Legislature to break after 2-day sitting

The Alberta legislature will sit for two days next week before taking a four-week break, government leader Dave Hancock announced Thursday.
Progressive Conservative Government Leader Dave Hancock discussed the upcoming fall session of the Alberta legislature on Thursday. (CBC)

The Alberta legislature will sit for two days next week before taking a four-week break, government leader Dave Hancock announced Thursday.

Premier Alison Redford will deliver a speech about the global economic crisis on Monday. Opposition parties will respond and then the session will adjourn and return on Nov. 21. 

A government news release says the break will give the premier time to consult with her caucus on the legislative agenda.

In a news conference, Hancock acknowleged the the recent Progressive Conservative leadership race is also a factor but he dismissed suggestions that it was undemocratic to hold a shorter session.

"We've had very good robust sessions, we've had years where sessions are shorter," he said.

"This year because of the nature of the leadership change and the leadership process — which is also a very democratic process — we're going to have fewer days in the legislature. It doesn't diminish our democracy one bit."

Move angers opposition parties

Opposition parties said a shortened session is not appropriate when a number of issues that need to be addressed including the $107 million in restored education funding, illegal donations to the Progressive Conservative Party by municipal politicians, and the need to launch a public inquiry into physician intimidation.

Liberal House Leader Laurie Blakeman also took issue with Thursday's government press release that said the opposition "agreed" to the plan.

"I would say pretty adamantly that the opposition parties did not agree to this," she said. "But we are in a situation with this government that they say, 'This is what's going to happen' and we say 'No', and they say, "Tough. It's going to happen any way."

NDP MLA Rachel Notley accused the government of playing "hooky" on the fall sitting.

"We have a 40-year-old government that takes the legislative assembly for granted," she said. "And in so doing, it takes Albertans for granted, and it takes their interest in democracy for granted.

"The new premier promised us a fall session. What she has delivered is the shell of a fall session."

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith said the "two-day courtesy drop-in" shows a lack of respect for the role MLAs play in democracy.

"Ms. Redford seems a lot more comfortable governing behind closed doors at the cabinet table than out in the open," Smith said in a news release.

"She doesn’t have a mandate from Albertans, the least she could do is come to the people’s house and have MLAs debate and vote on what she wants to do. Instead, she’s avoiding it at all costs."

Redford angered opposition parties shortly after she was elected Progressive Conservative party leader by stating she wasn't going to hold a fall session. She reversed course after holding her first meeting with caucus on Oct. 4.