In managing the COVID-19 pandemic and the related economic recession and a bottoming out of oil prices, the Alberta government has been equally focused on the economy and jobs with fighting the spread of the virus. This management style has caused Premier Jason Kenney and his cabinet to face intense scrutiny of the government as Albertans continue to see active COVID-19 case numbers increase daily, even with some targeted restrictions enacted. Today, the Kenney government presented both its Fall Economic Update and its latest restrictions plan to “stop the spike” of the COVID-19 virus in the province.
Finance and Treasury Board Minister Travis Toews released his economic update of an unprecedented year; the surprising eye-opener was that the province is touting positive markers for future years. There is no doubt that Alberta’s triple threat this year will influence promises like balancing the budget by 2023. Toews highlighted a provincial deficit of $21.8 billion as $2.8 billion less than projected last spring. Provincial revenues from non-renewable resource revenues, gaming revenues, investment income, and federal transfers are $41.4 billion, approximately $3 billion higher than previously forecast. As expected, expenses have increased from the 2020 Budget projections, but with cost savings found are now forecasted at $62.7 billion. The province also reported that Alberta’s real GDP looks to contract 8.1 per cent, an improvement from the expected 8.8 per cent reported earlier this year, and job numbers have seen a significant improvement with 258,000 jobs recovered since February.
COVID-19: Second Wave Restrictions
On Thursday, November 12, Kenney restricted team sports and group fitness and shortened the time food service facilities can serve alcohol. Albertans were critical of the restrictions, using language like haphazard, token, and confusing. In the 11 days since those restrictions were put forward, Alberta has seen a sharp increase in day-over-day case numbers. With that spike, the metric government was able to point to as successful pandemic management, hospitalization and ICU capacity rates, crumbled beneath them.
After weeks, possibly months, of indecisive action on the COVID-19 front, Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro addressed Albertans before the Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Doctor Deena Hinshaw gave her daily update. Alberta now has 13,349 active cases of COVID-19. Currently, the highest reported active cases of any Canadian province. Dr. Hinshaw also reported 1,115 new positive cases of COVID-19; with 348 people hospitalized, 66 are in ICU units; and 16 deaths due to the virus (for a total of 492 COVID-19 deaths this year). With a net increase of 5,044 active cases since targeted restrictions went into effect in enhanced regions, increased measures are necessary to slow the spread and avoid further strain on an already stretched health care system.
Calgary is awaiting the new provincial restrictions before they again declare a state of emergency to manage the virus’s spread. Other municipalities are examining similar actions.
Kenney started the press conference today robotic and reading directly from a teleprompter, showing he was uncomfortable with the message he was about to deliver. The nature of the pandemic has challenged his “by-the-book” leadership style, and the escalating numbers have forced him to backtrack on the steadfast “no restrictions” messaging we’ve heard from him in the past eight months.
The reality is there is no pandemic playbook, but the province has data to lean on. There’s a feeling of disconnect between what we’re hearing globally vs. what we’ve seen from our provincial leaders.
All of today’s announced restrictions are effective immediately unless otherwise listed:
- No indoor social gatherings will be permitted
- Those living alone may have up to two indoor contacts
- Outdoor gatherings limited to 10 people
- Weddings and Funerals are limited to 10 people, receptions are not permitted
- Places of worship are restricted to a maximum of 1/3 capacity, and masks are required
- Dining restrictions remain, no alcohol served after 10pm, closing by 11pm
- 6 people/table, from the same household
- If you live alone, you may dine with your two identified close contacts
- Conference centres, banquet halls, community centres, children’s play places, concert halls and all levels of sport (unless exempted by the Chief Medical Officer) will be closed until further notice
- Effective November 27, retail businesses and some entertainment services may remain open to remain open at 25 per cent occupancy set under the Alberta Fire Code
- Personal services, hair salons, professional services, hotel/motel, fishing and hunting lodges remain open by appointment only, no walk-ins
- Work from home is recommended, unless absolutely necessary
- Beginning November 30, children in grades 7 – 12 will attend school virtually from home
- Children in grades Kindergarten – 6 will still attend school, Christmas break begins on December 18
- School is scheduled to return January 11, 2021
- Masks are mandatory in Calgary and Edmonton and areas
- Law enforcement will have a mechanism for fining those who break the health orders
More information on the enhanced measures can be found here.
Authored by: Jessica Conlin, Darren Cunningham, Tim Moro and Natalie Sigalet