Right U-turns and Filibusters

The Alberta Legislature finished its first session with the United Conservative Party (UCP) at the helm.  The UCP dubbed the session the “summer of repeal” as they began to replace some of the previous government’s left leaning legislation with some right-leaning legislation more to their liking. 

In the interests of decorum, they banned ‘desk thumping’ but it didn’t take long for civility to go by the wayside.  Debates became recitals of talking points and cheap shots.  One lengthy filibuster saw the Premier lose his cool and start handing out earplugs to his members. A second filibuster turned into a 40 hour ‘sleep over’.

In all, 14 pieces of legislation were approved:

  1. The Alberta Carbon tax was ended – (the feds announced the federal tax would kick in January. Alberta joined the ill-considered and futile legal challenge of the federal legislation.)
  2. The minimum wage for young people (13-17 years) was reduced by $2 to $13/ hour. The legislation rolled back NDP legislation so banked overtime is calculated at straight time.  It re-instated secret ballots for union certification votes.
  3. The corporate tax rate will be reduced over time from 12% to 8% as an economic stimulus and investment attraction strategy. The hope is that 55,000 new jobs will result in a bump to GDP of $13 billion. The plan will result in about a $1 billion in foregone revenue that might be recouped in future years.
  4. The Minister for Red Tape Reduction introduced a bill to reduce 1,200 regulations by one third.
  5. Supplementary funding was approved for government operations until a full budget is passed in the fall
  6. Main funding for government operations was approved pending a fall budget.
  7. This bill allows municipalities to offer multi-year tax breaks to business.
  8. The Education Act was amended to roll back certainty around Gay Straight Alliance club formations; and lifts the cap on the number of private schools. An NDP filibuster lasted for 40 hours, as they pointed out the risks to LGBTQ students and the ulterior motives behind the legislation.
  9. The dates for public sector union wage arbitration deadlines were extended pending an analysis of Alberta’s fiscal situation.
  10. Modifications were made to personal income taxes exemptions and regulations.
  11. Legislation was approved to speed up the credential recognition process for immigrants.
  12. Existing oil and gas royalty rates were frozen for a period of 10 years to add investment certainty.
  13. Election of ‘senators in waiting” was re-instated in the hope that a future Prime Minister will appoint them to the Senate.
  14. A private member’s bill requires schools to have epi-pens on hand and a plan to deal with students at risk from anaphylactic reactions.

The session also saw the Premier ramp up his theatrical attacks on Ottawa and those who oppose energy development: 

  • Alberta joined the ‘faint hope’ legal fight to kill the federal carbon tax
  • The Premier announced a public inquiry into ‘foreign funded’ environmental groups
  • Government approved a $30 million ‘war room’ aimed at countering environmentalist propaganda
  • Legislation to ‘turn off the taps’ for gasoline to BC was advanced.

In many ways this session was the easy part of governing.  There was a clear mandate to deliver on campaign promises, the opportunity to pass some right-wing flavored policies and poke a few socialists in the eye.  The next session will be more difficult; when a budget is presented and the deficit must be addressed.