UCP SETS OUT BITS OF POLICY AMID THE POLITICAL RANCOUR
Premier Rachel Notley and UCP Leader Jason Kenney both like to wrap themselves in the spirit of Peter Lougheed, Alberta’s first PC premier.I wish they’d stop.This is nothing like the Lougheed era of the 1970s and 80s. Gone is all spirit of compromise, decency and generosity. A statue of the late premier would best show him weeping.UCP and NDP attacks keep spinning deeper into a pit of venom. There are many examples from both sides, the latest being an NDP attack website rolled out Thursday.But in the midst of it comes a whiff of actual policy, in the form of democratic reform promises from the UCP.Kenney would, of course, abolish the carbon tax. Now he’d also require a referendum to reinstate one.Carbon tax would be added to sales tax as measures that would need approval by referendum.This one’s tempting, especially after the NDP imposed the carbon tax without mentioning it in the 2015 election.But there’s also the argument that such laws effectively ban tax innovation, ever, no matter how high the debt or deficit.Future governments should not be handcuffed that way. They just need to be honest about their plans and let the voters decide.Kenney wants to establish a fixed election date every four years, to replace the current three-month window that stretches from March 1 to May 31 in the fourth year after an election.Great idea. The window dodge gives the government an unfair edge. Election timing can be carefully engineered to coincide with publicly funded announcements and ads. That’s going on every day.B.C. decrees an election on the third Saturday in October every four years. It’s a good model, although Alberta tradition leans toward spring elections.Kenney also wants to ban those highly political government election ads that masquerade as public service. In my view, they should be prohibited for two or even three months before voting day.Kenney would also stop MLAs from abandoning one party to join another, unless they resign to force a byelection and win it.That would bring floor-crossing to a screaming halt, guaranteed.Kenney says it’s a betrayal of voters for a person elected under one party’s policies to suddenly adopt another’s without a fresh mandate.There are arguments both ways, but it seems wise to make floor-crossing more difficult after the 2014 exodus that saw 11 Wildrose MLAs cross to the PCs.Kenney would also limit donations to third-party advertisers — often called Political Action Committees or PACs — to $30,000 per person per year. This would close a loophole that gushes unregulated cash.He’d also prohibit any PAC donations from organizations legally linked to a party. Kenney is after NDP-friendly unions here.But UCP-linked PACs are even more bloated and have to come under controls.Anything that diminishes the power of cash-rich PACs is fine with me. But watch closely to see if the UCP measure applies to both sides.The party also calls for more free votes by MLAs untethered from party discipline. This one usually lasts until the party demanding it is elected.Kenney proposes clearly defining what constitutes a confidence vote. This means, theoretically, that MLAs could vote against their government without bringing it down.Good idea. Won’t work over time, though. Party whips will still use their kneecapping powers to get the result the leader wants.And the UCP idea of free votes is forever defined by their refusal even to discuss Bill 9, the abortion zone bubble bill.Under Kenney, this will always be a highly disciplined party.Finally, the UCP dredges up the old populist recall measure. Alberta had such a law for about a year in the 1930s. It was abolished when recall threatened to dethrone the first Social Credit premier, William Aberhart.A fair recall law has to clear high hurdles to prevent partisan harassment of elected officials.In B.C., to get a recall moving, 40 per cent of voters have to sign a petition no sooner than 18 months after an electionRecall is usually a sop to conservative voters that’s quite harmless in reality.But in today’s poisonous, divided Alberta environment, recalls could be launched to settle scores with anyone — even Jason Kenney.
UCP leader Jason Kenney says MLAs who cross the floor should resign and face a byelection.
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