Nine takeaways from the fall legislature
Inside the whirlwind six weeks
EDMONTON—The fall sitting of the Alberta legislature, which wrapped Thursday, was fuelled by ongoing oil woes and dominated by pipeline talk.
It’s potentially the last time MLAs take their seats in Edmonton before the 2019 election campaign kicks off. Another sitting could happen in the spring, if an election isn’t called.
Besides key government decisions and an oil crisis, there was drama, a party departure, anticipated legislation left by the wayside and action at the independent members’ end of the house.
Meanwhile, official Opposition Leader Jason Kenney called on the NDP government to call the election by Feb. 1, meaning it would take place in early March.
“The next (legislature) session should belong to Albertans,” Kenney said on Thursday.
1. THE OIL DIFFERENTIAL CRISIS
The government watched the price of Western Canadian Select crude drop to staggering lows, hovering around $14 a barrel.
The price of West Texas Intermediate was around $50 a barrel, and the difference put pressure on the government to act.
The government claims the differential is costing the Canadian economy $80 million every day and is hurting Alberta royalties.
2. PARTIES THINKING TOGETHER
Kenney, along with the Alberta Party, had called on the government to enforce curtailment on the energy industry before the final decision from Notley.
After Notley appointed three special envoys to meet with energy industry leaders in November to help sort out the differential, Kenney said he met with one, Brian Topp, to lay out his proposal of a 10-per-cent production curtailment.
3. NDP CONTROVERSIES
The NDP faced down two situations that shook up the legislature.
First, ex-NDP MLA Robyn Luff made some allegations that the governing party had a “culture of fear” and that she felt bullied as a backbencher.
Then the NDP said it had investigated two allegations of sexual misconduct against MLAs within the caucus since 2015. The government maintains the matter was handled internally through a third-party investigation and that the instances did not involve criminal conduct.
4. NO LEGISLATION TO BAN CONVERSION THERAPY
A highly anticipated private member’s bill that was announced in September by NDP MLA for Edmonton-Castle Downs Nicole Goehring, sought to ban conversion therapy. But the bill never made it to the legislature.
The UCP often slammed the NDP for its supposed anti-pipeline activities in the past. Of course, the governing NDP shot back that it had been trying to get a pipeline through.
6. THE INDEPENDENT CORNER OF MLAS GROWS
Some call it political Siberia, some call it The Island of Misfit Toys, but the independent corner of the house welcomed MLA Robyn Luff into the fold after she was kicked out of the NDP caucus.
7. THE LAST PC
The final act of a 44-year political dynasty in Alberta ended when the last Progressive Conservative MLA still standing decided to call it quits. The PCs were cleared out by a shocking NDP
landslide in the 2015 election, but Richard Starke had always maintained his political stripe and refused to join other parties that came knocking.
8. LEGISLATION PASSED
Government house leader Brian Mason cited the raising of Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) rates, capping of tuition for post-secondary students, the establishment of a new funding structure for Edmonton and Calgary, and the bringing in of protection for medical patients from sexual abuse — just to name a few.
9. KENNEY HAS REGRETS OVER HIS PAST
The UCP leader was asked about a clip from about 2000 floating around online of him talking about campaigning to overturn a law regarding extending hospital visitation rights for gay couples in San Francisco during the AIDS epidemic.
Kenney said the campaigning was in 1989 and he said since the early 2000s, he had been a supporter of domestic partner arrangements for couples — regardless of sexual orientation.
“THE NEXT SESSION SHOULD BELONG TO ALBERTANS.” Jason Kenney
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, right, is greeted by Deputy Premier of Alberta and Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman before speaking to cabinet members about an 8.7-per-cent oil production cut to help deal with low prices.