Alberta Minute: Merry Christmas, City Charters, and a New Healthcare Agreement
Alberta Minute - Your weekly one-minute summary of Alberta politics.
This Week In Alberta:
Merry Christmas! Thank you to every single one of our readers and supporters who reached out, donated, volunteered, or shared our content this year. We appreciate you and hope you have a wonderful day!
Alberta continues to experience the fastest population growth in Canada, with over 17,000 individuals moving to the province from other parts of the country in Q3. For five consecutive quarters, Alberta has seen interprovincial migration top 10,000 - the first time this has happened since StatsCan started tracking the data in 1971. The majority of interprovincial migration comes from Ontario and B.C., and when combined with international migration, has resulted in a 4.3% rise in Alberta's population over the past year.
- Changes are on the way to Calgary and Edmonton’s City Charters. The Province will make some amendments to mitigate potential housing cost increases and address housing needs. The changes aim to enhance affordability by reducing costs for developers by reducing off-site levies and eliminating inclusionary zoning. Additionally, the authority for cities to make bylaws regarding energy consumption and heat retention will be repealed to ensure a uniform building code throughout the province.
Last Week In Alberta:
- Alberta has signed a three-year bilateral agreement with the federal government, which provides the province with over $1 billion for healthcare services. The agreement aims to increase healthcare accessibility for Albertans by enhancing diagnostic imaging capacity, reducing wait times for CT scans and MRIs, and improving access to digital healthcare services. Alberta is the third province, after British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, to sign a deal with Ottawa under a $196 billion deal the federal government offered the provinces earlier in the year. The Province has allocated $200 million of the money as stabilization funding to assist family doctors in maintaining their practices while negotiating a new funding agreement. The criteria for distributing the $200 million over the next two years will be finalized in the near future as negotiations on a new funding model with the medical association continue.
Premier Danielle Smith criticized the federal government's proposed plan to end the sale of new gas or diesel-powered vehicles by 2035, asserting that Ottawa lacks the “legal or moral authority to tell Albertans what vehicles they can and cannot buy”. Smith argued that emissions-reduction initiatives should be consumer-driven and business-supported. She warned of potential cost increases, especially in Alberta's unpredictable and cold climate, and called the federal government's timeline "bizarrely impossible."
- The Alberta Legislature has adopted automatic speech recognition software to transcribe debates in real-time, replacing a team of around 20 transcribers. The software quickly converts spoken words into written transcriptions, expediting the production of the Hansard, the official record of Assembly remarks. The technology, currently used for the initial draft of Hansard, requires subsequent editing in a four-step process to ensure accuracy and style. The speech recognition software was trained with thousands of audio files and written transcripts to familiarize it with legislative chamber debates' unique nature, including accents, vocabulary, and sentence structure. While improving efficiency, the technology is not without challenges, particularly in handling commas, speaker identification, and paragraphing.
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