Well, with all the excitement about health care and MLAs getting turfed, it’s easy to forget that there are other things going on under the dome.
For example, there was Monday night’s debate on Bill 29, the controversial Alberta Parks Act.
Now, I will confess that I know little about the Alberta Parks Act. I’ve read a few comments about it, and it appears that is gives too much power to the minister, or something along those lines. I’m betting that it’s a bad bill, which would be in keeping with this government. But, I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that if the opposition doesn’t like a bill, they do what they can to delay it, since stopping it is impossible in a majority legislature.
One of the ways opposition parties (and the government if they want it, for that matter) try to quash a bill is to amend it so that it is revisited six months hence, which in effect kills the bill since it disappears from the order paper. The government has done it sometimes when they realize that they’ve got a dog of a bill that needs to be put to sleep. It is more likely for the opposition to try the tactic — called a ‘hoist’ — to slow it down or stop it.
The opposition parties, led by the Liberals, tried to hoist Bill 29 on Monday night. So, how’d that go?
Not so well, as expected. From roughly 8 p.m. to about 11 p.m., the legislature debated hoisting Bill 29. It wasn’t much of debate, however — for nearly three hours, only opposition members spoke on the hoist. Not a single government member rushed to the defense of the bill for three grueling hours. That includes such stellar performers as Doug Elniski and Naresh Bhardwaj of Edmonton.
Why wouldn’t at least one government member speak up in support of the bill, if they believe in it? Because it they did, it would prolong the session even longer, and the last thing the Tories want right now is a long session. They’re taking a beating, and nobody wants a beating to go on any longer than it has to.
In the end, Bill 29 passed second reading, as soon as the hoist bill was defeated.
Much the same thing happened on Tuesday afternoon. Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft introduced a motion concerning the Alberta Health Act, attempting to strike out a contentious paragraph of the bill. Again, it was too complicated for the likes of people like me, but as Taft put it, “the remarkable intent and effect of this particular paragraph is, in our view, to put the minister and the health advocate and any employee or agent of either of them above the normal law.”
Serious stuff, I guess. But again, the result was a couple of hours of debate, almost entirely from opposition members. Only Dave Hancock, the very smart (and not afraid to let everyone know) minister of education as around to swat the amendment around, although for the most part he was content to just throw in shouted asides.
The amendment, of course, was defeated, and a couple of hours of time was frittered away. If you ever wonder why I couldn’t stand being in the legislature, this is why: all talk, no action. But good on the Liberals, Wildrose and NDP for doing their jobs.