Opposition accuses Alberta government of stifling legislature debate on controversial bills

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Opposition New Democrats say the Alberta government is being anti-democratic by invoking time allocation measures that limit debate around some of its most controversial bills ahead of the end of the legislative session later this week.

Last week, government house leader Joseph Schow introduced motions to limit debate on four separate bills, including Bill 20, which the government introduced amendments to last week following widespread backlash.

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The motions limit the time allotted for debate to one hour for each stage of each bill.

“Be it resolved that when further consideration of Bill 20, Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act, 2024, is resumed, not more than one hour shall be allotted to any further consideration of the bill in second reading, at which time every question necessary for the disposal of the bill at this stage shall be put forthwith,” states one such motion that was tabled last Tuesday.

Schow defended the use of time allocation, saying it is needed to get through the government’s agenda.

“There’s a difference between productive debate and just extended debate. I think we’ve reached a point where we may be past productive debate,” he said, accusing the Opposition NDP of being “obstructionist.”

“I think robust discussion is ongoing in that chamber. But I also recognize and believe that … if the Opposition is not interested in bringing forth new ideas, then we’re going to move forward in time allocation so that we can get through the legislative agenda.”

He added the government also had invoked a motion to hold evening sittings from Monday through Wednesday, starting Monday night, in an effort to get through the bills.

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“We have a mandate from Albertans that was given to us in the last election,” he said, adding “we have a job to do.”

“We’re going to use the tools at our disposal to get out at a reasonable time.”

Opposition house leader Christina Gray said the government is on pace to use time allocation 50 times compared to her party who used it on four occasions when it was in power.

“It’s incredibly frustrating and shameful that the government continues to eliminate time for debate on legislation that Albertans deeply care about,” she said.

“It’s really a continuation of the pattern we’ve seen from this government and it’s doing a huge disservice to Albertans as well as being not what this government ran on.”

She denied her party was being obstructionist and accused the government of ramming through its agenda.

“This government feels entitled to pass any legislation that they feel they can without consulting with Albertans.”

As of the start of Monday’s afternoon sitting, the bills impacted are:

The current spring sitting of the legislature is scheduled to end late Thursday afternoon, although it may also wrap up ahead of then.

— with files from Cindy Tran

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