The Alberta legislature has been closed since the end of May, so you could be forgiven for forgetting we had one. Now it’s back in business. The government returned for the fall sitting on October 23, tabling 10 bills.
Among the more prominent ones, Bill 3 proposes the first overhaul of the Education Act since 1988. The bill is based on multiple stakeholder meetings that took place last winter and spring in which parents, teachers, students and education administrators told government what the system needs.
If Bill 3 is approved, bullying will be defined in legislation, and school boards will be required to develop a code of conduct with anti-bullying measures, whether the act of bullying occurs on or off school property. Bill 3 also raises the minimum dropout age from 16 to 17; part of an effort to curb the high school dropout rate in Alberta.
Bill 5, the “New Home Buyer Protection Act,” would legislate mandatory warranty coverage for new homes in an attempt to tackle the widespread problems with poor house and condo construction.
The Electric Utilities Amendment Act, Bill 8, would restore the power of the Alberta Utilities Commission to approve transmission lines, rather than leaving final approval in the hands of cabinet. Bill 8 would also change the controversial Bill 50, which gave cabinet authority over transmission lines and ultimately led to last year’s approval of the Heartland transmission project and three other lines amid accusations the lines are politically motivated.
“We’ve listened to Albertans and we have responded.... This amendment ensures that Albertans have an opportunity to share their perspectives on the need for transmission infrastructure, and that decisions about the construction of future transmission lines will be made by an independent agency,” Energy Minister Ken Hughes told a press conference.
Within the legislature, MLAs focused on questions about MLA severance, the XL Foods beef recall, the government deficit, Highway 63 and environmental monitoring.
Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman requested an emergency debate to discuss the appointment of former politicians to government jobs before the legally required one year cooling-off period expired. This comes after former Agriculture Minister Evan Berger was hired as a senior official in the department, and cleared by the ethics commissioner, after he lost his seat in the recent election.
“The situation we have is a breach of the public trust and a loss of confidence in a critical piece of legislation,” she argued during question period, noting anyone breaking this law could face a $50,000 fine. Her request was denied.