The government of Premier Jason Kenney has been moving at a breakneck pace since being sworn in May 21 with regular business of the first session of the 30th Legislature underway.
We have seen some of the missteps typically associated with new MLAs getting used to speaking in the Legislature and new Speaker Nathan Cooper finding his groove keeping order in the House. Below you’ll find a summary of the four pieces of legislation already introduced by the UCP, an overview of legislative committees, a recap of Orders in Council and government announcements.
Back in the House
The first two weeks of session have seen some stumbles as Ministers get the hang of speaking in the chamber and a largely underwhelming performance from former Premier, now Opposition Leader, Rachel Notley. With short answers and a lack of desk thumping, it is clear that it may take some for Notley to find her rhythm in the new role and find topics that will stick.
The new seating plan that’s now in effect for the Legislature is a good way of viewing how much various MLAs are in the good graces of their respective bosses. You can also see a large patch in the bottom right that would be perfect for cartwheels where Alberta’s other parties once had seats.
Government Legislation Recap
Bill 1: An Act to Repeal the Carbon Tax
Stage: Third Reading
Notes: As long promised by now Premier Kenney, the first piece of legislation repeals Alberta’s carbon tax effectively as of May 30, 2019. Although the bill has yet to pass, fuel sellers are expected to stop collecting the tax resulting in lower gas prices.
Stage: Second Reading
Notes: With a news conference at Edmonton sports bar 1st RND (thankfully not during the Stanley Cup or NBA finals) Premier Kenney announced legislation that if passed would introduce a $13/hour minimum wage for students under 18 through Order in Council, remove the requirement for employers to provide holiday pay when their business is not open and return to secret ballots for union certification votes. Changes related to holiday pay rules and overtime would take effect September 1, 2019 while changes affecting unions would take effect when Bill 2 receives Royal Assent. The Premier has said that further changes to Alberta labour legislation will be coming this fall.
Bill 3: Job Creation Tax Cut Act
Stage: Second Reading
Notes: Introduced Tuesday, this legislation will follow through on the commitment of the UCP to lower the corporate tax rate in Alberta from 12 per cent to 8 per cent as first announced in early March.
Bill 4: Red Tape Reduction Act
Stage: Second Reading
Notes: The announcement for this bill saw Premier Kenney joined by Red Tape Reduction Associate Minister Grant Hunter the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Presidents of the Edmonton and Calgary Chambers of Commerce. The legislation itself discussing reporting requirements while leaving the actual act of reducing red tape up to Ministerial Orders and Orders in Council.
The ultimate goal of government here is to reduce regulation by a third. During the Bill 4 media announcement, the Premier committed to making public the regulations that have already been axed by cabinet.
Government News Recap
- The government’s Speech from the Throne outlined key priorities for years one and two of their mandate including showing that Alberta is open for business, reducing tax burden, cutting red tape by one third, balancing the budget, supporting the resource industry, making it easier for newcomers to get credentialed in their profession, strengthening property rights and working with municipalities. An analysis of the Speech by the New West Public Affairs team is available here.
- B.C.’s court of appeal unanimously ruled to reject the province’s move to change its environmental laws in a way that would effectively kill the Trans Mountain expansion project. B.C.’s Attorney General David Eby has suggested that their government will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. .
- On Tuesday amendments were introduced to improve decorum in the Legislature with the doing away of desk thumping, allowing for abstaining from a vote without leaving the legislature, reducing heckling and shortening the introduction of guests.
- To demonstrate Alberta political solidarity, a government motion was passed unanimously to voice opposition to federal bills C-48 and C-69.
- Newly appointed Speaker Nathan Cooper announced that Shannon Dean would be the new Clerk of the Legislature, replacing Merwan Saher who had been in the role since February.
- Additional evacuation orders continue to be added in Northwest Alberta as wildfires continue to burn out-of-control. Over 10,000 Albertans have been evacuated as a result. The town of Slave Lake is on an 8-hour evacuation alert.
Committee assignments are a way to reward backbench MLAs with interesting and meaningful assignments, or at the very least a way to keep them busy and out of trouble. The below list of committee membership was confirmed in the Legislature by way of standing order (spare a thought for Government House Leader Jason Nixon who had to say all of this aloud).
Standing Committee on Legislative Offices: The committee approves the budgets of the Officers of the Legislature, including the Auditor General, the Child and Youth Advocate, the Chief Electoral Officer, the Election Commissioner, the Ethics Commissioner, the Information and Privacy Commissioner, the Ombudsman, and the Public Interest Commissioner, and also reviews the salaries of the Officers on an annual basis. The committee does not have the mandate to approve changes to legislation.
Membership: Mike Ellis (Chair), Joseph Schow (Deputy Chair), Laila Goodridge, Christina Gray, Jackie Lovely, Jeremy Nixon, Brad Rutherford, Marlin Schmidt, David Shepherd, R.J. Sigurdson, Heather Sweet
Standing Committee on Private Bills: The Standing Committee on Private Bills comprises 15 Members of the Legislative Assembly and reviews all petitions for private bills and reports to the Assembly on that review. There are currently three vacant spots on this committee.
Membership: Mike Ellis (Chair), Joseph Schow (Deputy Chair), Richard Gotfried, Nate Horner, Janis Irwin, Nathan Neudorf, Chris Nielsen, Jeremy Nixon, Rakhi Pancholi, Lori Sigurdson, R.J. Sigurdson
Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections, Standing Orders and Printing: The Standing Committee on Privileges, Elections, Standing Orders and Printing comprises 15 Members of the Legislative Assembly and meets when the Assembly has referred a matter for consideration.
Membership: Mark Smith (Chair), Joseph Schow (Deputy Chair), Jon Carson, Jasvir Deol, Kathleen Ganley, Nate Horner, Whitney Issik, Matt Jones, Rod Loyola, Nathan Neudorf, Pat Rehn, Roger Reid, Marie Renaud, Searle Turton, Tany Yao
Standing Committee on Public Accounts: Chaired by a member of the opposition, this is one of the highest profile committees that allows for scrutiny of the government of the day. The Committee reviews the reports of the Auditor General of Alberta and the public accounts of the province.
Membership: Shannon Phillips (Chair), Richard Gotfried (Deputy Chair), Mickey Amery, Drew Barnes, Lorne Dach, Richard Feehan, Pete Guthrie, Sarah Hoffman, Marie Renaud, Miranda Rosin, Garth Rowswell, Jason Stephan, Devinder Toor, Searle Turton, Jordan Walker
Standing Committee on the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund: The committee approves the annual report and reviews the quarterly reports on the Fund, as well as holds public meetings with Albertans on its investment activities and performance. The Committee also reports back to the Legislative Assembly on whether the mission of the Fund is being fulfilled.
Membership: Richard Gotfried (Chair), Ron Orr (Deputy Chair), Tracy Allard, David Eggen, Shane Getson, Michaela Glasgo, Janis Irwin, Matt Jones, Chris Nielsen
Special Standing Committee on Members’ Services: Chaired by the Speaker, the committee approves the annual estimates of the Legislative Assembly Office and may modify regulations, orders or other directives governing the office’s financial and personnel administration. The committee also sets Members’ allowances, constituency office allowances and Members’ benefits and establishes human resource, informatics and financial management policy for the Legislative Assembly Office. It’s had some interesting moments in the past, including tightening up rules after Derek Fildebrandt’s Airbnb troubles.
Membership: Nathan Cooper (Chair), Mike Ellis (Deputy Chair), Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, Thomas Dang, Jasvir Deol, Nicole Goehring, Laila Goodridge, Richard Gotfried, Martin Long, Heather Sweet, Dan Williams
Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future: This policy committee reviews bills or issues referred to it by the Assembly and can also meet on its own initiative to consider issues within its mandate which relates to the areas of Agriculture and Forestry, Advanced Education, Infrastructure, Economic Development and Trade, Culture and Tourism, and Labour.
Membership: Glenn van Dijken (Chair), Nicole Goehring (Deputy Chair), Tracy Allard, Drew Barnes, Deron Bilous, Lorne Dach, Thomas Dang, Christina Grey, Nate Horner, Whitney Issik, Matt Jones, Roger Reid, Garth Rowswell, Jason Stephan, Devinder Toor
Standing Committee on Families and Communities: This policy committee reviews bills or issues referred to it by the Assembly and can also meet on its own initiative to consider issues within its mandate which relates to the areas of Health, Community and Social Services, Children's Services, Justice and Solicitor General, Education, Seniors and Housing, Service Alberta and Status of Women.
Membership: Laila Goodridge (Chair), Lori Sigurdson (Deputy Chair), Mickey Amery, Jon Carson, Kathleen Ganley, Michaela Glasgo, Pete Guthrie, Janis Irwin, Martin Long, Nathan Neudorf, Jeremy Nixon, Rakhi Pancholi, Brad Rutherford, Jordan Walker, Tany Yao
Standing Committee on Resource Stewardship: This policy committee reviews bills or issues referred to it by the Assembly and can also meet on its own initiative to consider issues within its mandate which relates to the areas of Environment and Parks, Transportation, Municipal Affairs, Treasury Board and Finance, Energy and Indigenous Relations.
Membership: Dave Hanson (Chair), Joe Ceci (Deputy Chair), Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, Richard Feehan, Shane Getson, Rod Loyola, Pat Rehn, Miranda Rosin, Irfan Sabir, Marlin Schmidt, R.J. Sigurdson, Peter Singh, Mark Smith, Searle Turton, Muhammad Yaseen
Orders in Council
OC 98/2019 - no government is immune from typos! This OC fixes the spelling of Treasury Board and Finance Deputy Minister Athana Mentzelopoulos’ name on a previous Order in Council.
OC 99/2019 - in conjunction with Bill 2, this OC allows the youth minimum wage to change from $15/hour to $13/hour through regulation rather than legislation.
OCs 100-101/2019 - In response to Alberta’s recent and ongoing wildfires, these OCs declare that a disaster exists for the purposes of allowing more than 1 per cent of the budget being spent on operational expenses not previously listed.