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Alberta puts policies in place for returning international travellers

Travellers will also undergo a thermal scan, as elevated body temperature is a potential symptom of COVID-19.

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The Alberta government is instituting what they call the most stringent policies in Canada for people returning to the province from out-of-country.

During the first phase, travellers arriving at the Calgary and Edmonton international airports from outside Canada will be required to pass through a provincial checkpoint where they will need to complete an Alberta isolation plan.

Travellers will also undergo a thermal scan, as elevated body temperature is a potential symptom of COVID-19.

As part of their isolation plan, travellers must detail if they have an appropriate place to isolate for the required 14 days, how they will travel to their isolation location, and their plans for getting essentials like food and medications.

If required, provincial officials will help travellers access support to meet isolation requirements.

Government officials will follow up with travellers within three days to ensure they are following public health orders and have the information and support they need.

“Countries like Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea have been successful at mitigating the spread because they took immediate action securing their borders long before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic,” said Premier Jason Kenney in a statement Wednesday.

“I’ve been clear it was irresponsible for Canada to wait so long to close our borders, especially from countries with high levels of infection. While Alberta does not control who can fly here, we will deploy a more rigorous approach in screening international arrivals. These measures are critical to ensure we continue to flatten the curve and keep Albertans safe.”

The Calgary and Edmonton airports are also implementing enhanced cleaning protocols for arrival lounges and high-touch surfaces, placing hand sanitizer stations at every kiosk and touch screen machine.

Phase two will involve establishing a similar provincial checkpoint at the Alberta-U.S. border crossing at Coutts, which is the busiest in the province. 

“As the peak of the virus passes and the world begins to move forward, travel will slowly increase. Controlling the spread of COVID-19, especially travel-related cases, is a key step in protecting Albertans and continuing to flatten the curve,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health.

“Protect yourselves and your loved ones by following all public health measures and practising physical distancing and good hygiene.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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Rural municipalities told to ‘stop crying wolf’ over proposed property tax changes

Rural Municipalities of Alberta President Al Kemmere said 69 counties and municipal districts represented by the RMA stand to lose up to 40 per cent of their tax base.

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Fears are growing amongst rural Alberta municipalities about a proposed UCP plan to give oil and gas companies property tax breaks at the expense of residents.

But the head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the municipalities should “stop crying wolf” and get to work cutting their own taxes.

“If municipal councillors and mayors were half as worried about finding savings as they are about trying to grab more tax dollars then many more of our challenges would be solved by now,” Franco Terrazzano, Alberta Director of the CTF, told the Western Standard.

The proposed changes are a way to bring relief to Alberta’s struggling oil and gas companies and a report outlining four possible linear taxation models was given to the UCP caucus last month.

Rural Municipalities of Alberta President Al Kemmere said 69 counties and municipal districts represented by the RMA stand to lose up to 40 per cent of their tax base.

A survey released by the RMA in January said the oil and gas sector also owes $173 million in unpaid taxes to rural municipalities.

“Nobody lives in a Cadillac world here – rural Albertans often get by with the marginal, but when you reduce like this, it’s going to hurt,” Kemmere told the CBC, adding some municipalities might not survive the possible changes.

“To collect what we’re losing, it’s almost a non-realistic approach. We’ve got some members that are going to have to double their present tax rates within the residential sector. And that’s just not doable.”

Lacombe County officials are preparing for a worst case scenario of a 39 per cent increase.

One of the plans would see a $4-million drop in revenue for the County of Vermilion River, according to Reeve Dale Swyripa. That would mean increasing the residential mill rate by 109 per cent, increasing the non-residential mill rate by 25 per cent, cutting services by 45 per cent or a combination of all.

The M.D. of Wainwright said they could lose $6.9 to $9.4 million or 22 to 30 per cent of their total tax revenue. The M.D. may have to increase the residential tax rate by 290 to 393 per cent and the non-residential tax rate by 37.4 to 58.4 per cent. 

Camrose County is looking at increasing the residential mill rate by up to 56 per cent, the non-residential mill rate by 32 per cent.

“This isn’t a Camrose County issue. This is a rural issue,” she said. “There is no county in Alberta that will not be affected,” Reeve Cindy Trautman told CBC.

In Northern Sunrise County, the residential mill rate would have to be hiked by 200 to 500 per cent, or the county’s workforce — and corresponding services — cut by up to 80 per cent.

But Terrazzano said: “Northern Sunrise County is one of the biggest spending municipalities in Alberta, spending $17,000 per person annually!”

“A huge place all municipalities (including Northern Sunrise County) needs to cut is labour costs. Through the downturn (2014-2018), municipal government labour costs across Alberta increased by 17 per cent while all employee compensation in the province declined by 6 per cent.

Cypress-Medicine Hat UCP MLA said his phone has been ringing off the hook with worried residents.

“I’ve probably had about 30 calls in the last 24 hours,” Barnes told the Western Standard before stepping into a meeting Wednesday afternoon with municipal affairs officials.

“I’m glad the government has not finalized anything and is open to discussion. We have to do everything we can to leave money in the hands of citizens and every municipality has room to improve.”

But he said the government also needs to work with companies and suggested cheaper access to the Alberta Energy Regulator for them as one possible idea.

“If we don’t do something to arrest the trend of industry bankruptcies and financial insolvencies, there’s not going to be a long term or an industry in some of these communities, so the assessments are going to go to zero,” Ben Brunnen, vice-president of oilsands with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, told CBC.

“It’s one of those scenarios where everyone needs to sacrifice a little bit.”

The province says no policy decisions have been made.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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UCP creates $10 million corporate welfare program to fight global warming

The Alberta government has created a new program funded through the province’s carbon tax.

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Albeta’s UCP government has launched another multi-million corporate welfare program – this time spending $10 million on three projects funded through the provincial carbon tax.

The government said Wednesday that $3 million will be given to the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group (SPOG) to test the viability of methane emissions reduction technology, saying that improvements could enhance the accuracy of finding methane emission leaks at a lower cost. 

The government also gave the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) $5-million to develop artificial intelligence capabilities that could help companies identify emission reductions opportunities.

Finally, it will give $2 million to the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada (PTAC) to conduct applied research that could improve oil and gas sector methane emission management and control, while also reducing costs to industry. 

“Last year, when we introduced TIER, we said we would help job creators reduce their emissions by making investments in technology and research,” said Environment Minister Jason Nixon in a statement.

TIER (Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Regulation) is the new name given to Alberta’s carbon tax to replace the NDP’s “Climate Action Plan”.

“Today’s announcement is an example of that, and helps further our position as a global leader in technology-driven environmentally responsible development. These programs will help industry identify, track, measure and ultimately reduce emissions. They will also ensure we maintain our competitive edge while creating jobs and economic growth for Alberta.”

The UCP platform broadly committed to ending corporate welfare subsidies.

“Premier Jason Kenney needs to get back to doing good work on reducing taxes for everyone and stop picking winners and losers,” said Franco Terrazzano, Alberta Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. 

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

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Calgary cops identify suspects in hate crime attack

“It is shocking to see anyone targeted for a crime because of a personal characteristic, but it is extremely disturbing to see the same community targeted three times in one weekend,” said Sgt. Arlene Padnivelan,

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Calgary copssay they have identified two men who attacked a same sex couple as they strolled down a northwest street.

It was one of three attacks over the weekend against members of Calgary’s LGBTQ2S+ community.

The incident occurred around 5:30 p.m., on Monday, as a same-sex couple was walking near the intersection of 9 St. and Memorial Dr. N.W., when two men and two women on electronic scooters approached them, police said.

“An altercation occurred and it is believed the two men on scooters assaulted the couple because of their sexual orientation. A belt, rocks and a recycling bin were used as weapons and then the group fled,” said police in a press released.

Suspects wanted in connection with a same sex attack
Courtesy Calgary Police Service

“Our officers arrived shortly after and searched the area but could not locate the group. The victims received medical care for non-life-threatening injuries.”

The two suspects are both described as being about 30 years old, average height and build, with trim black beards and short black hair. The one was wearing black framed glasses, white polo shirt, dark pants, brown loafers, and white socks. The other was wearing a grey polo shirt with white collar and sleeves, grey pants, and white runners.

Police said Wednesday morning the suspects had been identified and the investigation continues.

The first incident happened when man was assaulted near the intersection of 17 Ave. and 12 St. in the middle of the day on Friday. It is alleged that a group of men attacked the victim while calling him homophobic slurs and then fled.

The second incident occurred around 1 p.m. on Saturday on the Rainbow Crosswalk at the intersection of Centre St. and Stephen Avenue Mall. A Drag King recording a video was spat on by an unknown man walking past. The incident is now being investigated and video and CCTV footage is being collected by us to help identify the man responsible, said police.

“It is shocking to see anyone targeted for a crime because of a personal characteristic, but it is extremely disturbing to see the same community targeted three times in one weekend,” said Sgt. Arlene Padnivelan, with the Calgary Police Service Diversity Resource Team.

“It is unacceptable that this is happening and we will absolutely investigate anytime a crime is motivated by hate or bias.”

Police encourage anyone who has been targeted for ill treatment or a crime because of their sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or some other similar trait to report it.

“We fully recognize that sometimes people do not want to involve the police or don’t feel comfortable coming to us for help,” said Padnivelan.

“We respect the wishes of those who are most affected by the incident and never force a victim to participate in a police investigation. However, if there is a way we can help make a person feel safe enough to come forward, we want to try do that.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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