The United Conservative Party was prepared to sit into next week until it was revealed the party's House leader fired a woman after she complained about sexual harassment, government House leader Brian Mason says.
"Suddenly, I got a communication saying they wanted to talk about wrapping up the session," Mason said Wednesday afternoon, shortly after MLAs finished the fall legislature session.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that in 2005, UCP House leader Jason Nixon fired a female safety officer employed by his company after she complained about being sexually harassed by a contractor on a Kelowna building site.
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Mason said he got the call on Tuesday following a news conference where Premier Rachel Notley called on UCP Leader Jason Kenney to relieve Nixon of his duties as the party's House leader.
In question period on Tuesday, Notley brought up the case, forcing Nixon to address the issue in the legislature.
Three bills passed third reading Tuesday night. The remaining two passed on Wednesday.
Mason suggested the UCP opted for "damage control" by wrapping up debate so quickly.
"[They have] their tail between their legs and they're just getting out of there as fast as they can," he said.
Mason's allegations not true, UCP says
Nixon says Mason's accusation isn't true. He said the UCP had been aiming, tentatively, to wrap things up by Wednesday or Thursday and that his case had no bearing on when the session ended.
"The two have nothing to do with each other," he said. He noted he has appeared in question period both times since the story broke and made himself available for questions from the media.
Nixon added the UCP rejected Mason's suggestion to drop question period on Wednesday so MLAs could wrap up earlier.
"If we were trying to leave the legislature, we would not have been asking for another question period," he said.
Mason said a highlight of the session was the passage of Bill 24, making it illegal for teachers and principals to tell parents if a student joined a gay-straight alliance.
The bill was vociferously opposed by UCP MLAs. Party leader Jason Kenney wanted to keep the status quo, which would give teachers and principals some latitude to talk to parents, if necessary.
However, LGBTQ students, their parents and activists said leaving that loophole could out students to their parents before they were ready to disclose their sexual orientation.
Mason said response to the bill highlighted the difference in how the UCP and NDP see the world.
"I think the reality is that we are a modern, young and progressive province," he said.
Measures included in other bills passed this session include:
- Making it mandatory for customers to pay before they gas up their vehicles
- The Alberta government will handle the online sale of cannabis when it becomes legal on July 1, 2018, but private owners can operate bricks-and-mortar cannabis shops
- People will no longer have to live in Alberta for six months before voting in a provincial election
- Rental apartments can no longer be adult-only as of Jan. 1, with the exception of seniors housing. Existing condos have 15 years to make the change
- Political action committees are restricted in what they can do and will now face spending limits in the months leading up to and during an election
- Changes to the Workers Compensation Board will tilt the balance further in favour of injured workers and the families of people killed on the job