Wildrose Alliance accuses Alberta Speaker of partisanship
The Wildrose Alliance has accused Alberta Speaker Ken Kowalski of partisanship in allowing the upstart political party just two questions during the daily legislative question period.
Kowalski released the question period schedule Tuesday for the new session, which begins Feb 4. with the speech from the throne.
The Wildrose Alliance, which recently added two former Tory MLA's to boost its caucus total to three, will be allowed two questions a day of the ruling Conservative government.
But the two member Alberta NDP caucus also will continue to ask two questions, a move Alliance MLA Paul Hinman said smacks of partisanship.
Hinman noted that questions near the bottom of the order are rarely asked because time runs out on the 50 minute question period — which effectively leaves both parties with just one question a day.
"It's petty. It's partisan, very undemocratic in my opinion but not at all surprising," said Hinman. "All they want to do is protect their power and their position and that's the way they've set this up. They've done a cunning job ... to make it sound good but it's very poor in my opinion."
Hinman said the Wildrose Alliance is looking at whether they can challenge the speaker's ruling.
NDP leader Brian Mason said the ruling in effect leaves his two-member caucus with only one question a day.
He's upset because MLA's on the government side still get to ask a handful of questions every day.
"Question Period is there in order primarily to allow the opposition to hold the government accountable," said Mason. "But if you give so many questions to the government that there's not a fair share allocated to the opposition ... that principle is undermined and the government is less accountable."
Mason and Hinman are expected to hold a news conference Wednesday to jointly criticize the speaker's decision.
An official in the speaker's office says Kowalski will give the reasons for his decision when the session gets underway.
There are currently 83 members in the Alberta legislature -- 68 Progressive Conservatives, nine Liberals, three Wildrose Alliance, two New Democrats and one Independent.
The Wildrose Alliance ranks were boosted Jan. 4 when Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Heather Forsyth and Airdrie-Chestermere MLA Rob Anderson announced they were leaving the Conservatives to join Hinman, the MLA for Calgary-Glenmore.
Party leader Danielle Smith doesn't yet have a seat in the house.