Alberta government plans sweeping changes through 2 omnibus bills

The Alberta government on Monday introduced two pieces of omnibus legislation containing sweeping changes that include ending a ban on using replacement workers during labour disputes and controlling where doctors can practice through the allocation of billing numbers. 

Bills 20 and 21 implement measures introduced in last Thursday’s budget, but there are some that are being revealed for the first time. 

The government intends, through Bill 21, to roll back legislation passed by the previous NDP government that in 2016 banned the use of replacement workers for essential government services during public sector strikes when an essential services agreement is in place. 

The NDP law was enacted in response to a Supreme Court ruling that upheld the right of public sector workers to go on strike. The current government has said its bill is constitutional. 

Bill 21 proposes to give Health Minister Tyler Shandro the ability to tell physicians where they can practice in Alberta when he issues the identification numbers they require to bill the government for services. 

The move would prevent new doctors from setting up in Edmonton and Calgary and would force them to practice in under-served areas of the province. 

The government also wants the ability to unilaterally impose an expiration date on its master agreement with the Alberta Medical Association after a period of negotiations. 

Bill 21 also proposes giving the justice minister the power to amend funding arrangements for policing through regulations, not law.

Smaller municipalities under 5,000 and municipal districts do not pay for policing. The Alberta government has been holding community consultations on a new funding model this fall.

Other changes in Bills 20 and 21 were announced in last week’s budget. They include suspending indexation on AISH and income support benefits, removing the tuition freeze, and ending tax credit programs like the Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit. 

Ending indexation of AISH and income support is expected to save the government $300 million by 2022/23.

Measures proposed in Bill 20:

  • End the Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit, Capital Investment Tax Credit, Community and Economic Tax Credit, Alberta Investor Tax Credit, Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Credit; 
  • End education and tuition tax credits;
  • Repeal the city charters for Edmonton and Calgary and put a new Local Government Fiscal Framework Act in its place;
  • Suspend indexation of tax brackets for income tax system, saving the government at least $600 million by the end of 2022/23 fiscal year; 
  • End the Lottery Fund and move the money into general revenue;
  • End the Access to the Future Fund, the Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund, and Environmental Protection and Enhancement Fund;
  • Roll the Alberta Child Benefit and Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit into the single Alberta Child and Family Benefit;
  • Increase tobacco tax rate; 
  • Amend the funding agreements for LRT in Edmonton and Calgary so provincial cash can come after 2023.

Measures proposed in Bill 21:

  • Temporarily suspend indexation of benefits for Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), Income Support and the Seniors Lodge Program; 
  • Provide more detailed quarterly financial reports;
  • Exclude budget officers, systems analysts, auditors and employees who perform similar functions from bargaining units;
  • Reverse the replacement worker ban in the public sector;
  • End tuition freeze for three years;
  • Increase student loan interest by one per cent;
  • End regulated rate option cap for electricity; 
  • Allow health minister to place conditions on new practitioner identification numbers;
  • Allow changes to the master agreement with the Alberta Medical Association;
  • Allow minister to change through regulation how municipalities pay for policing;
  • Change how the province uses fine money it collects on behalf of municipalities;
  • Allow the government to have greater oversight over collective bargaining with public sector employees, including the length of the agreement, and the use of salary surveys;
  • Subjecting funding for disasters to a supply vote in the legislature. 

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