NDP changes mind, brings back private members' bill

The NDP supported the principle behind Bill 203 introduced by Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman, but still used its majority to pass an amendment to kill the bill and send the issue to an all-party special committee on ethics and accountability.

Bill 203 would halt government announcements during elections

The Alberta government is putting a private members' bill aimed at prohibiting funding announcements during election campaigns back on the order paper. Bill 203 was originally introduced by Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman, but was sent packing by the NDP. Now it will be sent to committee. (CBC)

The Alberta government is putting a private members' bill aimed at prohibiting funding announcements during election campaigns back on the order paper.

The NDP supported the principle behind Bill 203 introduced by Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman, but still used its majority to pass an amendment to kill the bill and send the issue to an all-party special committee on ethics and accountability.

The NDP said the rules that govern the legislature were behind the move. Standing orders don't allow bills to be referred to committees.

MLAs passed government motions on Thursday that would rescind the earlier motion killing Bill 203 and change the rules to allow it to be referred to the committee. 

Premier Rachel Notley said the government is rescinding the motion as a goodwill gesture. The bill will now be sent in its original form to the committee.

Bill 203 aims to stop governments from making funding announcements or from advertising its programs, unless required by law, from the time the election writ is issued to when polls close on voting day.

A funding announcement during the October 2014 by-election in Calgary-Elbow is frequently cited as an incident that would be prohibited under the new bill.

Gordon Dirks, former education minister and candidate for the governing Progressive Conservatives, announced two new school classrooms in the riding days before voters went to the polls.

In January, Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler found that Dirks had acted inappropriately. However, he wasn't sanctioned because she ruled he didn't break the Conflicts of Interests Act.

Notley said her government refrained from making funding announcements during last summer's by-election in Calgary-Foothills.

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