By Trevor Busch
Westwind Weekly News
With the fall session of the legislature now underway, Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter highlighted some of the critical pieces of legislation that will be weighed by the house.
“This session, we did have a goal going into it — as I’ve talked about in the past, we’ve had probably one of the worst global economic collapses in the last 100 years. When we went into this session, our goal really was to bring forward legislation that’s going to focus on growth and jobs, but second of all, we had a mandate that we were given back in 2019 with 375 promises we made to Albertans. So we’re working through those as well.”
The government is looking at 20 different bills during the six week session which started on Oct. 20.
“I will have a red tape reduction bill that will come forward. Every session I will have a red tape reduction bill that will come forward,” said Hunter, who also serves as associate minister of Red Tape Reduction. “Also, I will be tabling my first annual report for the house to take a look at. It basically goes through what we’ve done in the last year. So every year, according to the legislation that stood up our ministry, I have to provide a report on the year’s activities and what we’ve done. That should be coming up in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned we’re quite excited about that one. It will show that we’ve not only stood up the red tape reduction initiative, but we’ve made significant progress in removing those irritating hoops that Albertans hate to jump through. Just to give you an idea, the last bill that we presented it was 175 pages and we either repealed or reduced regulatory burden across six different ministries. I believe this one is actually going to address about 11 different ministries.”
The fall sitting opened with a debate on economic recovery which allowed MLAs to question the premier and members of cabinet.
“Bill 35, which is the Tax Statutes Amendment Act, that is a bill that basically we brought our corporate income tax right from 12 per cent down to eight per cent, and that’s the framework to be able to accomplish that,” said Hunter. “That is our job creation tax cut, and really what this allows us to be able to do is accelerate that reduction down to eight per cent. It also provides an innovation employment grant which makes Alberta more attractive for people investing in technology and innovation.”
Hunter touched on a bill designed to liberalize First Nations policing in the province, but also includes some important red tape housekeeping.
“Bill 38, the Justice Statutes Amendment Act, is really a promise we made Albertans. It specifically talks about First Nations policing services, and allows us to be able to have the First Nations operate police services in Alberta. It’s actually quite a red tape reduction bill, I really like that bill — it talks about the change to the Police Act which allows First Nations to have their own — rather than having just the RCMP in there, they can actually have their own First Nations detachment. It works through the Jury Act, the Queen’s Council Act, the Referendum Act, the Victims Restitution and Compensation Payment Amendment Act as well.”
Having cut his teeth in commercial construction prior to being elected MLA, Hunter is excited to see changes coming that will ensure prompt payment.
“Bill 37, the Builders’Lien (Prompt Payment) Amendment Act, this is one that is near and dear to me, I used to be in commercial construction prior to being elected, and it was always tough when you have to wait for a long time to be able to get paid. So this is actually about prompt payment. Currently the average time for payment in Alberta’s construction industry is around 45-70 days. Especially with COVID-19 and all the nuances that Albertans have to deal with, we felt that it was actually important to bring down that so there was a prompt payment. If this is passed, it will set a clear timeline of about 28 days to pay a proper invoice.”
Ensuring the proper building blocks are in place to promote investment and create the conditions for sustainable government are crucial goals for the UCP, reports Hunter.
“These are tough times. It weighs on the premier’s mind, it weighs on all of our minds, that we’ve got to make some important decisions about how to move forward and position ourselves for growth once the coronavirus starts to subside. These are crossroads that we’re at…and you have to make a decision about where you’re going to go and what is the right direction. We have to weigh all of the options and all the possibilities, and hopefully at that point — based upon all the information we have to make the right decision — but it is going to be really hyper-focused on jobs and economy, and our pillars are to have the lowest marginal tax rate compared to other jurisdictions, and then try to be able to create a sustainable government. Most businesses out there recognize that if they’re going to invest with us here, they do their models, they figure out what kind of profit margin they’re going to make, and they determine if they’re going to come. Now if they know that there is no way that we can sustain our government at the current rates of taxation and in time it’s just going to go up, they might question whether they want to come here. So sustainable government is absolutely critical to be able to convince foreign investors — and local investors, too — to invest their money here and create those businesses that are job creating.”
Keeping Alberta’s economy free from overly burdensome regulatory conditions is one of Hunter’s primary mandates.
“The third plank is reducing regulatory cost, and regulatory burden. And that is squarely in my wheelhouse to be able to get our government to be the freest and fastest moving economy in North America. That’s the strategy we have — I believe that is the right strategy, and that it will work. That’s the best chance we have to be able to get Albertans back to work.”