Speeding tickets, smoking ban top fall legislative agenda
Anti-smoking legislation and allowing red light cameras to catch speeders are among the priorities for the Alberta government in the four-week fall sitting that starts next Monday.
Government house leader Dave Hancock said he wants to focus on pushing through dozens of bills left over from the spring legislative session, and deflected reporters' questionsabouta possible provincial election.
"That's not my job to plan for," Hancock told a news conference Tuesday. "It's clearly an optimistic agenda. We can extend the session or sit during the evening."
A bill that will raise much debate is a new law to allow red light cameras to issue speeding tickets. To critics' claims that it's a "cash cow" for police forces, Hancock replied, "I call it traffic enforcement."
Several groups have been pushing for the legislation in Alberta after seeing results in other jurisdictions like Australia where officials claim crashes have dropped by as much as 40 per cent.
"What we are hoping to see is … a reduction in crash severity. We see a reduction in red light violations, and we see a reduction in the absolute speeds people are travelling when they enter and go through intersections," Don Szarko of the Alberta Motor Association.
Edmonton currently has 60 red light cameras and Calgary has 36 installed at major intersections.
Opposition suspicious of election call
Hancock also wants to pass Bill 45, tough anti-smoking legislation that would ban smoking in most public places and the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies starting in 2009.
NDP Leader Brian Mason was skeptical about the agenda Tuesday, pointing out the announcement was made without the customary meeting with opposition leaders. He believes the government isn't taking the session very seriously and is preparing for an election.
If the session goes ahead, Mason will set his sights on Bill 46, legislation that would split the provincial energy regulator into two bodiesto promote efficiency.
But landowners say it will only make it harder for the public to take part in hearings for new power lines and other projects.
"I think it steamrollers over citizens' rights," said Mason.
Hancock called the criticism a misinterpretation of the bill. "It's clear in reading the bill that there's no intention of taking the public out of the process," he said.
Royalty changes not on fall agenda
The fall sitting is scheduled to begin Nov. 5 and continue into the first week of December.
Liberal Leader Kevin Taft says he plans to go after the government for billions of dollars in lost revenue due to years of mismanaging Alberta's energy royalty system.
Premier Ed Stelmach increased the royalties charged to energy companies last week after a scathing report concluded Albertans had been shortchanged for years.
Hancock said the new royalty changes will require amending nearly a dozen pieces of legislation andit likely won't happen until the spring session.