Alberta passes contentious health, union bills before wrapping up spring session
EDMONTON -- Hours after passing the final two bills of the spring session, Alberta's premier recapped a sitting hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic crisis in a wrap-up news conference Wednesday.
Jason Kenney and United Conservative Party House Leader Jason Nixon highlighted some of the laws passed during the second session of the 30th Alberta Legislature, which they say helped put Alberta on the right path to economic recovery.
Kenney said with 34 bills passed and 52 days of sitting, Alberta's was the most productive legislature in Canada "by a country mile" in this session.
"We just, as I mentioned, finished our second all-night consecutive sitting," said Kenney. "I think I've had three hours of sleep since Monday morning if I’m not losing count here."
Kenney was referring to a lengthy sitting in which the UCP ended up limiting debate on Bill 30, which makes it easier for private surgical facilities to open in Alberta, and Bill 32, which requires unions give members the option to not have their dues spent on political campaigns.
"It will deny Albertans the bargaining power they need to stand up to bad bosses," Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan said afterward of Bill 32.
Many of the actions taken during the spring session, such as bills nine through 12, were related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn.
Some enabled electricity and natural gas payment deferrals for those struggling to pay during the pandemic, restricted evictions and rent increases and created new offences linked to price-fixing.
"We've responded in real time to a totally unprecedented pandemic and economic situation," said Nixon. "And we've come out on the other side more determined than ever to prove to Albertans that, to quote a line from Premier Kenney often used on the campaign trail, help is on the way and hope is on the horizon."
Kenney and Nixon also touted Bill 8, the Protecting Survivors of Human Trafficking Act," which gave victims the ability to sue their traffickers and obtain protection orders more easily.
But other new bills introduced during the session were not without controversy, including Bill 1, or the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act.
The legislation stepped up penalties for trespassing and vandalism of infrastructure like pipelines and highways, while critics said it was an effort to censor dissent.
The Opposition NDP characterized the spring session as one full of "cuts and broken promises" under the Kenney government and took aim at legislation like Bill 30, passed hours before.
"Jason Kenney and the UCP used the cover of the pandemic to ram through their extreme agenda of American-style health care and American-style labour laws, while handing over more than $4.7 billion to profitable corporations,” said Notley.
For a full list of bill activity during the second session, go to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta's website.