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MLAs head back to Legislature

Province plans 14 to 17 bills this fall
The first session under the new UCP government wrapped in the legislature on Friday. FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

Climate change and the provincial budget were the top priorities for St. Albert’s MLA as Alberta’s elected representatives returned to the Legislature this week.

MLAs gathered in Edmonton Tuesday to begin the fall sitting of the Alberta Legislature. First on the agenda was an act to create the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation – a Crown corporation meant to help First Nations gain ownership in oil and gas projects.

“We will support Indigenous Albertans in their desire to be full partners in resource projects that affect them, in the spirit of reconciliation, inclusion and opportunity,” government house leader Jason Nixon said Monday.

The bill was the first of about 17 Nixon said the government hopes to pass during the fall session, in addition to the upcoming 2019 budget. These include bills to raise fines for protesters who trespass on farms, ensure people could wear pro-oil and gas clothes in the Legislature, and modernize grazing leases.

Rule changes

In an apparent reference to two incidents last session where NDP filibusters kept legislators debating bills for 24 and 40 hours, Nixon said he would also propose changes to the Legislature’s rules that would cap the amount of time legislators could spend debating any bill.

“I won’t allow (the Opposition) to abuse taxpayer dollars in the future just to go on and on endlessly,” Nixon said.

Nixon said the new rules would be modelled on those used by Saskatchewan’s Legislative Assembly, which set out minimum lengths of time under which bills must be debated but also require all government bills to go to a final vote before the last day of a legislative session, regardless of where legislators are in the debate.

St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud said this proposal was the latest in a string of rule changes UCP members had made to benefit themselves, including allowing MLAs to abstain from votes without having their actions recorded.

“This is all just a systematic change to democracy,” she said.

“It’s about silencing opposition.”

Clare’s Law and climate

Nixon said the province would implement Clare’s Law early in this legislative session.

Saskatchewan passed Clare’s Law legislation earlier this year, which allows police to disclose someone’s violent criminal record to their intimate partner should that partner be at risk, said Areni Kelleppan of the Stop Abuse in Families Society. The law takes its name from the case of the U.K.’s Clare Wood, who was killed by her ex-boyfriend who had a violent criminal record.

“It’s a tool in the toolbox,” Kelleppan said of the law, but it’s tough to say if it would actually prevent domestic violence – it only kicks in if someone feels threatened enough to ask for their partner’s criminal record or after the cops have been called in.

Nixon said he would table legislation to create the Technology Innovation and Emission Reduction (TIER) program just prior to this fall’s budget, which is set to be tabled Oct. 24. The legislation would change how the province manages carbon emissions from large industrial plants.

Right now, all large industrial plants are required to meet emission reduction targets based on the top performing/greenest companies in their sector, said Jan Gorski, an analyst with the Pembina Institute. Those who beat the target get credits they can sell, while those that don’t have to reduce their emissions, buy credits or chip in $30 per tonne into an emissions reduction fund.

TIER reverts to the pre-2017 system of setting targets based on each plant’s past record, Gorski said – a step backward, his analysis found, as it rewarded those who haven’t done much to cut emissions (and therefore have many cheap improvements they can make) and punished top performers (who already made such investments).

In addition to drawing attention to the budget debates in the next few weeks, Renaud said she would issue a member’s statement on climate change and the Fridays for Future student protest movement this fall and demand action on climate whenever possible.

“It’s an emergency and it’s something we have to act on immediately,” she said.

Renaud said she also planned to re-table a private member’s motion to remove barriers to abortion and reproductive health services in a few weeks.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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