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Alberta government plans to table recall legislation for MLAs, local councils

Albertans may soon be able to recall MLAs, municipal councillors, mayors and school board trustees, the government said Tuesday in its throne speech.

Premier Jason Kenney plans to roll out 'blueprint for jobs' in next few days

Alberta Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell, centre, delivered the government's throne speech Tuesday at the legislature. (Alberta Legislature)

Albertans may soon be able to remove MLAs, municipal councillors, mayors and school board trustees from office between elections, the government said Tuesday in its throne speech.

A recall act is one of a number of changes outlined in the speech, read in the legislature by Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell. 

British Columbia already has recall legislation but only for MLAs. If passed, the Alberta legislation would go further by including municipalities and school boards.

"This is a very important democratic reform tool that Albertans have long asked for," Premier Jason Kenney said at a pre-speech news conference earlier in the day. 

"They will receive that through legislation introduced during this session."

Following the speech, Kenney introduced the first bill of the session: an amendment to existing trespassing laws that would add increasing levels of fines for people convicted of blocking infrastructure such as pipelines, oil and gas sites, rail lines and highways — this as railways around the country remain snarled by anti-pipeline protests.

Fines would range from $10,000 for the first offence to $25,000 for subsequent offences. 

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the first bill of the session should have focused on job creation and suggested the proposed legislation is redundant as protesters could already be arrested under current legislation. 

Notley said she is concerned the breadth of the legislation could be used to target teachers and nurses who decide to protest government cuts. 

As for the proposed recall legislation, Notley said the government was trying to provide a distraction from job losses and cuts to education and health care. 

"When you're scared of dealing with the real issues, you bring up old-fashioned ideas that have been in play in places like B.C. where it has never succeeded," she said. 

The throne speech sets out the government's agenda for the second session of the 30th legislature, which opened Tuesday. Some items were previously announced. Others are new. 

Throne speeches typically offer the broad strokes of what legislation the government plans to introduce, without offering many details. 

'Blueprint for jobs'

Kenney also plans to roll out what he called a "blueprint for jobs" the next few days, a long-term plan he said contains "a number of new initiatives" focused on job creation and economic growth. The previously announced 2020 capital plan which allocates $6.4 billion for infrastructure projects will be part of the jobs program. 

The province also intends to replace the federal parole board with a homegrown version that will deal with provincial inmates, a promise made by Kenney's United Conservative Party during the 2019 election campaign. 

Other democratic reforms include requiring a referendum before enacting a consumer carbon tax, and setting fixed dates for budgets and provincial elections.

Current provincial legislation prescribes a three-month window in which an election can be called. 

The government also wants to limit the amounts people can donate to third-party advertisers or political action committees and to ban contributions from foreign donors.

Tougher impaired driving laws

Other proposed bills would regulate vaping, set tougher penalties for impaired drivers and add protections for survivors of human trafficking. 

The government also wants to change the Vital Statistics Act to make it impossible for convicted sex offenders to legally change their names. 

Further, the Choice in Education Act will be introduced this session, which will affirm the right of parents to choose the types of schools they want their children to attend. 

With the 2020-21 provincial budget set to be released on Thursday, the throne speech offered a few clues about what to expect. 

The speech said the government will work with the public service "to contain costs and protect front-line services by carefully reducing overall spending by less than three per cent." 

However, the government vowed to maintain or increase budgets for the Ministries of Health, Education, Community and Social Services and Children's Services.

The government confirmed it will continue its program to decrease surgical wait times, which involves moving some publicly funded procedures to privately run surgical facilities.

 

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