Many Albertans will receive financial relief from the provincial government amid the ongoing inflation and affordability crisis, Premier Danielle Smith announced on Tuesday night.
During a televised address, Smith revealed her government plans to provide a $600 payment over the next six months for each child under 18 in families with lower incomes.
The threshold for the child benefit is that the family earns less than $180,000 per year.
She said such payments will also be made to seniors and people who receive benefits from Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped and Persons with Developmental Disabilities.
Smith also reiterated her government’s plan to re-index benefits for seniors and AISH recipients that were de-indexed by the United Conservatives in 2019.
She also announced Alberta will not charge its gasoline tax for the next six months and will increase the rebate amount Alberta households and small businesses already receive on their electricity bills to an amount “totalling an additional $200 per household.”
Smith accused the federal government of causing inflation through government spending and attacking Alberta’s economy and said Alberta’s fiscal situation is in a position where the government is able to provide financial relief for citizens who need it.
“These are just first steps and there’s much more to do,” she said.
In a statement released after Smith’s address, Opposition Leader Rachel Notley accused Smith’s United Conservative government of having contributed to the affordability crisis and said the UCP is trying to address the issue by “reversing their own bad decisions.”
“We’re not buying it. And neither should you,” Notley said, adding if her New Democrats win the spring election, her party will “permanently reverse the UCP’s cuts to the child and family benefit, the seniors benefit, income Support and AISH.”
“And we’ll go further. We’ll take action on the things you don’t have a choice about paying for like groceries, utilities, insurance, gasoline, tuition and housing.”
Smith gives idea of her plans once MLAs return to legislature
MLAs will return to the Alberta legislature on Nov. 29 for the new legislative session. In her address on Tuesday, Smith accused the federal government of infringing on what she called Alberta’s constitutional right to develop and export its resources and to make decisions about how to deliver services in the policy realms of things like health care and education and also criticized equalization payments.
She said she expects her contentious sovereignty act, which she has suggested would allow Alberta to not adhere to any federal policy that the provincial government does not believe is in its interest, to be tabled next week.
Smith became premier when she won the UCP leadership contest last month. The next provincial election is set to take place on May 29.
Without going into details, Smith said she has spoken to Health Minister Jason Copping about implementing reforms in the health-care system, noting she believes spending more money on the system is not necessarily the answer to improving it.
“We have far too many managers and consultants,” she said. “Albertans are waiting too long for emergency room treatment.”
She said her government’s priorities with regard to health-care reform are to reduce wait times in emergency rooms, improving ambulance response times and reducing wait times for surgeries “by using specialized surgical centres and underutilized rural hospitals and operating rooms that are just sitting there empty.”
The NDP has called on Smith to voice her support for public health care in light of her writing a policy paper last year before re-entering politics in which she suggested the province was no longer able to afford paying for universal social programs paid for wholly by taxpayers. She floated the idea of health-spending accounts to get citizens used to helping to pay for their own health care.
Over the weekend, Smith tweeted she is “committed to public health care.”
–With files from Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
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