The Alberta government says referenda for tax and pension reform and a crackdown on the opioid crisis are top of mind as the legislature reconvenes.

“Albertans did make their voices very clear. They voted for a government that would continue making life more affordable, improving government services and defending our province from federal interference,” said UCP Government House Leader Joseph Schow.

The government plans to expand the Alberta Taxpayer Protection Act, which requires a referendum before a government can introduce a provincial sales tax, to encompass all personal and business taxes.

“It’s important for Albertans to know that if any government or future governments were to increase personal or corporate income taxes, it would have to be done via referendum,” emphasized Schow.

Additionally, Schow announced the extension of the fuel tax cut to the year-end. 

Danielle Smith’s UCP government has also maintained a referendum will be necessary before Alberta would withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan.

“Should we move forward with a pension, it’s going to be with (Albertans’) support via a referendum,” Schow said. 

The coming legislative session will include proposed legislation to defend vulnerable Albertans by the government strengthening their case against those who contributed to the creation of the opioid crisis.

The UCP’s forced drug treatment bill, the Compassionate Intervention Act, will not be coming this fall, but Schow said another flagship drug bill will be.

The forthcoming Opioid Cost Recovery Act is set to strengthen Alberta’s case against opioid manufacturers, distributors, and consultants who the government says have contributed to the ongoing crisis. 

“We are committed to recovering as much cost as possible from those who have played a large part in creating this problem, and we want to make sure that we’re reinvesting this money and all the damages back into supporting those who are suffering from the cycle of addiction” said Schow.

In a past move to address the mounting costs and consequences of the opioid epidemic, the Alberta government joined a class-action lawsuit in 2019 targeting opioid manufacturers and distributors.

This legal action, spearheaded by the British Columbia government, accused drug manufacturers of deceptively marketing opioids as less addictive than other pain medications, a decision that helped fuel a nationwide crisis. 

The lawsuit, which was joined by several provinces including Ontario and Newfoundland, seeked to recover costs dating back to 1996, the year OxyContin was introduced in the Canadian market. 

Alberta, alongside other provinces, saw the fruits of collective legal actions against opioid manufacturers. A recent milestone was the $150 million settlement from Purdue Pharma (Canada) in June 2022

The government’s plans come amid growing concerns over the opioid crisis’ toll on Alberta’s communities. Schow explained how families have been devastated by this addiction crisis.

“These are brothers and sisters. These are family members. And it is incumbent upon us as a government and as citizens to look after them,” said Schow, in part quoting an Indigenous chief from Siksika. 

Schow told a reporter there was no planned legislation regarding the potential involvement of political parties in local elections.