of medical and health care practice is to do no harm,” said the medical group.

“Furthermore, evidence-based medical information should be the determining factor in all governmental healthcare rules, policies, and procedures. The current government measures regarding COVID are not supported by evidence-based medical research, and many of these measures are harmful to individuals, families and society in general.”

Another video from the group can be found on the Liberty Coalition’s website here.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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