Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has announced wide-ranging measures in a new Inflation Relief Fund to help Albertans through the cost-of-living crisis.
In an announcement to the province on Tuesday night, Smith said details of the proposal are still being finalized but will include $600 for each senior and each child under 18 every six months. The measure is for families with household incomes below $180,000.
Smith said too many parents are having to choose between nutritious food for their families and mortgage payments, while seniors are choosing between medicine and fuel.
The province will also suspend the entire provincial fuel tax for at least six months and make the current fuel relief program permanent. Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney first stopped the fuel tax in April, but it was partially reinstated in October once oil prices fell below $100 USD per barrel.
The government will retroactively index all provincial tax brackets to 2022, meaning larger rebates for Albertans. Further, beginning in January, the government will index for inflation a host of benefits, including income support, the Seniors benefit, the Alberta Child and Family benefit, the Persons with the Developmental Disabilities benefit and Assured Income for the Several Handicapped.
Smith said the province would provide an increased rebate on consumer electricity bills through the winter months, totalling an additional $200 per household. The measure is also intended to limit spikes in winter electricity rates while continuing with the current natural gas rebate program.
The premier said the announcement is just the first step, and there is much more to do.
“I will ensure every decision our government makes from now until this crisis is over balances affordability for Albertans with the need for continued balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility,” said Smith.
Regarding the problems plaguing Alberta’s healthcare sector, Smith said Health Minister Jason Copping and Alberta Health Services (AHS) administrator John Cowell initiated a health reform action plan to target the most urgent challenges, including faster response times for Albertans waiting in the emergency room, for an ambulance or for surgery.
Speaking at the Rural Municipalities of Alberta fall convention on Nov. 8, NDP Leader Rachel Notley promised to restore stability to healthcare by undertaking the largest recruitment effort in the province’s history, if elected premier next year. She also said Smith’s government is consulting with “conspiracy theorists” from former US President Donald Trump’s office, referring to Dr. Paul Alexander who will speak with Smith’s health advisors.
Smith said her proposed Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act would be ready in about a week. That’s the new name for the Alberta Sovereignty Act; legislation Smith proposed during the United Conservative Party leadership race to bar federal bills deemed harmful to the province.
The new premier said the legislation would act as a constitutional shield to protect Albertans.
The new premier closed her speech by saying that while she took controversial positions as a talk show host, many of her opinions have changed as she listened to Albertans. She said it’s her job today to serve Albertans to the best of her abilities.