What can Albertans expect in 2016?
Nina Grossman, News Editor
With a new, unexpected NDP majority win in the spring, 2015 was a rollercoaster of change for old Alberta. New progressive policies and plans seemed to divide the province; the voices of disgruntled conservatives licking at the heels of Rachel Notley and her new government. For the most part, the surprising results of the provincial election showed the province and the country that Alberta is far more progressive than they had thought — and that at least the majority of Albertans were ready for change. And change they received. Experts have speculated on what caused the drastic change in Alberta’s votes — but the means don’t change the end result. The NDPs have already modified Alberta’s political and social landscape in 2015. Here’s a bit more of what we can expect from them in the coming year.
Otherwise known as the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act; has been in place since Jan 1. The bill provides safety standards and compensation for farm and ranch workers in the province. It protects only paid workers— but there were cries from the farming community that the government had undermined an age-old industry. The Alberta government’s response was that they are simply legislating protection for farm workers similar to laws in other provinces. Their website says that the farm fatality rate in British Columbia was reduced by 68 per cent after similar laws were put in place. The government has plans to consult with industry before developing employment standards and labour relations. So you can put down your pitchforks.
The NDPs have big plans for protecting Alberta’s environment. These plans include a carbon tax and a cap on oil sands emissions. Revolutionary stuff… but not really. According to the Carbon Tax Centre, British Columbia has already had “the most comprehensive and transparent carbon tax in the Western hemisphere.” Notley’s plans also include phasing out coal-fired power and reducing methane emissions. According to the Globe and Mail she said, “The government of Alberta is going to stop being the problem and we are going to start being the solution.”
This topic gets everyone fired up doesn’t it? The Reflector has no economists on staff, but we do our best. The NDPs did a very NDP-ish thing. Progressive tax. The more you make, the more you pay. This includes the corporations who enjoyed the PC’s flat tax policy. They saw a two per cent increase and now pay a whopping 12 per cent. We can’t expect to see the promised $15 per hour minimum wage until 2018, but it will be a slow increase that continues through the coming year. The NDPs plans for a royalty rate review this month has the oil and gas industry biting its nails. In the midst of an economic downturn— it’s hard to say what will happen and what sort of policies the NDPs will put in place next.
2015 has been an unforgettable year for most Albertans. Whether you were satisfied with the outcome of the spring election or enjoyed some lengthy social media arguments with a stubborn person who went to your high school, it’s safe to say that we were all a little more engaged in politics than usual. And that’s always a good thing. Here’s to the next 12 months of Alberta’s evolution.