We have been the voice of business in Grande Prairie & District for more than a hundred years!
2022 Proposed Policy Resolutions
Our Chamber has submitted the following proposed policy resolutions to the Alberta Chambers of Commerce (ACC). The ACC network will vote on the resolutions during the policy session of the 2022 ACC Annual General Meeting in May in Lethbridge.
Sponsored by: Grande Prairie
Labour shortages, already a pressing issue for Canadian businesses before the COVID-19 pandemic, are growing and new ones emerging. Yet Canada’s Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and the Alberta Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) program claw backs are creating barriers to labour market participation for many employable older adults and for persons with disabilities. This is increasing labour market pressures, negatively impacting these citizens’ quality of life, and limiting Canada and Alberta’s potential economic output.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta:
1. Work with federal, provincial and territory governments, industry and academia to create a modern framework for RIS that includes undertaking a comprehensive review of the GIS income thresholds and claw back rates to allow for higher earnings exemptions and income thresholds, which will incentivize older Canadians to voluntarily delay receiving RIS, delay retirement or enter the labour force after retirement;
2. Undertake a comprehensive review of the AISH claw backs, striving for a model that allows for higher earnings exemptions and income thresholds before claw backs to incentivize AISH recipients to enter or remain in the labour force; and
3. Ensure reform encourages and allows as much participation as possible in the workforce for GIS and AISH recipients, helps these individuals stay out of poverty, and allows them to maintain or improve their standard of living.
Retirement Income System (RIS) and Barriers to Employment
Canada’s RIS (which includes GIS) functions on many of the assumptions that we had decades ago. Though some reforms recently have been introduced, innovation to Canada’s RIS programs has been slow, especially in light of the evolving economic, demographic, social and labour market context. Research posits that a lack of integrated political decision-making, regulation and research is restricting RIS innovation.
When Canada’s public pension programs were designed over 50 years ago, the average age of the population was under 30. We’re now on average over 40-years-old and living longer. About 23% of the working age population will be 65 years or older by 2024. Between 2021-2024, Canada will lose about 600,000 workers as people age and exceed 65-years-old, lowering the share of the population participating in labour markets.
Further, many Canadians now face personal ¬financial uncertainty. Forty years ago, almost half of working Canadians had some form of pension coverage. Today, only about one-third do. Faced with living longer and fewer savings, worries about “inadequate savings for retirement, outliving their money, and affording health services that are not universally guaranteed (such as long-term care)” are more prevalent.
What is concerning is that while Canada is experiencing a declining labour force and Canadians are facing increasing costs of living and inadequate savings for retirement, research shows features of Canada’s public retirement income system have significant work and income earning disincentives for older workers. The greatest impact is on recipients of Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), a government program intended to support low-income seniors.
Basic Old Age Security (OAS) is a monthly payment available to all Canadian residents aged 65 and over. GIS is based on income and is available to low-income OAS recipients. A single senior qualifies for GIS if their income is below $19,464; couples qualify if their combined income is below $46,656.
These thresholds are meant to provide “floors” to keep people out poverty. To provide greater context for GIS thresholds, the thresholds to meet “low-income status” for Alberta’s Community Housing Program are much higher: $25,500 to $43,000 (bachelor, 2021), depending on where you live. This represents the minimum income required to meet basic needs in different municipalities throughout Alberta.
What is discouraging low earning seniors from saving for retirement and taking employment is that GIS benefits are reduced or clawed back for other income earned, including employment and self-employment income, above $5,000 per year. For earnings between $5,000 and $15,000, GIS will be reduced by 50 cents for every dollar of income received.
Further, because GIS is based on previous year’s income, the effect of earning additional income can be experienced for up to two years. For example, if an individual receiving GIS earns other income over $5,000 in 2020, the GIS for that year is clawed back after they file their 2020 taxes and they will continue to lose the monthly benefit amount until they file their 2021 tax return showing no additional income. Although GIS is paid retroactively for qualifying years, the loss of GIS income for an entire year can have significant impact on quality of life during that time period.
In addition, other provincial income supplements, and health and basic needs programs are also restricted if the individual earns income. Although these individuals are in need of additional income to meet basic living expenses, the risk of losing benefits creates a major disincentive for earning additional income through part-time employment.
Reform of GIS claw back mechanisms to incentivize older workers to participate in the labour force aligns with recommendations from the Melbourne-Mercer Global Pension Index (MMGPI), which benchmarks and ranks retirement income systems across the world. In 2019, MMGI made three recommendations for improvement to Canada’s RIS. One of those is: “Increase labour force participation rates at older ages as life expectancy increases.”
When Canadians work longer there are numerous benefits to the economy and workplaces:
• Modeling shows that the impact to Canada could be substantial in terms of extra labour supply and real output and would result in a substantial increase in living standards.
• Studies show that 1) older workers’ accumulated knowledge, leadership skills and high job match quality contribute to high productivity; and, 2) since experience is a key element in the commercialization aspects of innovation, an older workforce may increase this dimension of innovative capacity.
• More seniors working drives economic growth and generates tax revenue for government.
Alberta Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH)
AISH was established to support Albertans with a disability who are unable to solely support themselves through work. Yet while many Albertans with disabilities wish to be employed, the existing claw back mechanism on AISH funding, similar to those claw backs for low-income seniors discussed above, is making it difficult for Albertans with disabilities who may be willing and able to integrate into the workforce to do so. Many AISH recipients have to keep earnings low enough to stay on AISH, in order to receive their maximum eligible amounts and to continue to be eligible for the medical services they need.
Albertans with disabilities not working and receiving AISH receive $19,056.47 annually, which does not provide enough money for basic necessities. A University of Calgary study, for example, found that the cost of support required by many individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is “well beyond what the individuals with ASD and their families could pay for out of annual income, giving many no choice but to stay on AISH.” As a result, rather than integrating into the workforce, these Albertans remain in a cycle of dependency on the government. So despite having high levels of education and an availability of workers, data shows that persons with disabilities are highly underrepresented in the workforce.
Social assistance programs can contribute not only to a healthier and more productive population but to a healthier labour market. Key to achieving these goals is reform to the low-income amounts provided to AISH recipients and to the claw back rates to facilitate entry into the workforce for Albertans with disabilities.
A more modern framework to reduce the cost of participating in the workforce
It is in the best interest for individuals, communities, the government and the economy to ensure all productive and capable individuals have access to the labour market. Policy to eliminate current barriers for GIS and AISH recipients to remain in or enter the labour market is critical. Such reform will reduce the cost of working, and encourage and allow as much participation as possible in the workforce for those who are able – helping drive a healthy and diverse labour market. It will also generate long-term cost savings to the government as recipients leave the programs or rely less on them.
Sponsored by: Grande Prairie
The cost of transmission and distribution of electricity to customers has created disparity in pricing across Alberta. Extremely high power bills in some parts of the province are mainly driven by higher distribution charges. Distribution costs are higher in rural and northern service areas, with consumers in these areas paying up to 400% more for distribution services compared to consumers in urban service areas. Moreover, with customers in Saskatchewan and British Columbia paying significantly lower electricity rates than customers in most of Alberta, Alberta’s overall competitiveness and ability to attract business is further impeded.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta:
1. Create a tax incentive for utility distribution companies operating outside of Alberta’s two metropolitan areas with the mandate to pass the savings along to customers through reduced distribution delivery rates.
Electricity industry structure in Alberta
In Alberta, electrical generation and retailing make up the de-regulated sectors of the market while transmission and distribution are government regulated sectors. Because electricity delivery is a fully regulated service, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) reviews and approves the rates to ensure they are fair and reasonable for Alberta customers. According to its mandate, the AUC considers and protects the social, economic and environmental interests of Alberta where competitive forces do not.
However, depending on where you live or operate a business in Alberta, there is disparity in these charges: residential, farm and commercial customers in rural and northern areas pay significantly higher electricity costs than those in more urban areas. Charges for distribution are higher in rural and northern areas because of the low population density and longer distances between consumer sites. A distribution system that serves rural areas costs more than those serving urban areas because there are longer distances between customers; the utility must build, operate and maintain more poles, wires and facilities to serve each customer; and there are fewer customers on systems in rural areas sharing the costs.
As shown in figures A and B, distribution and transmission charges are highest in ATCO’s service area, followed by FortisAlberta’s service area. ATCO primarily serves northern Alberta and parts of eastern Alberta. FortisAlberta serves the south and western more rural areas of Alberta. (A recent analysis shows that electricity prices in Alberta in 2021 were more than double the Alberta power pool price seen in 2020, and costs will remain elevated in 2022.)
Breaking down the charges: Transmission and Distribution
Energy delivery charges in Alberta include two components: transmission and distribution (in addition to rate riders). Transmission charges cover the cost of moving electric energy from generating facilities through high-voltage transmission lines to the distribution system. Charges are based on the electricity used by the consumer, and make up between 14% to 20% of a customer’s total bill. In 2020, monthly transmission charges paid by the average residential customer with 600kWh of consumption ranged from $20.88 (EPCOR’s service area) to $28.19 (ATCO’s service area).
Distribution charges cover the cost of moving electric energy from substation transformers through local, lower-voltage lines that carry electricity to a customer’s meter. These charges make up between 22% and 47% of a customer’s total bill. In 2020, monthly distribution charges paid by the average residential consumer with 600kWh consumption ranged from $22.55 (ENMAX’s service area) to $81.11 (ATCO’s service area). Consumers in the ATCO zone can pay twice as much for distribution compared to rural consumers in the ForisAlberta zone, and nearly 400% more than residential consumers in Calgary.
Figure A - Average monthly transmission charges for residential RRO customers, by service area
Figure B – Average monthly distribution charges for residential RRO customers, by service area
Alberta’s current electrical system creates further economic penalties for Alberta ratepayers
While disparities in electricity rates exist within Alberta, much lower electrical transmission and distribution rates in both Saskatchewan and British Columbia are also impacting Alberta’s ability to attract and retain business. Alberta business owners with property in the two neighbouring provinces report paying much lower rates in Saskatchewan and BC. While this impedes economic growth and development in rural communities along provincial borders, it also puts Alberta at a competitive disadvantage.
In addition, as electricity costs increase, consumers are exploring other alternatives. According to a recent AUC study, an increasing number of industrial facilities have been installing their own generation sources and individual Albertans and small businesses are doing the same. With fewer customers to share costs of the electrical system, remaining electricity customers, particularly those in areas of low customer density, may be further penalized by the even higher rates. Further, as Alberta moves towards electrifying the grid, and as demand for electricity puts even greater pressure on the electricity system, the result will mean even greater disparities in pricing.
Higher electricity rates in certain areas of the province don’t just threaten industry and businesses in that region but impact all of Alberta. Alberta’s North, for example, has an abundance of resources with high global demand. Its economic contributions to the whole of Alberta and Canada are significant: the area contains much of Alberta’s natural resources, specifically, 100% of the oil sands deposits, 86% of forests, both conventional oil and natural gas production, about 28% of Alberta’s total farm area, as well as the associated opportunities in value-added and emerging technologies. The ripple effect of economic impacts from higher electricity costs faced by these northern industrial operations cannot be ignored.
An electrical system that creates a fair playing field for the delivery of affordable electricity to Alberta homes, farms, businesses and industry is critical not only for all Albertans’ well-being but for the strength of Alberta’s economy and overall competitiveness. Further consideration must be taken to developing such a system that does not penalize communities and business owners based on their geographic location – one that protects the social, economic and environmental interests of all Albertans.
Sponsored by: Grande Prairie
Alberta’ electricity sector is rapidly undergoing transformation, most notably influenced by the drive toward net-zero emissions and the demands of the increased electrification of other sectors of the economy. Alberta’s future depends on the successful restructuring of the province’s electricity system, not only to support the massive ramp-up of clean electricity required, but to ensure Albertans are not faced with soaring electricity costs that would threaten industry and business and citizen well-being. A clear, transparent and phased plan for a path forward is urgently needed – one that strikes a balance between the addition of renewable energy sources while encouraging investment and economic growth.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta:
1. Develop and openly share a comprehensive plan to transform Alberta’s electrical system into the future. The plan should:
a. Be informed by industry, stakeholders, energy transition research centres and the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) working collaboratively to understand the potential pathways and implications to a net-zero grid of the future;
b. Be informed by analysis of the costs of implementing renewable energy;
c. Ensure Albertans have access to a reliable supply of power at affordable rates;
d. Ensure Alberta’s price of electricity enhances, not detracts from, our ability to compete globally and attract investment;
e. Support working with other provinces, the federal government, and the United States to grow, better integrate and optimize the electricity grid;
f. Support a phased approach that does not place rapid significant increases in rates on end-use customers;
g. Have the flexibility to mitigate potential adverse impacts and respond to changing market conditions;
h. Be transparent, engaging and informing Alberta businesses and industries at all stages of its development and implementation to ensure they can be prepared and operationally ready for change; and
i. Include a strategy to retrain employees working in the current energy industry to the renewables sector.
As the world – including Alberta – aims for a net-zero future, Alberta’s power sector is undergoing significant change. Alberta has set possible targets of 40-50% fewer total emissions than in 2005 by 2035 and net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. Already it has made great strides in nearing its 2035 target, primarily through the implementation of renewable technology and coal generation conversions to natural gas.
Research shows clean electrification of the economy (substituting fossil fuels with increasingly clean, zero-carbon electricity) is the cheapest and most efficient way to reach net-zero GHG targets. Technology like electric vehicles, advancements in hydrogen and carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), for example, is rapidly transforming all sectors of the electricity industry, including Alberta’s electricity system.
The shift to net-zero has immense implications for Alberta and Alberta businesses: it creates opportunities such as job creation, new infrastructure development and capital investment. A 2021 study found that “pursuing net-zero in Alberta could create nearly 170,000 new clean technology jobs and contribute $61 billion in GDP to the province’s economy by 2050.” In late 2021, the province announced Alberta’s Hydrogen Roadmap, aiming to integrate hydrogen into its electricity and heating systems, use it to power the transportation and industrial sectors, and export it as a source of low-emission energy. In addition, Alberta is showing leadership in CCUS development, an emissions-reducing storage technology that will help ensure a reliable supply of electricity.
While the opportunities for Alberta are promising, there is much work to do if we are to transition towards net-zero with an equal commitment to sustainable economic growth. Canada’s electricity systems are largely isolated from one another and there has been little progress made to break down those silos. The Business Council of Alberta recommends better integration of provincial grids across the country to create more resilient, efficient and stable systems. The Council also recommends expanding cross-border infrastructure so as to strengthen the North American partnership to accelerate cross-border clean electricity transmission.
Just as critical for Alberta is the need for a provincial roadmap for grid decarbonization. Currently, Alberta lacks such a plan. Without a comprehensive plan to move forward, Albertans face tremendous uncertainty and Alberta is at risk of experiencing the adverse impacts seen in some other jurisdictions.
Pursuing net-zero: Lessons to be learned
As Alberta seeks to chart a path on energy transition, lessons can be drawn from Ontario and Germany. The Province of Ontario invested billions, moving quickly in the pursuit of renewable energy without sound analysis of the costs of implementing green technologies into the grid. Its Green Energy Act, introduced in 2009, and repealed in 2019, contributed to a doubling of electricity prices in a decade, and according to an Ontario Chamber of Commerce report, resulted in the province having one of the highest electricity rates in North America, undermined Chamber members’ capacity to grow and hire new workers, and increased the cost of doing business in Ontario.
Overseas, Germany is steeped in controversy for its renewable energy deployment. The country had ambitious climate goals; when it went on its path of pursuing renewable energy for its electric generation, rates skyrocketed. Germans now pay some of the highest rates in the world for electricity. Further, the country’s per capita emissions are higher than many other European nations: the decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022 may have prolonged the use of coal, whose phase-out is not set to occur until 2033. And the country’s heavy reliance on weather dependent renewables is requiring rethinking to avoid volatility in the system.
More demand, more generation, more investment required
Adopting renewable technologies is expensive. And Alberta in the future will need more power than today to meet growing demand from more electric vehicles on the road, electrified heating, etc. For example, in Canada, in just under three decades, we will need about twice as much non-emitting electricity as we do today to connect our vehicles, heating systems and industry to a clean electricity grid. In Alberta, calculations using data from the Canadian Energy Regulators suggest that a shift from gas to electricity for residential and small commercial businesses alone (which make up just 13% of the province’s current natural gas load) will require 66,000 megawatts of power. As Alberta currently peaks out at 12,000 megawatts, that means about 5 times more electricity than is now being generated will be required for just those two sectors alone.
Increasing clean generation requires more investment into clean and emerging technologies. This investment will impact government and end-use consumers, as some of these costs will be passed on to Albertans. According to an October 2021 Alberta Chambers poll of Alberta businesses, about two-thirds of all respondents are worried about rising power costs, 43% reported increases of more than 15% of monthly operating costs, and 35% reported their power costs had increased by 20% compared to just 7% in 2020.
A transition to renewable energy is important for our planet and necessary for our province. As Alberta transforms the electricity grid, it is pertinent that clean and reliable energy should be affordable for and accessible to everyone. Detailed analysis of the costs and implications of electrifying Alberta’s grid, followed by a comprehensive plan forward is critical to a net-zero future – and the future growth and competitiveness of Alberta and Alberta businesses.
Sponsored by: Grande Prairie
In 2015, Statistics Canada combined two Alberta economic regions (ER): Banff-Jasper-Rocky Mountain House and Athabasca-Grande Prairie-Peace River to make improvements to Labour Force Survey data. The new economic region, however, encompasses nearly all of the western half of Alberta and links together economies that are vastly different. This has resulted in data that are neither useful nor reliable. The data neither reflect the realities of the vastly different economies within the combined ER, nor highlight the dynamics within Alberta’s economy. In the absence of data that do not identify the real strengths and challenges of these varied economies, communities/regions within this combined ER face an economic disadvantage, and policy-makers/decision-makers are unable to take meaningful actions to foster growth and address challenges. This has implications for Alberta and Canada as the economies in this region are a vital source of economic activity provincially and nationally.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta:
1. Through the Alberta Office of Statistical Information, work with Statistics Canada to develop a model of decision-making to define the boundaries of Alberta’s economic regions (ERs) that ensure ERs produce robust and reliable Labour Force Survey data that best reflect the economic landscapes and labour forces across Alberta.
Economic Regions: Their Purpose
In Canada, an economic region (ER) is a grouping of complete census divisions (CDs) created for the analysis of regional economic activity. According to Statistics Canada, “such a unit is small enough to permit regional analysis, yet large enough to include enough respondents that, after data are screened for confidentiality, a broad range of statistics can still be released.”
Over the years, the boundaries of the regions have been redrawn, most recently “adjusted to accommodate changes in census division boundaries and to satisfy provincial needs.” In 2015, ER 4840 (Banff-Jasper-Rocky Mountain House) was combined with ER 4870 (Athabasca-Grande Prairie-Peace River) for the purpose of obtaining better data. ER 4840 was identified as small by population, making it difficult to achieve variance (quality) targets. Statistics Canada (in consultation with the Alberta Government) made the decision to combine ER 4840 with 4870 “because both [ERs] are rural and have similar economies.”
Labour Force Survey (LFS): Measuring Economic Performance
The LFS is a household survey carried out monthly by Statistics Canada and “is among the most timely and important measures of the overall performance of the Canadian economy... It is the only source of monthly estimates of total employment, including self-employment, full- and part-time employment, and unemployment. It publishes monthly standard labour market indicators such as the unemployment rate, employment rate and participation rate. In addition, the LFS provides information on the personal characteristics of the working-age population including age, sex, marital status, educational attainment, and family characteristics. Employment estimates include detailed breakdowns by demographic characteristics, industry and occupation, job tenure, and usual and actual hours worked.” LFS data estimates are produced for Canada, the provinces, the territories and a large number of sub-provincial regions.
Data drive decisions
LFS data are a crucial tool. Data inform local and global investors and entrepreneurs considering businesses opportunities in communities and regions; can create incentive or hindrance that impact behaviour (i.e., investment) and decision-making; and help inform governments (federal, provincial, local) so they are able to develop meaningful policies and strategies to foster growth where it is flourishing, and help ignite it where it is languishing.
One data set, vastly different economies
While LFS data are designed to provide key labour market estimates for ERs and must be sufficiently reliable to support the various uses of the data, some data for this newly combined ER region (4840 and 4870) present an inaccurate picture of this ER’s economies. Not only does the ER encompass almost all of the western half of Alberta, but there are significant differences in the economies and labour forces between some areas in ER 4840 (which includes two national parks and is tourism-based) and ER 4870 (which includes economies based on a foundation of world-class natural resources including oil, natural gas, forestry and agriculture). Building in other factors has in some cases resulted in an economic analysis that is not representative of the true nature of the different economies and labour forces within the combined ER; as such, some data is neither reliable nor useful, and in some cases, is detrimental to economic development.
In the Grande Prairie region, for example, the ER’s unemployment rate (derived from the LFS) is typically 1-2 percent higher than the reality in the region’s economic landscape (estimates based on previous years’ data when labour force data for Grande Prairie (CA) were available, combined with current data on local spending figures, hotel stays, rental vacancies, etc.). Economic Development Officers in the region report that this elevated Statistics Canada unemployment rate is deterring potential investors from investing in the region , as unemployment data is an important indicator of the economic potential of an area. In turn, this presents barriers and additional challenges for northwestern Alberta and its ability to compete on a provincial, national and global scale. This also has implications beyond regional borders, as the Grande Prairie region is noted for its economic contributions to the provincial and national economies due to its proximity to the prolific world-class Montney-Duvernay shale gas play, its global reputation for agricultural and forest products, and its trade area of over 280,000 people.
To the south of the combined ER, the Towns of Jasper and Banff, located in the Canadian Rockies and in national parks, as well as Canmore, have an economic landscape, and unique labour force and labour force challenges distinctly different from the Grande Prairie region and the rest of Alberta. Recent research has highlighted that these municipalities, which rely on tourism, face unique pressures in their efforts to provide effective and sustainable service delivery and quality infrastructure to large numbers of domestic and international visitors. Combining economic data for this region with areas that have distinctly different economic drivers does not reflect the economic realities in these mountain park communities, and as such, is not an effective tool for understanding and addressing the challenges associated with being major international tourist destinations. This, too, has important implications beyond this region, as the ability of these communities to attract and serve visitors benefits Alberta as a whole, other Alberta communities, and Canada.
Reliable data to effectively inform
While the economic regions (4840 & 4870) were combined to capture a more reliable figure about its labour markets, this change has produced LFS data that, in some cases, are neither useful nor reliable, and have even been detrimental to economic development. Ensuring the boundaries of Alberta’s economic regions allow for reliable LFS results that reflect the dynamics and differences in the economic landscape is necessary to foster resilient communities and robust local economies, and drive vitality and competitiveness within Alberta’s economy.
In 2021, Our Chamber submitted a policy resolution regarding "Safer workplaces for all vulnerable highway workers" as seen below, followed by the recent media release from the Government of Alberta touting "Improving safety for roadside workers".
We are pleased to see the positive response to our proposed recommendations.
Safer Workplaces for All Vulnerable Highway Workers Sponsor: Grande Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce
Every day, thousands of roadside workers face risks while at work on Alberta highways and roads. Emergency vehicles1 and tow trucks with flashing lights are protected by Alberta’s slow down move over law; 2 yet the law excludes vulnerable very short duration roadside workers. Traffic legally passes directly beside these roadside workers without reducing speed or moving over. Further, in Alberta, this law applies only to the lane immediately beside the stopped vehicle, not all lanes travelling in the same direction, creating motorist confusion and increasing risks to all on the road. Amendments to provincial legislation are required to make roads safer for all Alberta roadside workers.
Safe and well-maintained transportation networks across Alberta are vital to driving economic activity, and connecting people and communities. Ensuring the safety and well-being of those roadside workers who keep our highways/roads safe and well-maintained is critical. The road is their workplace and their jobs sometimes require that they park vehicles/equipment on or along the side of the road. Alberta roadside workers, supported by other stakeholders, have been lobbying for change to provincial traffic laws to better protect them in this high-risk environment.
Slow down move over: equal protection for all roadside workers In 2005, Alberta established legislation to create safer conditions for roadside workers. This slow down move over law requires drivers in the adjacent lane to slow to 60 km/hr or slower when passing emergency vehicles with flashing lights, including tow trucks. (Current legislation also requires motorists to observe the posted speed limit in construction zones.) The slow down move over law, however, does not include all vulnerable roadside workers. It excludes those stationery workers conducting “very short duration work”3 (projects up to 30 minutes, as defined by Alberta Transportation). This includes highway maintenance workers, sign installers, line locaters, surveyors, survey crews, etc.
What this means is that when these individuals are stationery and working on the shoulder of the road, vehicles can legally pass in the lane directly beside them without moving over or slowing down – in some cases travelling at speeds as high as 110 km/hr (or higher if exceeding the speed limit). Left completely unprotected by a buffer and slower speed, these workers are at heightened risk of being hit or killed. In addition, these roadside workers are also required to work in emergency situations, in low light, at night or in inclement weather when visibility is poor. Many cite examples of near misses and collisions while on the job. For example, in an eight-month period, one Grande Prairie area line locating company reported vehicle damage on three occasions from passing traffic. In 2015, British Columbia modified its slow down move over rule in response to safety concerns voiced by roadside workers who had been excluded from the law. The law today now includes all roadside workers displaying a flashing light on their vehicle.4
Slow down and move over: align with other provinces for better protection Lobby efforts are also underway for further change to this law to create a safer workplace for roadside workers protected under this law. The change proposes that vehicles in all lanes moving in the same direction, not just the adjacent one, slow down and move over when a designated roadside vehicle is present. On a single-lane, undivided highway, oncoming traffic would also slow down.
In every other province in Canada with slow down move over legislation, the rule applies to all traffic lanes in the same direction of travel. According to the Alberta Motor Association (AMA), the problem with Alberta’s law is that many drivers are unclear whether or not they are to slow down, resulting in scattered behaviour and massive speed variations. As well, hazards arise when vehicles slowing down attempt to merge into a lane with fast-moving vehicles.5
Amending legislation and aligning it with the rest of Canada would reduce motorist confusion. It is important to note, however, that while such a change will create a safer environment for workers currently protected under slow down move over, very short duration roadside workers will only benefit from this change if included under the law.
All roadside workers in Alberta have the right to a safe workplace. In December 2020, the Government of Alberta expressed its commitment to the safety of all roadside workers by “actively looking at ways to improve safety on Alberta roads.”6 These amendments to Alberta’s traffic legislation support that commitment by creating a safer working environment for this workforce and the motorists sharing the road with them.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce Recommends that the Government of Alberta:
1. Amend Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act (section 115) so stationery very short duration workers conducting roadside work have the same protection as other highway workers already included under the Act.
2. Amend Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act requiring that vehicles in all traffic lanes in the same direction of travel slow down and move over, not just the adjacent lane. Consideration should also be given to include opposite direction traffic on two-lane, undivided highways.
Improving safety for roadside workers
March 16, 2022
Bill 5 will toughen rules to protect all roadside workers and make Alberta’s highways safer.
The Traffic Safety Amendment Act will require all motorists traveling in the same direction to slow down to at least 60 km/h when passing a stopped roadside worker vehicle with its lights flashing.
The proposed changes will also require motorists traveling in the opposite direction on single lane highways to slow down to 60 km/h when passing.
“Roadside workers work in a high-risk environment and deserve the best protection so that they can go home safely to their families at the end of their shift. That’s why, following consultations with the public and stakeholders, Alberta’s government is proposing these changes to protect all those working along our highways.”
Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Transportation
Proposed changes under Bill 5 will give similar protection to roadside maintenance workers and snowplow operators that first responders and tow truck operators currently have under the Traffic Safety Act.
“Near misses and collisions are a regular occurrence for Alberta’s tow truck operators, emergency responders and other roadside workers. We applaud these changes as an important first step in improving the safety of these essential workers and look forward to our continued work in further improving their visibility and safety. We ask all Albertans to take care when passing a roadside scene. Those few extra seconds can make all the difference in keeping someone’s loved on safe.”
Michelle Chimko, president and CEO, Alberta Motor Association
“Alberta’s road construction and maintenance industry puts worker safety first. This legislation is greatly appreciated because we need drivers to slow down and do their part to make their highways – our worksites – safe and efficient for all.”
Ron Glen, CEO, Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association
“Highway maintenance crews throughout our industry provide critical services to our province’s expansive highway and road network, for the benefit of all Albertans. It is gratifying to see our government taking deliberate and proactive measures to improve safety for all highway maintenance and roadside personnel.”
Kelly McManus, president, Transportation and Highway Operations, LaPrairie Group of Companies
“Road safety and the safety of personnel is a high priority across Alberta. Bill 5 considers the concerns that were raised by Albertans and is intended to protect road users and workers, create safety programs that encompass best practices, as well as a province with the highest quality road infrastructure for the transportation of people, goods, and services.”
Amber Link, reeve, Wheatland County
- Alberta’s Government will conduct an educational campaign for all drivers prior to the anticipated enforcement date of spring 2023.
- About 15,000 Albertans responded to an online survey from March 16 to April 6, 2021:
- 92 per cent supported requiring all vehicles to provide one lane of space when passing a roadside worker vehicle when its lights are flashing.
- 60 felt that the current passing laws were inadequate.
- Current fines for passing an emergency vehicle on the side of the road can range from $136 to $826, depending on the speed.
- Between March 2018 and March 2021, there were 128 collisions involving snowplows contracted by Alberta Transportation.
- The Alberta Motor Association reported that since December 2019, there have been 36 near misses and at least 13 serious roadside incidents involving Alberta tow trucks and passing vehicles - collisions resulting in injury, hospitalization and even death.
Current Policies Flagged for Follow Up by our Chamber
The agriculture industry significantly contributes to Alberta’s economy and enhancing the strength of the sector is an important priority. It is particularly important for Alberta’s agri-food industry to market their products in a way that reflects the link between ‘Grown-in-Canada’ product and a supply chain, environment, standard, and identity that is uniquely and 100% Canadian.
Country of Origin (COO) labelling is regulated by the Government of Canada and labelling standards must comply with the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade Rules and Codex standards which serves to prevent protectionist agendas and technical barriers to trade. Within this regulatory framework, it is particularly important for Alberta’s agri-food industry to champion a voluntary ‘Made in Canada’ brand in order to increase value and to provide a marketing link between grown-in-Canada product and the strong Canadian standards for food safety and environmental stewardship.
COO labelling is viewed as a critical mechanism to help ensure consumers can correctly connect with products, enable producers to adapt production to meet consumer demands and expectations and promote social or political economic objectives (e.g. health outcomes, growth in desirable sectors, increased exports). Informing consumers of the origin of food products via labelling is motivated by the recognition that geography is often correlated with a product’s overall quality, or, in the stronger case, geography may even be a determinant of a product’s ultimate realized quality.
‘Canada’s Economic Strategy Tables’ on Agri-food reports that Canada has the opportunity to be “recognized as the most trusted, competitive and reliable supplier of safe, sustainable, high-quality agri-food products and an innovator in value-added products to feed the dynamic global consumer” but requires a unified campaign focused on marketing the agri-food industry both domestically and internationally. The agri-food industry also includes value-added agriculture and agri-food processing which are often forgotten as a vital part of the industry. With the agri-food industry target set to increase by over 27% to $225 billion dollars in 2025, all sectors must be given the opportunity to reach their full potential through a unified COO brand.
There is robust support from all levels of the supply chain for a unified ‘Grown in Canada Brand’. In a report by MNP on consumer demands for a Canadian Label, over 90 per cent of Canadian consumers felt Canadian-grown product should be easily identifiable in stores and 95 per cent of consumers would prefer to buy Canadian-grown product that is competitively priced. Similarly, in a report from the Next Agriculture Policy Framework (NAPF), there is also strong support from the agri-food industry in Alberta to enhance public perceptions about the quality, safety, and sustainability of the agriculture sector. Industry indicated that a priority for the NAPF should be to enable market access and develop market opportunities to foster growth. Given the importance of market development to the agri-food industry and the key priority set forth by the NAPF of “expanding domestic and international markets to seize key opportunities and address emerging needs” and “improving the growth of the value-added agriculture and agri-food processing sector”, marketing the agri-food industry should be a priority for the Government of Alberta.
There are currently opportunities for marketing the agri-food industry. The Government of Canada is preparing a five year, multi-million-dollar advertising campaign to better connect Canadians with their food. This includes between $1.5 million - $4 million dollars to refresh branding and developing ways to increase product of Canada stickers.
Given the size of the agriculture industry in Alberta, the provincial government should be partnering to promote locally grown and processed agriculture products to position the Alberta agriculture industry as a leading force in Canada. The NAPF also includes the AgriMarketing program, a federal-only program, which provides funding for market development and promotion activities. In 2019, the Federal government unveiled the ‘Canada Brand’ which includes a suite of tools including graphics, images and messaging that can help you brand your products and leverage consumers' positive perceptions of Canada. However, the qualifications for the brand include even more lax qualifications than “Made in Canada” and “Product of Canada” labels. While this is a step in the right direction, products that are ‘grown in Canada’ signify a supply chain, environment, standard, and identity that is uniquely and 100% Canadian.
The Alberta government has a responsibility to market Alberta’s agriculture, particularly when there is a very clear mandate from the agriculture industry in Alberta to promote locally grown, sourced, and produced food and demand for easily identified Canadian products. However, while there are various opportunities for marketing the agri-food industry, there is no distinct, recognizable, and unified brand. Products with a regulated COO can command between 21% - 39% higher price premiums compared with non-regulated regional labels.  This serves to reinforce the importance of a distinct, recognizable, and unified ‘Grown in Canada Brand’. Therefore, because of the prominence of the agri-food industry in Alberta, Alberta is uniquely positioned to take the lead on creating a ‘Grown in Canada brand’ that reflects the safe, sustainable and high quality agri-food products.
Not only will an Alberta led ‘Grown in Canada’ brand advocate for a prominent industry in Alberta, it provides the opportunity to expand the domestic market, increase awareness among the public of the high standards in the agri-food industry, and signify products that are 100% Canadian.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta:
- Work with the Government of Canada to expand on “Canada Brand” to create a voluntary, “Grown-in-Canada” label that would identify with 100% Canadian-grown product that would include a single unified label, logo, image, and theme;
- Ensure the Next Agricultural Policy Framework works to develop branding skills, knowledge and awareness of opportunities in the agri-food industry; and
- Work with the Government of Canada to develop a unified public education strategy showcasing the agri-food industry’s practice of environmental stewardship resulting in reliable, sustainable and high-quality agri-food and value-added products.
 Consumers’ Preferences for Geographical Origin Labels: Evidence from the Canadian Olive Oil Market
 (Barham, 2003; Josling, 2006). In consumers preference
 Canada’s Economic Strategy Table: Agri-food’: 2 https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/098.nsf/vwapj/ISEDC_Agri-Food_E.pdf/$file/ISEDC_Agri-Food_E.pdf
 Canada’s Economic Strategy Table: Agri-food’: 3 https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/098.nsf/vwapj/ISEDC_Agri-Food_E.pdf/$file/ISEDC_Agri-Food_E.pdf
 Next Agricultural Policy Framework: What We Heard Report – 2 https://cap.alberta.ca/CAP/download/AGUCMINT-4795873
 Calgary Statement http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/about-our-department/public-opinion-research-and-consultations/consulting-on-the-next-agricultural-policy-framework/calgary-statement-towards-the-next-policy-framework/?id=1468864509649
 A Meta-Analysis of Geographical Indication Food Valuation Studies - 214
Serious challenges persist within Alberta's natural gas system which negatively impacts natural gas supply chain reliability, industry operations, and investor confidence. These challenges can and should be addressed to better manage the current system demand and industry operations and to further position Alberta as an industrial investment location of choice. With an abundance of natural resources, developing world-class infrastructure would provide investor confidence in the competitive advantage Alberta has for attracting new investment.
Natural gas is an important economic driver in Alberta, with approximately 65% of Canadian natural gas being produced within Alberta. 1 According to the Government of Alberta, "83% of natural gas consumed in Alberta is used by the industrial, electrical generation, transportation and other sectors. Natural gas is also an important raw material for the province’s oil sands and electric power-generation industries." 2 Natural gas is also the main raw input for hydrogen production, a key material used for producing transportation fuels, hydrogen peroxide, nickel, cobalt, ethane, and propane for Alberta, Canada, and the world.
Natural gas is supplied by federally regulated monopolies, similar to rail transportation. Currently, there are no quality specifications for natural gas at the delivery point for consumers in Alberta and this can adversely impact downstream users. Quality excursions have been experienced in Alberta and such events can have significant downstream impacts on industrial facilities and subsequently on consumer markets. Low-quality natural gas can cause production delays, damage to facilities, and quality impacts on derivative products of natural gas.
Another significant cause of concern is firm supply reliability. Natural gas customers pay a premium for "firm supply", which by definition means this supply will not be interrupted, however; Alberta companies have experienced interruptions in firm supply and continue to see risk to firm capacity supply reliability. Firm supply interruptions are the fault of the natural gas provider, typically due to a system failure. For example, a provider will experience a compressor failure, and it will be discovered a single component failure in the system results in supply interruptions. Why aren't there built-in system redundancies? Additionally, extreme cold ambient temperatures should not be a factor in firm capacity supply reliability as these temperatures are custom for Alberta to experience annually.
Maintenance coordination is also a challenge as it is not happening appropriately between natural gas providers and receivers to minimize the effects of supply interruptions. There are regular occurrences when natural gas supplier maintenance activities are scheduled during periods of high system demand. Implications of both issues include operational concerns, downtime-related costs, and decreased confidence in the supplier, supply chain and potential investors.
There are also serious concerns for timelines to secure natural gas volumes in Alberta (for existing or new facilities). Currently, firm supply is available with a 4+ year lead time, while new facilities can be built within a two- to three-year window. This misalignment of natural gas infrastructure expansion (or new build) and project development timelines will discourage new investment in Alberta.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta work with natural gas suppliers and infrastructure suppliers and, where applicable, the federal government to:
- Set quality standards for natural gas specifically at the delivery point and create provisions for losses related to the delivery of off-spec natural gas;
- Ensure timely development of new, and expansion of existing, natural gas supply infrastructure to support growing natural gas demand, attract new projects, and secure further investment in Alberta; and
- Streamline regulation and approval process for critical infrastructure builds, such as pipelines.
Government needs to strike a balance between achieving its emission reduction goals and preserving the competitiveness of the economy using pragmatic, flexible and innovative solutions.
On May 30, 2019, the United Conservative Party repealed the Climate Leadership Plan and with it the Carbon Levy adopted by the previous NDP government. However, many climate change efforts remain in place to achieve the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) including: ending pollution from coal-generated electricity by 2030; incentives to create innovative and new ways to reduce emissions; capping oil sands emissions to 100 megatonnes per year; and reducing methane emissions by 45% by 2025.
We recognize that Alberta’s emissions are challenging to reduce for three primary reasons. First, our population and economic growth rates, as well as our incomes, have grown faster than other provinces, and emissions tend to be correlated with population, income and wealth. Second, our large, anchor industries are emissions-intensive and consist of long-lived assets (oil sands plants, gas plants, chemical production, refineries, etc.) which can improve performance over time, but not as rapidly as other sectors with shorter asset lives. According to Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, 18% of Alberta’s economy would qualify, under internationally recognized standards, as being both emissions-intensive and trade-exposed (compared to 2% in B.C. and Ontario and 1% in Quebec). Finally, our choice of fuels for electricity generation drives emissions.
The Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) program replaced the Carbon Competitiveness Incentive Regulation (CCIR) for large industrial emitters on January 1, 2020 and meets the federal benchmarks of $30 per tonne on emissions and is set to increase to $40 per tonne in 2021 and $50 per tonne in 2022.
Since Alberta’s economy is particularly sensitive, there is concern that unduly aggressive actions taken to reduce emissions in Alberta may not lead to real emissions reductions. Instead investment may just shift to other jurisdictions without stringent GHG policies, negatively affecting Alberta’s economy and not ultimately impacting global greenhouse gas emissions due to carbon leakage. Ensuring that our economy and small businesses remain vital and competitive is imperative as small businesses makes up 95% of all businesses in the province and are responsible for 35% of all private sector employment in the province. Government needs to strike a balance between achieving its emissions goals and preserving the competitiveness of a “vital lynchpin” of the economy.
There are many businesses, industries and municipalities that are looking to reduce their carbon footprint by converting to natural gas as an alternate energy source. While still a source of GHG emissions, in comparison with other fuel sources natural gas is less carbon intensive, relatively clean-burning, abundant, safe, reliable and efficient. Burning natural gas gives off much fewer toxic emissions than coal or oil and for the same amount of energy produced; gas emits 30% less carbon dioxide when burned than oil, and as much as 45% less than coal. Despite this known benefit, natural gas still has significant carbon pricing applied.
An additional consideration should be measuring the total net contribution of GHG and rewarding those companies and industries who aim to mitigate their output. For example, the greenhouse industry, while consuming large amounts of natural gas, also grows plants that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Compound the carbon absorption with innovations like green carbon capture and the environmental impact in the form of GHG is very low. Taking the final net carbon footprint as a benchmark will serve the dual purpose of keeping industries competitive and innovative while also promoting tangible and measurable emissions reductions.
Earmarking a portion of the funds collected through the TIER program to create educational tools that highlight the high ethical, environmental and sustainable standards of the natural resource sector in Alberta will lay the groundwork for the education of Albertans. The goal of any climate policy is to change behavior and drive businesses and consumers to make choices that support low or zero carbon products. The provincial government must allow for the most effective way to encourage these new patterns of behaviour. Government should continue to provide incentives through tax credits to emerging alternative energy innovations which may provide wider spread and supportable long-term cooperation towards a low carbon economy. Alberta could also pursue cooperation of the federal government to provide carbon credits to the natural gas industry when exporting products displacing higher carbon fuel sources, as well as negotiate tariffs or import taxes on oil and gas products in future international trade agreements to both promote and protect our homegrown industries.
Incentives enable businesses to mitigate the threat of climate change with a focus on new emerging industries and opportunities to innovate. Climate change can offer an opportunity to harness Alberta’s expertise and availability of technical workers and concentrate on emerging prospects such as artificial intelligence (AI) and cleantech. The expected economic gain of over $1 trillion dollars, Canada wide, in climate change innovation should be headquartered in Alberta as part of modernization, growth and expansion to ensure that Alberta is ahead of the curve.
Flexibility to allow businesses to use innovative market driven solutions to fill the gaps between conventional and renewable forms of energy must be encouraged. Offering equal tax incentives between emerging technologies and those alternative energy sources already established, like solar and wind, will ensure that the government is not dictating “winners and losers”. Alternatives and solutions must be driven by consumers and businesses and not dictated by government to ensure the best overall result. For example, the UK offers an accelerated depreciation allowance for energy efficiency equipment and technology, so that companies can replace old, energy consuming equipment with better models, which allows them to cut their operational costs.
The balance between preserving the economy while converting to low carbon emissions requires policies that are effective while also politically palatable. If policies and programs are applied ineffectively or seem to be incomplete and unduly punitive their chances of being successful and leading the charge to change behaviour will be unsustainable. There are numerous opportunities available that Alberta must seize in order to demonstrate its adaptability, resiliency and reinforce its long-held tradition of being pioneers in spirit and action. Capitalizing on the opportunities that arise from adapting to a low emissions economy is a path to economic sustainability which Alberta is uniquely positioned to undertake.
Climate change is not possible in a single political cycle and needs buy in from society and government as a whole. Any policy implemented needs to be meaningful, pragmatic, sensible and flexible in order to achieve the final goal of emissions reductions and environmental preservation.
Additionally, when measuring the success of any climate change effort all costs (direct and indirect) need to be considered so that the real impact on business and the economy can be assessed and policy adjusted to strike the balance between a healthy economy and reduction of emissions.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta:
- Ensure carbon policies maintain competitiveness with neighbouring or like jurisdictions in Canada and the United States that have similar investment interests;
- Communicate the goals and the timelines of climate policies and amendments or modification plans if the goals and timelines are not met;
- Ensure there is cost neutrality within the business sector and that revenue from carbon pricing is available and cycled back to the business community through other tax incentives and capital cost allowances;
- Provide pathways for market driven solutions through tax incentives to all emerging technologies for carbon reductions to allow consumers and businesses the freedom to drive the choices towards preferred lower carbon options;
- Only implement a levy on natural gas when a less carbon intensive and cost-effective solution is available;
- Implement options to measure net carbon impact and only apply levies to the net amount, taking into account the measures used to mitigate the total carbon footprint, including absorption of carbon dioxide and technologies such as green carbon capture;
- Allocate a portion of levies collected for the purpose of creating and providing educational programming tools related to natural resource development including both energy and agriculture;
- Measure both the direct and indirect cost impacts of climate policies;
- Work with the federal government to provide carbon credits to the natural gas industry when exporting products that are intended to displace higher carbon fuel sources; and
- Work with the federal government to negotiate a carbon tariff or carbon import tax levied on oil and gas products into all future international trade agreements.
 Climate Leadership Report to the Minister: https://www.alberta.ca/documents/climate/climate-leadership-report-to- minister.pdf
Establishing transportation and utility corridors reduce land-use conflicts and support effective growth management of communities and the related infrastructure.
By 2046, Alberta’s population of 4.3 million is expected to swell to 6.6 million. More residents will generate larger volumes of traffic, boost demand for utility services, and increase the likelihood of inter-municipal land-use conflicts. This is especially noteworthy in the Edmonton-Calgary corridor, as the projected population by 2046 shows 8 in 10 Albertans are expected to live within this region.1
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce believes the province can help pre-empt impending growth issues by acquiring a radiating network of transportation/utility corridors (TUCs) that can serve a multitude of purposes, now and in the future.
TUCs are vital for long-term planning between communities. They provide guaranteed corridors for transmission lines, pipelines, regional municipal utilities, telecommunications, and transportation. A network of TUCs will also reduce land-use conflicts, improve integration of communities, and encourage the development of Special Economic Zones for Alberta.
A proactive TUC strategy to link all of Alberta’s urban centres and regions will not only help the Alberta government plan for future growth, but it will also provide the opportunity to develop a world-class provincial network of highways, rail lines, and transit systems designed to ensure the safe and efficient movement of goods and people.
Creating an integrated plan to secure these critical TUC corridors is a fundamental step to proactive provincial planning and doing so quickly will save significant funds. The time is right to act as the cost of acquiring TUCs throughout Alberta may become prohibitive and cause our province to forgo the opportunity that exists to shape our province’s future in such a visionary fashion.
At a national level, there are corridor opportunities that could greatly enhance the economic position of Alberta & Canada’s broader economy. In 2016 the Canadian Senate’s Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce released a study on the University of Calgary’s proposal for a corridor that would connect Canada’s north. The Canadian Northern Corridor is currently in conceptual form as researchers study the feasibility of “a network of multi-modal rights-of-way across middle and northern Canada” that “could address Canada’s unique geographic, political, legal and economic challenges to trade and infrastructure development”2. In December 2019, the Minister of Transport was given a mandate to “work with the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities to invest in Canada’s trade corridors to increase global market access for Canadian goods”3. The Alberta Chamber believes that Canada has a unique and vital opportunity for a national unity project.
The Alberta Chamber believes the Alberta government can provide strong leadership by acquiring all of the provincial corridors needed for the future, and by working with the federal government to invest in national corridors to secure a strong quality of life for Albertan’s into the future.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta:
- Continue to develop a province-wide transportation/utility corridor plan that will serve to integrate all urban centres and regions in Alberta;
- Implement this proactive plan by securing transportation/utility corridor rights of way throughout Alberta with the potential for inter-urban rapid transit, freight networks, telecommunications, regional municipal utilities, transmission lines, pipelines, and the development of a comprehensive transportation system; and
3. Work with the federal government to progress nation-wide connection projects, for example, the Northern Corridor proposal.
The use of cannabis for recreational purposes became legal across Canada on October 17, 2018 under the Cannabis Act. Cannabis edibles, topicals, and extracts became legal on October 17, 2019.
Cannabis is a substance with complicated effects on the body, and legal substances like alcohol do not provide useful comparisons. Testing for alcohol impairment is straightforward—the quantity of alcohol in the bloodstream is a reliable indication of how intoxicated an individual is at the moment of testing. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short, is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis and can remain in the blood stream of users for days or weeks after the intoxicating effects have worn off.
The limits of testing technology have significant impacts on Canadian workplaces. A breathalyzer can reliably prove current alcohol impairment, but existing cannabis testing techniques cannot. There is no “breathalyzer” equivalent for cannabis, which would provide a clear indication of current intoxication and impairment. A major step in innovation is needed—we recommend accelerated research and development regarding legal impairment limits and roadside testing protocols.
While the legalization of recreational cannabis is a relatively recent development, Canadians have had legal access to medicinal cannabis for 20 years. As a result, employers are well versed in balancing their duty to protect worker health and safety under applicable occupational health and safety legislation with the duty to accommodate under applicable human rights legislation. This balancing act becomes even more relevant when an employee occupies a safety-sensitive position. The legal framework on workplace impairment policies is shaped by case law, namely Everitt v. Homewood Health, IBEW Local 1620 v. Lower Churchill Transmission Construction Employers Association, and Stewart v. Elk Valley Coal Corp.
In Everitt v Homewood Health Inc, the complainant, Brad Everitt, alleged that the respondent discriminated against him when it refused to register him in the Rapid Site Access Program (RSAP), a voluntary program that provides pre-qualification to workers for access to safety-sensitive workplaces. In Everitt’s situation, he had been a heavy recreational cannabis user for about 25 years and had used cannabis for medical purposes for more than ten of those years to manage pain related to arthritis. He applied to participate in the RSAP administered by Homewood and failed the pre-enrolment test when his test results measured 1,200 nanograms per milliliter for THC when the permissible threshold level was 50 nanograms per milliliter. As a result, Homewood did not permit Everitt to participate in the RSAP. He was still eligible to be dispatched to safety-sensitive worksites but would need to go through the standard pre-access testing protocol. He filed a human rights complaint that he had been denied a service customarily available to the public on the basis of a disability. Ultimately, Everitt’s complaint was dismissed because Everitt posed an unacceptable safety risk and Homewood could not have accommodated him without incurring undue hardship.
In the 2018 arbitration decision IBEW Local 1620 v. Lower Churchill Transmission Construction Employers Association, the grievor, Scott Tizzard, failed a pre-employment drug and alcohol screening test due to a medical cannabis authorization to treat chronic pain arising from Crohn’s disease and osteoarthritis. Tizzard disclosed his medical cannabis use before the testing and to the sample collection technician at the time of testing. The union subsequently grieved when the employer ultimately refused to hire Tizzard for the position, alleging the employer failed to accommodate Tizzard’s disability contrary to both the collective agreement and human rights legislation. The arbitration found that there was a lack of reliable resources to allow an employer to accurately, effectively, and practically measure impairment and that the inability to manage risk of harm due to residual impairment in the performance of safety-sensitive duties arising from medical cannabis use created hazard and undue hardship. The arbitration also found that the employer carried out the necessary assessment of accommodation possibilities on the basis of Tizzard’s disability; Tizzard’s disability required cannabis to effectively treat and there were no non-safety-sensitive positions available. The grievance was therefore dismissed. In its judicial review application, the union argued that the arbitration decision was unreasonable, but the Court disagreed and dismissed the union’s application.
In Stewart v. Elk Valley Coal Corp, the appellant, Ian Stewart, filed a complaint claiming that his employer discriminated against him on the basis of a physical disability after he was involved in an accident and was subsequently terminated after failing a drug test. He admitted to having a crack cocaine addiction after the incident. The workplace policy required that employees disclose any dependency or addiction issues before a significant drug-related incident occurred; and if they did, employees would be offered treatment without fear of discipline or reprisal. The policy also stated that employees who did not disclose dependency or addiction issues in accordance with the policy, or sought assistance after an accident occurred, could be terminated from their employment if involved in an incident and testing positive for drugs. Stewart attended a training session with respect to the policy and confirmed in writing that he had received and understood the policy. The Supreme Court upheld earlier decisions that an employee was not wrongfully terminated due to his drug addiction but rather terminated due to his breach of a workplace drug policy. The Court relied on the fact that Stewart had the capacity to comply with the company policy.
These cases demonstrate the importance of a workplace drug and alcohol policy that is reasonable, clearly sets out expectations to employees, and is consistently enforced. The Edmonton Chamber strongly encourages adoption of workplace drug and alcohol policies.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta and Canada:
- Create a standard testing protocol to detect cannabis intoxication and impairment, with legal limits for both traffic safety and workplace safety;
- Require the adoption of workplace drug and alcohol policies in safety-sensitive workplaces and encourage the adoption of workplace drug and alcohol policies in all workplaces; and
- Ensure the appropriate agencies are sufficiently staffed and resourced by increasing the funding allocated to Health Canada and the Alberta Ministry of Health for the purposes of coordinating, improving, expanding, and extending the reach of public education campaigns and awareness activities which communicate facts about the health and safety effects, risks, and harms associated with cannabis use in an effort to support Canadians in making informed choices.
Market research conducted by the Alberta Chambers of Commerce (ACC) network indicates municipal franchise fees are a major barrier to business growth. According to a recent survey, 54 per cent of more than 1000 respondents cited these fees as a barrier to the growth of their business – more than any other direct municipal cost surveyed. Only five per cent indicated the fees provided a benefit to their growth, signaling the lowest value proposition as a cost for doing business in local communities.
The municipal “franchise fee”, sometimes called “local access fees”, is a rate rider charged to a utility service provider for exclusive rights to sell gas, electricity, water, or wastewater services within a municipality’s boundaries. Utility service providers then add the cost of exclusive access to rate payers’ bills as a franchise fee and collect these fees on the municipality’s behalf. It is common practice for municipalities which own or receive direct dividends from a utility provider to still charge exclusive access fees to rate payers, though exclusivity would naturally have been granted to the providers.
Franchise fees limits for the sale of utilities services are set by the Alberta Utilities Commission, with fee caps currently set at 35 and 20 per cent for natural gas and electricity. However, under the current Municipal Government Act, municipalities can set fees rates at their discretion under the cap limits with minimal standards for transparently reporting fee revenues or disclosing their fee rates – 41 per cent of ACC survey respondents indicated they were unsure or did not know if these fees impacted their business.
While a few municipalities have taken steps to improve transparency of rider fees charged rate payers, franchise fees are rising across the province and layering additional costs on business during a period of economic stagnation. Electricity costs are also increasing with the removal of the rate cap in 2019, compounding the burden of rider fees for this service. These trends have negative implications for Alberta’s economy, considering less than one third of ACC survey respondents indicated they were likely to recommend investing or setting up a business in the municipality they operate.
The province can take a leadership role to restore investor confidence by improving cost accountability for utility rate payers and enable business growth by ensuring municipal rider fees are not making utility costs in the province uncompetitive compared to other jurisdictions.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta:
- Review municipal utility rate rider cap limits established through the Alberta Utilities Commission to ensure the upper limits on franchise fees are in fact, reasonable, and do not place Alberta businesses at a competitive disadvantage to other Canadian regions; and
- Review and amend the Municipal Government Act to:
(1) Mandate all municipalities to use public sector accounting standards for both budgeting and financial reporting, including a consistent location for reporting revenues collected from utility rider fees with a dedicated line item; and
(2) Require greater transparency and disclosure of utility rider fees collected on behalf of municipalities.
 Alberta Perspectives: Red Tape and Business Supports, December 2019
 Some municipalities report the revenues received under Schedule D of the Municipal Affairs Financial Information Return (FIR) while others report this revenue on under “Sales and User Charges”.
There is a relationship between the size of government and economic growth. While government spending is needed, there are studies that have shown that when government grows beyond a certain size it can hinder economic growth and lead to lower living standards for citizens.
There are a variety of methods that size of government is measured. One method is per person spending. Another is to compare government spending as a percentage of GDP, while also factoring in measures for tax expenditures and regulation. These measures have shown that the size of our federal government has grown more in the 2018-19 fiscal year than ever in the history of Canada—until the global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.
While events such as wars and the introduction of federal social programs have seen the per person figure increase for obvious reasons, in the fiscal year of 2018-19, the federal government spent more money per person in program spending than ever before, including the Second World War and the more recent Great Recession. Adjusted for inflation, per person spending reached $8,869, more than the previous all-time high record, with no related historic event like a war or economic recession to account for such an elevated amount. In September of 2020, the Parliamentary Budget Officer projected a budgetary deficit of $328.5 billion for 2020-21 fiscal year, including an estimated $225.9 billion in COVID-19 response measures. Relative to the size of the economy, the projected deficit amounts to 15.0 per cent of GDP—the largest budgetary deficit since the beginning of the series in 1966-67.
Using the second measure of calculating size of government and 2018-19 figures, comparing government spending with the size of the economy, the share of the economy had risen by 14.6 percent which means that the government spends a little more than 40 per cent of GDP. When tax expenditures and price regulation is added to this calculation the size of government increases to an alarming 64 per cent of GDP. Research shows that the optimal size of government is between 26 to 30 per cent of GDP after which economic growth rates decline.
While the growth of the size of government can at times seem inevitable, there is a solution in Canada’s not so recent past. Canada has successfully navigated out of a position where size of government and its related spending had seriously impeded the growth of the economy and put Canadian’s prosperity at risk. Steps to put Canada back on a road of fiscal sovereignty were taken by successive governments starting in the mid 80’s and culminating in the Government of Canada initiating a Program Review in 1994 which was implemented over five years. This program review rejected the concept of across the board cuts and a view that a sizable deficit could be eliminated through increased productivity. Instead it focused on the roles and importance of government programs and services within the overall fiscal framework. The program review wasn’t about “what to cut” but more about “what to preserve” in order to put the country on a footing that would allow it to prosper in the future while using methods of fiscal restraint.
The foundation for this review used a series of six questions when looking at the services and programs administered by the federal government.
- Does the program or activity continue to serve a public interest?
- Is there a legitimate and necessary role for government in this program area or activity?
- Is the current role of the federal government appropriate or is the program a candidate for realignment with the provinces?
- What activities or programs should, or could, be transferred in whole or in part to the private or voluntary sector?
- If the program or activity continues, how could its efficiency be improved?
- Is the resultant package of programs and activities affordable within the fiscal restraint? If not, what programs or activities should be abandoned?
The result of this ongoing process looped back on itself if the overall proposal did not generate significant savings. In addition, this process ensured that the federal government used only the resources it needed in order to deliver on services that were strictly the purview of the government. As a result of this program review Canada's total government spending as a share of GDP fell from a peak of 53 percent in 1992 to 39 percent in 2007, and despite this more than one-quarter decline in the size of government, the economy grew, the job market expanded, and poverty rates fell dramatically.
The rationale behind having a government that is scaled properly to deliver essential services is not just one borne from a budgetary standpoint. When a government functions efficiently and uses its resources to their maximum potential it could be argued that it is on a much better footing when the economy or market forces pose challenges. Ensuring that government has the ability to adapt, maneuver and respond is dependent on how its resources are allocated and the ability to absorb temporary budgetary increases if needed can help weather economic head winds.
This is not to be confused with across the board cuts and freezes that affect programs and services or by strictly asking departments and agencies to do more with less. What is needed is a repositioning of the role of government within the collective means of citizens using the criteria above. An essential component of this course of action would be a comprehensive review of the regulatory environment, using the recommendations set forth by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in the Regulate Smarter report, Death by 130,000 Cuts: Improving Canada’s Regulatory Competitiveness. The recommendations laid out in this report mirror the reasoning behind a comprehensive full program review. By modernizing Canada’s regulatory systems and reducing duplication and misalignment within regulations, competitiveness and a well-functioning regulatory regime will ensure a government ready and able to meet the challenges and respond to opportunities that present themselves in a more integrated global economy. This would ensure that protective measures would be balanced with a regime that is navigable and preserves economic growth and competitiveness.
Another essential step in the road to streamlining government will require serious tax reform. Currently, our tax system is a culmination of a disjointed tax code that has been the product of successive governments making adjustments, additions and cuts based more on election promises rather than a clear vision or strategy. Recommendations set out by Canadian Chamber in its report 50 Years of Cutting and Pasting: Modernizing Canada’s Tax System stress the need for a comprehensive reform of our tax system. By using the same mindset set forth with a program review and regulatory reform, a modernized tax system would allow for competitiveness, simplicity, fairness and neutrality and support Canadians in their pursuit of prosperity.
However, the longer the process of streamlining government is delayed the harder it is to reset. External factors beyond the government’s control can take precedence and make needed changes that much more difficult. An immediate first step is to aim for a federal budget that is balanced which will then set a solid foundation allowing for a re-visioning of size of government. Canada needs to ensure that it is set on a firm fiscal footing in order to allow for flexibility should market forces beyond its control create an economic downturn and stimulus spending is needed come to the aid of struggling Canadians. It is not only good fiscal policy but responsible governing to create a safe cushion for the country.
As in the past this exercise will be one that requires a long-term vision that spans government administrations and political parties. Good government is not a question of ideology, right or left, but rather a commitment to a government structure that is more accessible, navigable, competitive and streamlined so that all Canadians benefit and prosper.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta and Government of Canada:
- Initiate a Program Review of all ministries based on a set of criteria that looks at what role is appropriate for the federal government and looks at possibilities to realign programs with provincial and private or voluntary sectors;
- Commit to comprehensive regulatory reform based on cost-benefit analysis and a focus on economic competitiveness;
- Commit to serious tax reform with an overarching vision and strategy focused on competitiveness, simplicity, fairness and neutrality;
- Pursue a path to a balanced budget in order to ensure fiscal flexibility; and
- Set and maintain a target of total government spending as a share of GDP at 26 to 30 per cent.
 Macdonald-Laurier Institute – Estimating the True Size of Government in Canada: https://www.macdonaldlaurier.ca/size-of-government-in-canada/
 Fraser Institute Blog – Size of Government Matters: https://www.fraserinstitute.org/blogs/size-of-government-matters
 Fraser Institute Blog – Size of Government Matters: https://www.fraserinstitute.org/blogs/size-of-government-matters
 Parliamentary Budget Officer September 2020 Fiscal Outlook: https://www.pbodpb.gc.ca/web/default/files/Documents/Reports/RP-2021-027-S/RP-2021-027-S_en.pdf
 Macdonald Laurier Institute – Estimating the True Size of Government: https://www.macdonaldlaurier.ca/size-of-government-in-canada/
 Fraser Institute – Measuring Government in the 21st Century : https://www.fraserinstitute.org/sites/default/files/measuring-government-in-the-21st-century.pdf
 Institute for Government – Program Review: The Government of Canada’s experience eliminating the deficit, 1995-99: a Canadian Case Study: https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/Program%20Review.pdf
 Fraser Institute – Proper Size of Government: https://www.fraserinstitute.org/article/proper-size-government
 Institute for Government – Program Review: The Government of Canada’s experience eliminating the deficit, 1995-99: a Canadian Case Study: https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/Program%20Review.pdfhttps://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/Program%20Review.pdf
 Canadian Chamber of Commerce - Death by 130,000 Cuts – Improving Canada’s Regulatory Competitiveness: http://chamber.ca/media/blog/180703-in-discussion-death-by-130000-cuts/180620DeathBy130000Cuts.pdf
 Canadian Chamber of Commerce – 50 Years of Cutting and Pasting: Modernizing Canada’s Tax System: http://www.chamber.ca/download.aspx?t=0&pid=fb9a4d42-d42e-e911-9d4c-005056a00b05
Current federal legislation does not allow for meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, fruits and vegetables to cross provincial/territorial borders, or to be exported out of Canada unless these products are processed in a federally licensed facility. The new Safe Food for Canadians Act will expand this to include all foods shipped out of province/territory. The Canadian government claims that this is required to ensure that Canada fulfills its commitments under current world trade agreements.
Currently, implementation of Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulations and licensing requirements is cost prohibitive to many small to mid-sized processors and constitute a major barrier to interprovincial and international trade. The processor’s share of these costs is excessive when compared to costs incurred by their competitors for similar services in other jurisdictions, notably in the USA. This places Canadian processors at a disadvantage to many competitors.
SMEs advise that current CFIA food safety regulations are outdated and need to be revised to remove unnecessary regulations that lack adequate scientific validation of enhancing food safety outcomes while creating a significant impediment to business interests. There is also a need to minimize duplication of administration costs between provincial/territorial and federal regulators.
Facility construction requirements, along with steep inspection, licensing and testing fees all constitute major obstacles for processors that want to trade interprovincially or internationally. Unified provincial/territorial standards and regulations, with increased accessibility to federal licensing would be of significant financial benefit to small and medium sized processors that want to increase their business through interprovincial or international trade. Easy to implement, cost-competitive, and uniform food safety standards and regulations, for both interprovincial and export markets, are required, without compromising food safety standards.
With the current CFIA modernization in progress, it is important to the competitiveness of Canadian businesses to reduce barriers to trade and enhance business growth opportunities. This is especially important with the impending impact of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
Canadian processors trading interprovincially or internationally operate at a disadvantage to international competitors. For example, the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) does not levy licensing and inspection fees on their food processing plants (up to the first 40 hours per week.) As a comparison, the Province of Alberta charges $4 per hour for the first 7.25 hours per day. CFIA inspection stations cost from $9,855 per year for one red meat station to $16,218 per year for a poultry station. If an abattoir is processing more than 25 cattle/hogs per hour or 28 birds per minute, they must purchase an additional table. There is also the requirement to pay for inspection fees and various tests for Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli.
Before food products are imported into Canada, the CFIA conducts an initial inspection of the processing plant from which these products originated, and then conducts random inspections of the imported products. This same oversight and outcome-based approach should be applied to all interprovincial and international trade.
Interprovincial trade of agriculture and food products comprises a major portion of the Canadian agri-food business. “From 2000 to 2005, interprovincial exports of agricultural and food products were higher than Canada’s agri-food exports to the United States. Interprovincial exports of agri-food products rose by 20% during this period, increasing from $21 billion to $25 billion in value. During this period, the value of agri-food exports to the United States was between $16 billion and $20 billion.”
While the exact cost of interprovincial trade barriers caused by differing food regulations is not known, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce estimates that internal barriers to trade cost the Canadian economy up to $14 billion each year. While much of this loss can be attributed to the limited potential customer base, there is also a 55% overlap of administrative and regulatory service between Canada and Alberta.
Despite numerous efforts to reduce interprovincial trade barriers such as the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) and regional trade agreements such as the New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA), the Atlantic Procurement Agreement (APA), the British Columbia – Alberta Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), and the Agreement on the Opening of Public Procurement for Ontario and Quebec (AOPPOQ), the problems persist and are an obstacle to the growth and profitability of Canadian businesses.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Canada:
- Works collaboratively with provincial/territorial and federal inspection agencies to effect positive changes to food safety outcome inspections, enabling processors to compete more efficiently in both domestic and international markets:
(1) To support a single industry outcome that can be implemented with consistency and cost-effectiveness across Canada by the provinces/territories, with each provincial/territorial regulator subject to Canadian Food Inspection Agency oversight;
(2) The food safety regulations need to be reviewed for relevancy and modified/broadened if current criteria are unnecessarily restrictive and insensitive to sound business interests; and
(3) The implementation must be consistent and cost-effective throughout the food distribution chain, without compromising Canada’s reputation for high food safety standards; and
- Reassess inspection and regulatory costs and how they are allocated, to enable processors to trade across provincial or national borders, without being at a competitive disadvantage.
 United States Department of Agriculture. (2013). Applying for a Grant: General Information. Retrieved from http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/01ede099-849e-4ed5-bb9b-f6759b0d5487/Grant_of_Inspection.pdf?MOD=AJPERES on Jan 3, 2014.
 Province of Alberta, Meat Inspection Act 2009. Web. 3 Jan 2014. http://www.qp.alberta.ca/1266.cfm?page=2009_116.cfm&leg_type=Regs&isbncln=9780779740383
 Aïcha L Coulibaly. “Does the Agreement on Internal Trade Do Enough to Liberalize Canada’s Domestic Trade in Agri-food Products.” Library of Parliament. 26 August 2010. Publication No. 2010-25E
 Canadian Chamber of Commerce. (2013). Internal Barriers to Trade. Retrieved from http://www.chamber.ca/advocacy/top-10-barriers-to-competitiveness/internal-barriers-to-trade/ on Jan 8, 2014.
 Parsons, Graham. 1996. The Distant Realities of Free Trade in Canada. Calgary: Canada West Foundation.
Clubroot is a serious crop disease affecting Canola production that significantly reduces production.
In 2017, the total estimated annual impact on Alberta’s economy of canola amounted to $7.1 billion. The analysis of the 2016 report by LMC International, The Economic Impact of Canola on the Canadian Economy, indicates that through 2014-2015 an estimated 72,465 jobs in Alberta were connected to canola production in the province resulting in $3.5 billion in wages, and that the contribution to the national economy had doubled in less than a decade and wages linked to the industry had tripled during the same time period.”
Clubroot is a serious soil-borne disease that attacks the roots of infected plants resulting in wilting, stunting and yellowing to premature ripening, seed shriveling thus reducing yield and quality, with estimated losses tied to the level of infestation. Infestations of 10 to 20 percent lead to a 5 to 10 percent yield loss; with loses as high as 50% to 80% for high infestations. Estimated loss is half of the percentage of infected stems. Clubroot is spread through soil infested with resting spores. Swedish researchers have identified the spores as being extremely long lived and may survive in soil for up to 20 years with a half-life of 4 years. Clubroot surveys in Alberta have found that most new infestations begin at or near the field access, which indicates that contaminated equipment is the predominant spread mechanism. Wet conditions increase the percentage of spores. Prevention strategies include increasing crop rotations for Canola, cleaning and disinfecting equipment.
By the end of 2014, clubroot was present in 30 municipalities in Alberta and is rapidly spreading. Clubroot resistant canola varieties exist, although they typically yield less than non-resistant varieties and seed costs may be higher. In 2014 the first Alberta case of a pathogen shift to overcome current variety resistance was confirmed. A second resistant variety is being introduced in Alberta this spring.
In 2007, Clubroot was added as a pest under the Agricultural Pests Act which authorizes municipalities to enter on land with suspected clubroot infestation and to restrict canola seeding to those fields. Most municipalities have inspection policies limited to visual observation of suspected fields and the right to enter on those lands to confirm clubroot infestation, and to restrict the landowner’s rights to plant Canola on those fields, for example, restrictions on seeding for 4 years or longer.
Current legislation does not address the risks associated with third party access on private land where the access is authorized pursuant to government public interest powers, for example, oil and gas; pipelines; transmission lines; public road construction and utilities. For example, soil testing done by electrical transmission operators, utility operators and oil and gas companies is not reportable either to the landowner or to any government authority. As such, operators are not required to institute testing, nor are they required to implement strategies to reduce the spread of clubroot.
The lack of legislation leaves landowners at risk with limited remedies to mitigate their losses where clubroot is introduced and spread on their land, oftentimes without their authorization to access the land. The following example illustrates the significance of the issue for Alberta agriculture, in 2012 a utility operator soil tested access roads for clubroot in Central Alberta. Given that there were no reporting requirements or mandated processes, those results were kept internally and it was left to the operator to choose to implement or not implement strategies to reduce the spread of Clubroot during construction.
In 2014, the landowner not knowing of the positive soil test results, planted non-resistant Canola which was determined by the municipality to have been infested with Clubroot. The municipality issued restrictions on seeding rotations pursuant to the authority under the Agricultural Pests Act against the Landowner. The municipality has no authority or legislated power to mandate or restrict access to the operator or other third-party users of the access road to prevent the spread of Clubroot on adjoining properties.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta:
- Amend the Agricultural Pests Act to make Clubroot a reportable disease;
- Review current legislation and policies, including surface rights, to take into account the prevention and mitigation of clubroot for oil and gas exploration, transmission lines, pipelines, renewable energy projects, and other utilities; and
- Support Research and Development in working towards solutions that reduce or eliminate the spread of the clubroot disease.
 LMC International, “The Economic Impact of Canola on the Canadian Economy.” December 2016. https://www.canolacouncil.org/media/584356/lmc_canola_10-year_impact_study_-_canada_final_dec_2016.pdf
 Alberta Agriculture and Forestry: Frequently asked questions http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/faq7389
Investment and activity in the oil and gas industry are critical to the economic well-being of employees, businesses, communities and the province. The Government of Alberta has committed to reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 45 per cent by the year 2025. Methane emissions regulations should be implemented in a manner that protects jobs and investment.
The Government of Alberta has committed to reduce methane emissions by 45 per cent. Companies in the oil and gas sector are not opposed to reducing methane emissions; but have communicated the need to implement those methane reductions in a way that ensures environmental stewardship without discouraging investment in our oil and gas industry.
The implementation of methane reductions has the potential to cost the oil and natural gas industry $5 billion in direct costs if done in a manner which does not ensure balance outcomes with job losses, the spin off costs to the broader economy have the potential to be much greater. Many Albertans rely on the oil and gas industry as the economic driver which fuels other businesses. “For every direct job created in the Canadian oil and gas sector, 2 indirect and 3 induced jobs in other sectors are created in Canada on average.” The oil and gas industry is a key component in Alberta in creating a robust economy and maintaining and creating hundreds of thousands of high value jobs.
According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), a prescriptive approach to Alberta’s policy framework could “result in nearly 7,000 jobs lost, a drop in capital spending of almost $710 million, and a decrease to our gross domestic product of $2.5 billion.” 7,000 direct jobs in the oil and gas sector can result in 14,000 indirect and 21,000 induced jobs in other sectors that could be lost.
Investor confidence in Alberta has fallen. “Market volatility amid increasing regulatory uncertainty and growing cumulative cost burden is reducing investor confidence in, and the competitiveness, of Canada’s upstream oil and natural gas industry. ... The current oil price environment has created substantial challenges for the Canadian upstream industry. Oil prices have declined over 70 per cent since 2014. In response, investment in the Canadian upstream industry has declined by 65 per cent since 2014. It is imperative to design cost-effective regulations that reduce methane emissions and safeguard the industry’s competitiveness.”
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has a plan to meet the government’s target of cutting methane emissions by 45 per cent while protecting nearly 7,000 jobs in Alberta. This plan emphasizes the need for regulations to allow sufficient flexibility in the regulations to ensure industry can avoid costly layoffs and maintain strong growth. A flexible approach to methane reductions should be taken to protects jobs and stimulate investment in our province even as industry achieves the 45 per cent methane reduction target.
For Individual businesses to achieve the 45 per cent reduction while maintaining their workforce and productivity, methane reduction targets should pertain to their entire business model. If specific targets are applied to individual wells, projects, or sites, businesses will not be able to choose investments which will maximize reductions but will instead be required to make fewer effective reductions. As a result, significantly higher costs on ineffective projects and operations will result in the unnecessary shutdown of those projects. Moreover, by requiring reductions in specific projects, sites, and wells, it is likely reduction targets will be higher than those intended, placing unnecessary pressure on industry to move faster than is reasonably possible without cutbacks. Flexibility is key to ensuring that businesses are able to incorporate new technology, methodology, and innovations, applied to strategic and targeted segments of their business model to achieve a balanced outcome which effectively meets the 45 per cent reduction goals while preserving jobs and protecting investment.
In addition to flexibilities in the regulatory requirements for all producers, specific consideration should be provided for small businesses who are limited in their ability to meet the required reductions on older wells and systems. Alberta’s producers come in a number of sizes and while achieving these goals across the sector is a stated goal for the Province, many smaller producers whose assets include a high proportion of older, grandfathered, or low-producing wells may face higher than average costs to upgrade or retrofit older equipment to achieve the required methane reductions. These businesses will be impacted relatively greater than larger producers and face a greater risk closing down if regulatory requirements fail to consider their specific situations.
The Alberta Chamber of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta:
- Avoid a prescriptive regulatory process that overshoots the 45% reduction target;
- Apply reduction targets to businesses as a whole rather than to specific sites, projects, or wells;
- Allow industry to follow a path that meets the 45% reduction target at the lowest possible cost;
- Continue to work with industry and industry groups to determine a cost-efficient, risk-based, competitive model which balances methane-reductions with the maintenance of jobs and investment; and
- Include considerations in the regulations for small business who are limited in their ability to meet regulatory requirements for methane reduction to ensure they are not forced to scale back or close their operations.
 CAPP Comment on Regulations Respecting Reduction in the Release of Methane and Certain Volatile Organic Compounds. Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. July 26, 2017.
 Economic Impacts of Canadian Oil and Gas Supply in Canada and the US. (2017, August). Canadian Energy Research Institute. Retrieved from http://resources.ceri.ca/PDF/Pubs/Studies/Study_166_Executive_Summary.pdf
 Methane Plan Can Cut Emissions by 45%, Protect 7,000 jobs: CAPP. (2017, October 30). Retrieved from http://www.capp.ca/media/news-releases/methane-action-plan
 CAPP Comment on Regulations Respecting Reduction in the Release of Methane and Certain Volatile Organic Compounds. Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. July 26, 2017.
AESO (Alberta’s Electricity System Operator) is pursuing a complex transition to move Alberta’s energy market from an EOM (Energy Only Market) to a CM (Capacity Market). One of the goals of this new market is to achieve 30% renewable energy generation by 2030. The chief obstacle to encouraging the kind of growth and diversification of generation required to move the energy market away from traditional carbon-based generation systems to renewable sources is a historically low market price for electricity combined with a government commitment to cap consumer power prices at 6.8 cents per KwH for the foreseeable future. (The pool price for generators is currently about 1/3 of this). This challenging price market has made it difficult for small-scale renewable energy projects to enter the market. However, there are distinct advantages to promoting the growth of small-scale renewable energy projects across the province. This paper will argue in favor of measures which will enable that growth.
Due to new initiatives by the Government of Alberta, the province’s electrical systems are facing major changes over the next decade, changes that bring with them their share of challenges, as well as opportunities. Acting on the recommendations put forward by the Climate Change Advisory Panel, the government has directed AESO to pursue a target of “30 by 30”, or 30% renewable electricity generation by 2030, with the goal of eliminating coal-generated electricity by 2030. Furthermore, the very structure of the electrical market will be changing from an Energy-only Market, a market model where power plants are paid only for the energy they actually produce, to a Capacity Market Model, where generators are paid for having generation available to supply, whether or not any energy is actually produced and supplied. This market change is being made in the expectation that it will develop an energy grid that is more reliable and resilient.
These changes are being made in a very challenging environment. For one, the operator is looking to phase out coal-generation, while growing renewable capacity, in a rapid-growth market. According to AESO, the demand for electricity in Alberta is projected to grow by 2% per year, for the next 20 years. That’s equivalent to adding a city the size of Red Deer each year. Furthermore, Alberta is coping with a historically low energy price, a situation that is great for consumers, but which makes attracting investment – especially small-scale investment – a real challenge. In November 2016, the provincial government also capped energy prices at 0.068$ per KwH (about double what it is now) in order to provide consumer protection in the event of rising prices.
The result is that while the government is looking for new renewable energy generation projects to diversify the market, add capacity, and offer clean alternatives to traditional Firm Generation methods, market forces make it infeasible for new projects to be pursued. Even utility-scale projects cannot be attracted without the supports designed into the current Renewable Electricity Program to make them viable. The result is that investment is constrained and will be isolated into a small number of large-scale projects rather than diversified into numerous smaller projects.
There are distinct advantages to encouraging the development of small-scale renewable energy projects through regulatory means. First, most large-scale renewable energy projects are Intermittent Generation facilities, meaning that they do not generate energy continuously, but rely on environmental factors such as wind or sunshine to produce electricity. With a growing portion of the electrical grid relying on these generation methods, and insufficient battery facilities available to distribute power production over time, it is important for AESO to explore ways to encourage Firm Generation methods that rely on renewable technologies. These facilities do exist in the form of biogas generation plants, geothermal generation, and several others, however they are relatively expensive to construct and operate, are more difficult to scale up, and most fall in the range of small-scale renewable energy projects (up to 5MW). However, encouraging the development of these facilities and technologies will build reliability, stability, and capacity into the electrical grid, while contributing to the ’30 by 30’ target. Investments in this sector will also encourage innovation in renewable energy production, as enterprising operators seek ways to make the processes more efficient, scalable, or pursue new methods of renewable production. Smaller generators such as these will necessarily be distributed more evenly around the province, creating local system dependability, relieving capacity pressure on expensive long-range transmission systems, and building firm generation capacity into local grids to offset dependency on Intermittent Generation.
In the current policy environment, while investment money exists in public coffers, it only makes sense to hedge our public bets by diversifying into the small-scale renewable energy market.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta:
- Create a program or carve-out for small-scale renewable electricity generators (0.1MW - 5MW) to specifically address the gap in market regulations and programs for renewable electricity generators exporting to the grid with a plant capacity of < 5MW;
- Use a levelized cost approach to subsidize electricity prices at a fixed price for these small generators in order to make the industry viable, as an investment in capacity building and innovation within the sector. The carve-out would allow project developers to apply to sell electricity at this price, within this carve-out, which would be fixed and guaranteed for 20 years in order to provide the necessary investor confidence. This fixed price system within the carveout would foster investor confidence, ensure investment return and continued plant operation, while allowing small-scale renewable generators to operate, innovate, and contribute to the climate leadership plan and AESO’s ’30 by 30’ targets;
- Grandfather existing small-scale renewable generators into the new program or carve-out to support their continued operation;
- Prioritize grid connection for small-scale, renewable (low-carbon) generation capacity. Grid connection costs, metering and infrastructure costs should be reduced or subsidized; and
- Fund this program through an appropriate source, such as revenue generated from the Climate Leadership Plan.
Some businesses whose operations use licensed vehicles off public roads pay fuel taxes intended for the maintenance of infrastructure they don’t use. A rebate for these inappropriate taxes would support the growth of industries such as oil, gas, and logging.
In 2011, Alberta eliminated rebates for fuel purchased for off-road purposes in licensed vehicles. This rebate provided relief for businesses who drove their vehicles predominantly off public roads during exploration or on private roads. Extraction industries, particularly mining and logging were particularly impacted by the change. In addition, businesses operating in non-urban and northern areas of the Province are disproportionately affected given that non-maintained roads vastly outnumber maintained roads and highways in those regions.
By allowing businesses to claim back a portion of the taxes paid at the pump, the Alberta government had demonstrated a long-term commitment to ensuring fairness, by rebating the portion of taxes collected on fuel that is not expended on the roads these taxes are meant to maintain. When the Province announced its elimination of former rebate programs, it cited abuses by subscribers who drove their licensed vehicles on publicly-maintained roads and highways. While most licensed vehicles are operated in part on public roads, an effective rebate could account for this by requiring applicants to account for the extent of their off-road use in applications. This proportion would ensure that appropriate and fair taxation is extracted from all users. Similar accounting and rebating methods are already implemented for many businesses regarding the use of vehicles used for both personal and business purposes.
Four other provincial counterparts currently offer rebate programs for licensed vehicles used in mining operations. With businesses located in other provinces eligible to claim upwards of 11.5 cents per litre on clear diesel and gasoline, Alberta businesses are at a significant disadvantage.
If Alberta is to maintain and strengthen its position as a global energy leader, it must restore the competitiveness of and fairness for its businesses by developing a rebate that directly impacts their operations.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta:
- Implement a rebate on fuel taxes for licensed vehicles to the extent they are used for business purposes off publicly-maintained roads;
- Fully indexed tax‐deductible contributions of 20 per cent of earned income up to the top tax bracket, with matching grants for non‐deductible contributions earmarked for education and disability care, tax‐ free withdrawals of contributed capital, and tax‐deferred withdrawals of growth for qualified purposes will allow the funding of various expenses throughout a Canadian’s lifetime; and
- There is no question that this streamlining process would represent challenges, but it is clear that the ultimate benefits of such an outcome, such as a reduction of government overhead costs and an increase in ease and appeal for the saving consumer, would far outweigh any difficulties associated with implementation.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends that the Government of Canada:
- Encourage Canadians to maintain a “culture of savings” through refining registered savings plans; and
- Restore Tax Free Savings Account annual contribution limits to 2015 levels.
Alberta is at a crossroads with respect to how it implements and administers infrastructure projects. The Province’s current fiscal deficit, infrastructure deficit, and growing population are exerting pressure on how Alberta will finance its future. Alternative financing arrangements such as P3s offer the Province a smart debt solution.
The scale of Alberta’s infrastructure deficit is difficult to estimate precisely. In the 1950s, Canada spent more than 3 percent of GDP on infrastructure. By 2015, spending had fallen to 0.4 percent of GDP. There currently exists no bone fide source on the stock and condition of infrastructure assets in Alberta. However, a number of prominent think tanks and thought leadership institutions have attempted to size Canada’s infrastructure deficit. Estimates range from $50 billion to $570 billion with most averaging between $110 billion and $270 billion, but the consensus opinion is that Canada should be investing significantly more capital in infrastructure.
Over the past 10 years, the federal government has responded by increasing investments in infrastructure and launching targeted initiatives such as creating the Canada Infrastructure Bank. However, the federal government is not able to tackle this issue alone. Sub-national governments also need to play prominent roles in forming Canada’s infrastructure. Now, more than ever, the Government of Alberta needs to explore all options for leveraging budget dollars to address infrastructure needs.
The traditional procurement model for public infrastructure has been the “design, bid, build” model where, on a project-by-project basis, the Province solicits bids to build a school, hospital or courthouse. Not only are the costs of construction borne by the Province, but the long-term cost of maintenance is borne by the associated government agency (e.g., school board or health authority). The public private partnership (P3) model combines the design and construction costs with the long-term maintenance and/or operating costs, as well as the financing of the costs. This model allows the Government of Alberta to privately finance certain portions of its social infrastructure and finance only where the project can demonstrate cost and/or schedule savings through a formalized value for money test. This smart debt not only finances infrastructure acquisition, but it also formalizes and commits to the long-term maintenance or operation of infrastructure.
P3s are not well understood by both the general public and the business community, and Albertans are traditionally not fond of the Province incurring long-term debt. As a result, the benefits of the P3 model need to be clearly communicated. It also must be noted that the P3 model is not applicable to every project. The high transaction costs and social service characteristics associated with each individual project create a feasibility hurdle that restricts P3 to only 10 to 15 percent of infrastructure projects. Beyond this, the value for money test applied to project candidates can ensure those projects chosen for P3 will provide value for Alberta’s stakeholders. Therefore, P3 cannot be considered a replacement of traditional procurement, but merely an alternative.
Alberta used to be considered one of the frontrunners P3 provinces in Canada. The first P3s in Alberta saw the creation of a joint task force within the Departments of Transportation and Infrastructure. Most of the P3s completed under this structure won awards and generated praise from industry groups. Although Alberta has done a superior job closing some of the most successful P3s in Canada, in recent years there has been a lack of commitment on the part of the provincial government to provide long-term support to P3s. Alberta is now falling behind as provinces such as British Columbia and Ontario become leading P3 political entities.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta:
- Promote public education and encourage the use of public private partnerships (P3s) as an alternative model for public infrastructure growth and maintenance; and
- Provide guidance, information, and support to municipalities in the planning and administration of P3s.
Alberta Builder’s Lien Act needs to be reviewed. There needs to be modern mechanisms where disputes in the construction industry are resolved in a timely and expeditious manner so as to better protect the most vulnerable parties, being subcontractors and contractors who do not have privity of contract or the ability to bring a claim against a project owner.
Two issues which should be reviewed by the Alberta government are;
- Prompt Payment
All too often delays in payment in construction contracts can cause cash flow problems which lead to financial strain on contractors or subcontractors who have not been paid for work completed. If a project owner is late or delays payment to a contractor, the payment due to a subcontractor can also be delayed, which can lead to the subcontractor being late in payment to employees and suppliers. This delay in the chain of cash flow can have a serious impact on the operations of small and medium sized businesses. Alberta’s current legislation does not adequately address this issue.
As such, a comprehensive review of Alberta’s builder lien legislation should be completed by the Alberta government to determine the feasibility of incorporating the principles of ‘prompt payment’ into legislation so that all of Alberta’s subcontractors, contractors and suppliers can benefit.
The Government of Canada identifies the following as ‘prompt payment’ principles:
Prompt payment principles
Public Services and Procurement Canada advocates that construction-related payments should follow these 3 principles:
The department will review and process invoices promptly. If disputes arise, Public Services and Procurement Canada will pay for items not in dispute, while working to resolve the disputed amount quickly and fairly
The department will make construction payment information such as payment dates, company names, contract and project numbers, publicly available; likewise, contractors are expected to share this information with their lower tiers
Payers and payees are responsible for fulfilling their contract terms including their obligations to make and receive payment, and to adhere to industry best practices
The principles of ‘prompt payment’ have been endorsed by the Alberta Construction Association. As part of a dialogue between the Alberta government and the Alberta Construction Association, the Alberta government has changed their Alberta Infrastructure contracts to address the issue of ensuring ‘prompt payment’. The changes include the following:
- The contract specifies a maximum of 30 calendar days after the initial receipt of the application for payment, provided the contractor has properly completed their claim. Infrastructure will verify the invoice and adjust if necessary, advise the General Contractor within 14 days of the amount to be paid. Infrastructure has modified the Statutory Declaration so that the General Contractor must confirm that they paid their subcontractors within 10 days of receipt of payment from the Government.
- Their contracts specify that amounts which are not in dispute will be paid. Disputed amounts will be resolved during the next invoice period.
- Alberta Infrastructure has committed to publicizing the date of payment so that subcontractors and suppliers will be aware of when the prime contractor was paid (see contact info below).
- Upon appropriate application, holdback funds will be released once the portion of the work is complete. The contractor will submit their certificate of substantial performance for their portion of the work performed, and follow normal procedures of posting the certificate at the job site. Infrastructure will verify substantial performance. After the 45-day period, the contractor then applies for release as part of the next progress claim. Warranty will still be from the date of Interim Acceptance. 
In Ontario, the Construction Lien Amendment Act (the “Act”) received Royal Assent on December 12, 2017. The Act overhauled Ontario’s existing Construction Lien Act to incorporate the principles of ‘prompt payment’, including minimum timelines for payment and a procedure for adjudicating disputed payments.
Similarly, in British Columbia, with the encouragement of the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General, the B.C. Law Institute is currently undertaking a review of British Columbia’s Builder’s Lien Act with the view to implementing ‘prompt payment’ principles into legislation.
The Alberta Government should follow suit. The principles of ‘prompt payment’ (i.e. proper invoicing, timely payment and a procedure for adjudicating disputed payments) should be incorporated into Alberta legislation so as to protect the most vulnerable parties, being those lower down on the chain of payment.
- Eliminating Multiplicity of Actions
The Alberta Provincial Court is the court where civil claims which do not exceed $50,000.00 can be heard. The Court of Queen’s Bench has no financial limits on the matters that are heard. Provincial Court is generally more accessible and cost effective due to its simplified procedures than the rules based/procedure driven Court of Queen’s Bench. However, some matters can only be heard before the Court of Queen’s Bench including matters where title to land is at issue. As a result, a subcontractor or contractor who wants to register a builder’s lien against land where work has been completed must take the following steps:
a contractor or subcontractor is required to file a builder’s lien within 45 days of the last time improvements were made to a property; and
within 180 days after a lien is registered a Statement of Claim must be filed at the Court of Queen’s Bench and a Certificate of Lis Pendens (a certificate of pending litigation) must be registered on title to the lands where the work was completed.
If a contractor or subcontractor wants to have the security of having a lien registered it must commence proceedings in the Court of Queen’s Bench. A subcontractor or contractor cannot file a Civil Claim in Provincial Court and then subsequently file a Certificate of Lis Pendens (as required to be done within 180 days as referenced above). The claim must be made in the Court of Queen’s Bench, thereby engaging a more complex and potentially expensive time-consuming process.
As such, contractors and subcontractors are often left in dilemma requiring them to decide whether to file a builder’s lien and enforce it in the Court of Queen’s Bench or suing for damages in Provincial Court, without protection. The decision to proceed at the Provincial Court level is appealing when considering costs and timelines. However, losing the ability to register a lien can impact a contractor’s or subcontractor’s ability to get paid. A subcontractor or contractor can file a builder’s lien that would be enforceable in the Court of Queen’s Bench and then subsequently file claim for debt or damages in Provincial Court. However, the cost associated with a multiplicity of actions is dissuading and constitutes an unnecessary burden on the Court system.
Accordingly, the Alberta government should conduct a comprehensive review of the Builder’s Lien Act and the Provincial Court Act, to determine the feasibility of incorporating changes which would permit claimants at the Provincial Court level to obtain and register a Certificate of Lis Pendens at Land Titles. This would allow for a more cost effective and timely remedy for contractors and subcontractors.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta:
- Commission a comprehensive review of the Builder’s Lien Act with the view to:
(1) Incorporate the principles of ‘prompt payment’; and
(2) Incorporate changes to legislation which would enable liens to be
enforced in both the Provincial Court of Alberta, where the value is within its jurisdiction, or the Court of Queen’s Bench, where the claims exceeds the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court.
 https://www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/biens-property/divulgation-disclosure/psdic-ppci-eng.html#a2 – Prompt Payment in the Construction Industry – May 5, 2018
 Construction Lien Amendment Act, 2017, S.O. 2017, c. 24 - Bill 142
 https://www.bcli.org/project/builders-lien-reform-project - Builder’s Lien Reform Project
The size and scope of equipment and machinery being used for industrial and agricultural purposes has changed dramatically over the past number of years. Transportation laws need to strike the delicate balance between maintaining public roadways and facilitating business operations.
Municipalities, on behalf of the province, are responsible for the maintenance and upgrading of the majority of roads that farmers and industry access. Many of the aging roads were built poorly relative to today’s standard. For example, trees and black dirt were used as fill, and are not constructed to be able to weight-bear today’s large equipment, and are especially vulnerable to road damage during the spring and wet conditions. Unfortunately, most agricultural and many industrial operations are time and weather sensitive, requiring heavy equipment to be moved at times that are not always harmonious with current road conditions. Many of these roads service the rural area and are not a high priority for upgrades.
The permitting and exemption system is a complicated mix of legislation and application processes. Many municipalities have developed over-weight permits to exempt vehicles from road bans by using a bond system where the bond will only be forfeited if damage occurs. Transportation Routing and Vehicle Information System (TRAVIS) is a Government of Alberta system designed to easily achieve necessary permits, but does not function with all vehicle types.
Total axle load, number of axles, distance between axles, number of tires, tire size, tire pressure, steering axles, all affect pressure between the tire and surface. Historically, as equipment weight increased, so has tire size. Larger tires, tires filled with less air (lower pounds per square inch (psi), and more axles spread further apart all reduce the pressure of the tire on the road surface. The tire industry has recently designed radial tires to replace bias ply tires for larger equipment. This has helped reduce tire pressures to almost half the inflation rate of bias tires. The current legislative framework, permitting, and subsequently fining system, does not take fully take technologies that reduce psi transferred to the roadways in to account. The table below illustrates the load index depending on tire inflation and the number of axles.
It is important that legislation governing the transportation of equipment reflect the technological realities of the equipment used while protecting roadways from damage and allowing business activities to be completed.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta:
- Identify and publish the standards to which roads and bridges have been built and their weight bearing capacity, ensuring that information is used to set weight restrictions. Ensure a legislative mechanism exists for municipalities and the provincial government to waive weight bearing restrictions on a case-by-case analysis for roads that are a low priority for upgrading where the need is time sensitive;
- Identify roads and bridges in need of upgrading to allow for a more efficient heavy load system and provide budgeting based on economic reliance on a particular road;
- Undertake and continue in ongoing research to identify and ensure changes in vehicle and tire technologies reflect pressure transferred through to the roadway and update the legislative, permitting, and enforcement framework accordingly;
- Take into account appropriate exemptions for agricultural and other necessary time-sensitive uses for public roadways;
- Improve communication and education about how to obtain the proper permits; and
- Ensure permit providers obtain the correct and necessary information to make the process standard with minimal red tape.
Allowing Canadian-controlled private corporations (CCPC’s) to split income would create consistency within the treatment of income taxes. It would also support the success and enhance the growth of small businesses, especially family-based businesses.
Historically, owners of Canadian-controlled private corporations (CCPC’s) have been able to split income with family members by paying dividends on CCPC shares owned directly, or indirectly through a Family Trust, to family members including spouses and children. Up until 2000, this strategy was available to small business owners with respect to the payment of dividends to all family members including minor children1, most often via the use of a Family Trust. The objective, and result, was the mitigation of the overall tax burden of the small business owner by being able to utilize the low marginal rates of tax for all family members by having these dividends taxed in the hands of family members rather than all in the hands of the small business owner.
In 2000, the Department of Finance introduced legislation to ensure that any dividends paid to a minor child (either directly or indirectly) would be taxed in the hands of the minor at the highest marginal rate, thus frustrating access to the child’s low marginal tax rates. These changes were colloquially referred to as the “kiddie tax” but specifically represented the first efforts of the Department of Finance with respect to introducing a “tax on split income” (TOSI). In the Budget releases following the 2000 introduction of the “kiddie tax” the government expanded the reach and application of TOSI by including not only dividends received by a minor from a related private corporation, but also capital gains realized on the sale of shares of a CCPC to a non-arm’s length purchaser, rents realized on real property owned by a non-arm’s length party as well as interest on debt issued to related parties. At the time, adult children and spouses were not subject to the reach of the “kiddie tax” rules as these were specific to minor children.
On July 18, 2017, the reach of the TOSI rules changed dramatically with the release of the Liberal government’s White Paper on the Taxation of CCPC’s. This White Paper formed the basis for legislation announced in the 2018 Budget that sought to treat certain adult children and spouses in the same manner as minor children with respect to the receipt of dividends and other sources of income received from a CCPC. The TOSI rules are very complex and problematic for business owners and their advisors in that they specifically eliminate any opportunity for a CCPC to remunerate spouses of “principal” shareholders of certain businesses with dividends or other sources of income. Because of their complexity and the selective nature of their application, it has become clear that, not only do the rules place certain industries (in particular service-based businesses) at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to tax planning opportunities, it also reflects a distinct gender bias as the vast majority of female spouses who have previously been provided with a source of independently-reported income are now viewed as wholly-dependent upon their male principal-shareholder spouses.
The application of the new TOSI rules to spouses also reflects an inconsistency in the income tax treatment of the individual taxpayer versus the family and, in particular, spouses. The “family unit” has generally been viewed as the appropriate unit of taxation as opposed to the individual. Generally, spouses are considered together as a couple for many income-tested benefits, pension income-splitting and spousal RRSP’s which highlights the inconsistent approach to enabling principal shareholders to share income with their spouses. Beyond the pure income tax considerations, family law legislation in all provinces generally will recognize that both spouses make equal contributions in a marriage notwithstanding there may not be direct measurable capital contributions to a business. Family assets may be at risk for the purposes of financing CCPC debt, may be used indirectly in the execution of business operations or may form the quantum of funds contributed for business startup.
In addition to the shared-asset argument, spouses of principal shareholders are a critical informal source of support for business operations. A non-active spouse will often act as a sounding board and provide valuable perspective and advice to the active spouse.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Canada:
- Department of Finance immediately amend the Income Tax Act to exempt spouses from the application of the tax on split income legislation.
Current immigration legislation and the supporting models to facilitate economic migration create barriers to the attraction and retention of the highly educated and specialized workforce available to meet Alberta’s and Canada’s labour needs through international education.
By 2025, Alberta is forecast to experience a labour shortage of nearly 49,000 workers. International students represent a significant and currently underutilized opportunity for meeting the needs of the Alberta and Canadian economy and supporting an economic driver for Alberta and Canada in the long term.
Many initiatives to engage underrepresented communities in the labour market are underway to help mitigate the challenges associated with the massive shortage. Even with high levels of engagement the new participants would not be sufficient to fill the needs of the labour market nor would it provide access to the highly educated or specialized workforce that international students represent.
International education in Canada is estimated to produce approximately $11.4 billion to the economy annually, which support 122,700 jobs across the country. Alberta’s well-regulated public and private post-secondary institutions can thrive in the international education market. A 2014 report published by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), Canada’s International Education Strategy, Time for a fresh curriculum states that:
“Canada has fallen behind Australia and other advanced economies in seizing the opportunities presented by the burgeoning business of cross-border education. These opportunities go well beyond the number of students a country attracts or the money they spend. International education is fast becoming a valuable tool in trade, development aid, and diplomacy…. Canadian institutions and policymakers all too often view international education through the narrow lens of boosting student numbers and revenues”.
The Government of Alberta can exercise options available within the Provincial Nominee Program and overcome the systemic gaps in labour and skills availability by involving employers more in the process to attract and retain foreign students. Foreign students can help meet Alberta’s economic needs and by adjusting the international student offer of employment restrictions imposed by the Alberta Provincial Nominee Program.
The Province of Manitoba, for example, only requires a six month offer of employment from an employer to an international student who graduated from a post-secondary institution and seeks permanent Canadian residency. Under Alberta’s Provincial Nominee Program, employer offers must be at minimum one year to similarly qualify graduates for permanent residency.
With a coherent provincial strategy that includes advocacy to the federal government and implementing changes within provincial jurisdiction, the Government of Alberta can offset federal policy barriers to attracting and retaining international talent and position international education as a key long-term economic driver for Alberta.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta:
- Expand the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program to allow foreign graduates from Canadian Private Post-Secondary Institutions to immediately obtain a Canadian Work Permit upon completion of their degree, diploma or certificate program;
- Improve the student visa procedure to make it quicker and easier for potential international students to receive study and work visas;
- Speed up processing times for the overseas study permit application as well as for the permanent residency applications from all international students who graduated from recognized Canadian institutions and are currently employed in Canada;
- Change the length of time for which a post-graduation work permit can be valid, from the current status of valid for no longer than three years, to five years regardless of the program of study, so long as obtained from a recognized public or private Canadian institution;
- When considering applications for permanent residency, take into account the work experience that an international student gains through working off campus, working on campus and co-op and internship programs; and
- Reduce the employer offer of employment requirement under the Alberta Provincial Nominee Program from one year to six months to qualify foreign graduates from recognized institutions for permanent residency.
 Alberta Labour, Alberta’s Occupational Demand and Supply Outlook, 2015-2025, Pg. 4
 Global Affairs Canada, Economic Impact of International Education in Canada – 2016 Update
Dedicated funding to advance the development of a feasibility study and proposed implementation plan for a Northern Transportation Utility Corridor (TUC) would support Canada’s long-term economic development and strategic trade interests.
Canada’s birth, growth and development is interwoven with major infrastructure projects including trans-continental railways and highways. Going forward, establishing Transportation Utility Corridors (TUC’s) will be critical to the effective long-term planning and infrastructure development to support continued prosperity for Canadians. TUC’s reduce land-use conflicts, reduce environmental impacts, and provide development certainty to attract private sector investment and reduce infrastructure costs to the public.
Currently, the oil and gas industry is realizing lower prices because current infrastructure limits exports to destinations outside of the United States, which receives 99% of Canada’s oil exports. Scotiabank reported delayed oil pipeline construction will cost the Canadian economy $10.7 billion in 2018. The benefit of better access to markets and regulatory streamlining for major projects is clear, but Canada has struggled to overcome obstacles such as regulatory red tape and obstruction by local political interests.
In June 2017, The Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce published a report “National Corridor: Enhancing and Facilitating Commerce and Internal Trade” after studying and consulting on the topic. The report highlights some significant challenges Canada faces in optimizing trade opportunities and long-term economic development: limited access to tidewater to export goods, a lack of ports and routes in Canada’s North and regulatory approval processes that are a significant impediment to development, particularly for large projects that cross provincial boundaries.
One of the key recommendations of the Senate Committee was to fund research intended to provide public decision-makers with evidence-based analysis and proposals to overcome systemic barriers to growing Canada’s internal and foreign trade. Specifically, the committee recommended that the federal government fund research being conducted by the University of Calgary School of Public Policy and the Centre for Interuniversity Research and Analysis of Organizations (CIRANO) which published a paper in May 2016 proposing the development of a Northern Corridor right-of-way in Canada’s north and near-north reaching all three Canadian coasts.
The proposed 7,000 km Transportation Utility Corridor (TUC) right-of-way could accommodate road, rail, pipeline, electrical transmission and communication infrastructure, enhancing opportunities for geographically distributed economic development and access to new markets. In addition to improving the movement of goods and market access for Canadian products, a northern infrastructure corridor could significantly benefit Canada’s North by lowering the cost of living, providing new business and employment opportunities, and possibly allow northern communities to access higher-efficiency and more cost-effective electricity grids in the south. Studies have shown that the cost of living in Yellowknife and Whitehorse is 33% higher than the average in Canada, with transportation costs contributing significantly.
The Senate report noted that an initiative on this scale requires strong leadership and multiple in-depth studies to support what would likely be decades of investment. For this reason, the Committee recommended the federal government: provide a grant of $5 million to the School of Public Policy and CIRANO for their research program, ensure that Indigenous groups are involved in the research program, receive an interim report on the research within 18 months, and establish a Task Force to conduct consultations following the submission of the final report.
Broadly shared economic growth and future development will be determined by our ability to recognize and undertake visionary plans which support the continual improvement of transportation, movement of goods, communications and energy infrastructure. The business community believes the federal government can provide strong leadership by acquiring all the right-of-way’s needed for the kind of farsighted planning and infrastructure investment needed to enable Canadians’ long-term prosperity.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the federal government, along with provincial, territorial, municipal and First Nations governments:
- Implement the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce recommendation in its June 2017 report to fund the University of Calgary School of Public Policy and the Centre for Interuniversity Research and Analysis of Organizations to undertake further research into the proposed northern infrastructure corridor;
- Establish an integrated, national Transportation/Utility Corridor network plan with the aim to enable efficient market access for goods and services from all provinces and territories to any Canadian coast;
- Coordinate and secure the appropriate right-of-ways to enable an integrated, national TUC network, consistent with the principles and objectives outlined by the Northern Corridors Initiative; and
- Ensure that the processes for moving forward follows best practices for consultation with Indigenous communities, existing landowners, municipalities and businesses.
Canadian’s long-term prosperity is contingent on a regulatory system for major projects that is science-based, transparent, dependable and competitive with other jurisdictions. Bill C-69 “Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts,” requires amendments to deliver those outcomes.
Competitiveness remains a significant issue for Canadian business. In the last two years, new policies have been introduced that negatively impact our ability to compete globally, undermine confidence in the rule of law in Canada, and are resulting in negative consequences for the national economy including; an Oil Tanker Moratorium (Bill C-48), federal regulations to reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, clean fuel standards, climate change policy, and a lack of clarity on implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Each of these on their own could hurt Canadian business. Together, they are creating a crisis resulting in growing uncertainty in the business environment and declining confidence in the rule of law and business investment move to other countries. Canadian oil producers are receiving discounted price for products with restricted export capacity, yet operate with some of the world’s highest environmental standards.
There is a consensus view among investors, job creators and regulatory experts regarding the inadequacy of Bill C-69 to address the negative consequences affecting the national economy because of regulatory uncertainty and lack of competitiveness. Redressing the inadequacy will require amendments to:
ensuring regulators remain independent from political influence,
expediting review timelines,
minimizing regulatory duplication,
limiting consultation to those directly impacted, and
clarifying the process around Indigenous consultation.
Without making these changes it is highly probable that the current trends of declining foreign investment, declining royalty revenues, divestitures from Canada, and job losses will continue.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Canada:
- Refrain from passing Bill C-69 until the following amendments have been incorporated into the legislation and all draft regulations have been tabled for consideration and review by the public:
(1) Increase certainty around review timelines and respect jurisdictions
Limit the maximum review timeline to 24 months, including the 180-day early planning phase.
Respect provincial/territorial jurisdiction and ensure that projects which fall under provincial legislation are not subject to redundant federal review.
(2) Emphasize science-based decision making
Amend Section 17 (1) to read as follows:
If, at least 30 days before the Agency provides the proponent of a designated project with a notice of the commencement of the impact assessment of the designated project under subsection 18(1), the proponent so requests, the Ministers of Finance, Natural Resources Canada and the Environment and Climate Change Canada must, prior to the notice of commencement provide a written notice if, in their opinions, the project is inconsistent with formal government policy. The written notice must set out the basis for the Minister’s opinion.
Add an additional subsection after section 17(2) of the act which reads as follows:
17(3) For greater certainty, the provision of a written notice to a proponent of a designated project under subsection 17(1) does not suspend or terminate the impact assessment of the designated project.
(3) Ensure those most impacted by a project be heard
Define a mechanism to define the nature and scope of public participation to the public in the assessment process which,
limits eligibility to stand and provide evidence for the review panel to individuals who demonstrate that the project presents “significant adverse environmental effects” to themselves or their communities, and
permits individuals who cannot demonstrate that the project would have significant adverse environmental effects for them or their communities to submit their perspectives via online platforms or mail.
(4) Create confidence with a federal backstop
Implement a federal backstop which,
Compensates companies that adhere and fully comply with the regulatory process but find their project cannot proceed because of errors made by the Government in the consultation and assessment process.
Compensate indigenous and other communities for the economic losses associated with the cancellation of a project because of the Government’s inability to fully execute its duty to consult. The compensation should be provided for lost opportunities from shared construction benefits, money earmarked for long-term community investment, and lost direct employment opportunities.
(5) Clarify new project criteria and eligible projects
Clearly define all impact factors considered in an Impact Assessment.
Clearly define the conditions under which a designated project can be exempt from an Impact Assessment by,
Indicating the respective weighting of factors considered under subsection 16(2) of the Act.
Clarifying how factors considered under subsection 16(2) of the Act will be evaluated
Including whether a project has received an equivalent assessment in an implicated jurisdiction as an additional criterion for exemption.