Energy reg­u­la­tion tops UCP agenda as politi­cians re­turn

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION - LISA JOHN­SON li­john­son@post­media.com twit­ter.com/re­por­trix

ED­MON­TON The UCP will in­tro­duce bills on ed­u­ca­tion, energy reg­u­la­tion and sup­port for vic­tims of crime this week as the leg­is­la­ture re­con­venes to de­bate the prov­ince’s COVID-19 re­sponse.

Premier Ja­son Ken­ney will ad­dress COVID-19 in the as­sem­bly this morn­ing, fol­lowed by a de­bate that could stretch into the evening.

On Thurs­day, the gov­ern­ment will get back to busi­ness-as-usual by in­tro­duc­ing three bills with at least seven oth­ers ex­pected in the com­ing weeks dur­ing the spring and sum­mer ses­sions. The leg­is­la­ture is sched­uled to sit un­til late July.

“As we move to­ward a more nor­mal rhythm in the leg­is­la­ture, we’ll also be look­ing to ful­fil more of the prom­ises we made to Al­ber­tans when they gave us a man­date to gov­ern,” said House Leader Ja­son Nixon at a Tues­day news con­fer­ence.

The first piece of leg­is­la­tion to be in­tro­duced Thurs­day, Bill 7, the Re­spon­si­ble Energy Amend­ment Act, would cap the amount of time the Al­berta Energy Reg­u­la­tor spends re­view­ing ap­pli­ca­tions.

Af­ter a re­view of the reg­u­la­tor, the gov­ern­ment heard that the ap­proval for ap­pli­ca­tions was un­nec­es­sar­ily long and dis­cour­ag­ing in­vest­ment, Nixon said.

The sec­ond, Bill 15, the Choice in Ed­u­ca­tion Act, aims to con­firm par­ents have the pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ed­u­ca­tion of their chil­dren. Nixon said it would rec­og­nize a sec­tion of the Univer­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Human Rights that says par­ents have a prior right to choose the kind of ed­u­ca­tion that shall be given to their chil­dren.

The third, Bill 16, the Vic­tims of Crime Amend­ment Act, was drafted to ex­pand the scope of the Vic­tims of Crime Fund, tran­si­tion­ing the vic­tim fi­nan­cial ben­e­fit pro­gram into a ser­vice-based pro­gram.

The UCP will also re­vive de­bate over how Al­ber­tans may protest.

The gov­ern­ment will look to pass Bill 1, the Crit­i­cal In­fra­struc­ture De­fence Act, by the end of the sum­mer ses­sion. The bill, called an over­reach by crit­ics, was put off dur­ing the pan­demic, but Nixon said it re­mains a pri­or­ity.

The leg­is­la­tion was in­tro­duced in Fe­bru­ary as protests in sup­port of Wet’suwet’en hered­i­tary chiefs who were op­posed to the Coastal Gaslink project in north­ern B.C. took place across the coun­try, in­clud­ing in west Ed­mon­ton where pro­test­ers in­ter­rupted rail ship­ments for al­most 12 hours with a makeshift wooden block­ade.

Block­ing rail­ways is al­ready against fed­eral law, but the bill would give po­lice and prose­cu­tors the power to hand out more pro­vin­cial penal­ties, in­clud­ing fines up to $25,000.

Last Fri­day, Energy Min­is­ter Sonya Sav­age said the pan­demic has lim­ited the abil­ity of pro­test­ers to gather and demon­strate, mak­ing it a good time to build pipe­lines. Nixon said she was “just, quite frankly, point­ing out the ob­vi­ous.”

“Min­is­ter Sav­age was not say­ing that the Al­berta gov­ern­ment in any way would pre­vent some­body form legally protest­ing,” Nixon said.

NDP Op­po­si­tion House Leader Heather Sweet said her party sup­ports get­ting Al­berta’s re­sources to mar­ket, but Sav­age’s com­ments don’t do any­thing pos­i­tive for the prov­ince’s rep­u­ta­tion.

“We need to be re­spect­ful of the con­cerns that the buyer of our prod­ucts have,” said Sweet.

‘A CON­VER­SA­TION’ ABOUT EMER­GENCY POW­ERS

The gov­ern­ment will also re-ex­am­ine Bill 10, the Pub­lic Health Emer­gency Pow­ers Amend­ment Act. The bill, passed on April 2, changes the Pub­lic Health Act to al­low a cab­i­net min­is­ter to al­ter or re­place ex­ist­ing laws with­out the ap­proval of the leg­is­la­ture. It has drawn a le­gal chal­lenge from crit­ics who say it goes too far.

A spe­cial all-party com­mit­tee will meet to “have a con­ver­sa­tion” about con­cerns over the Pub­lic Health Act and Bill 10, Nixon said, though he de­fended the leg­is­la­tion as it stands.

“Bill 10 it­self makes barely any changes to any­thing,” said Nixon.

Sweet dis­agreed, call­ing the law “a bla­tant power grab at the height of the pan­demic.”

When the com­mit­tee meets to de­bate it, the NDP will de­mand that Ken­ney and Health Min­is­ter Tyler Shan­dro an­swer ques­tions about the de­ci­sion-mak­ing be­hind the bill.

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