NDP government ends legislature session by attacking Wildrose, PCs

Premier Rachel Notley and government house leader Brian Mason ended the spring legislature session with a news conference that focused heavily on taking shots at the opposition for being uncooperative and lacking ideas

Opposition resorted to 'cheapshots, grandstanding' during spring session, Brian Mason says

NDP house leader Brian Mason and Premier Rachel Notley fired shots at the opposition during an end-of-session news conference on Tuesday. (CBC)

Premier Rachel Notley and government house leader Brian Mason ended the spring legislature session with a news conference that focused heavily on taking shots at the opposition for being uncooperative and lacking ideas.

The 35-minute news conference on Tuesday started with Notley listing her government's accomplishments since the session started March 2.

The tone became more partisan when Mason began to list the opposition's shortcomings, particularly those of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives.

"It's sad to say that they're getting more and more extreme with their beliefs, while at the same time less and less serious about the jobs they were elected to do," Mason said.

He said they resorted to "cheap shots, grandstanding and language that was emotionally charged and factually incorrect," rather than providing alternative ideas.​
Mason explains at length why he thinks Alberta's opposition parties are not doing their jobs. 2:59

Both Mason and Notley said their government is far more open to working with the opposition than the PCs were when they were in power.

During the sitting that just ended, they pointed to six amendments to Bill 18  — Alberta's new child death review legislation — that were introduced by the opposition and worked on collaboratively by Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee and her staff.

A private member's bill introduced by Wildrose MLA Scott Cyr to curb the sharing of online intimate images was also passed, they noted.

Notley said two pieces of legislation passed this spring (Whistleblower Protection Act, Child Protection and Accountability Act) were the result of recommendations made by all-party committees.

"Never in my short seven years in opposition was I ever invited to be on a committee that had the ability to write legislation," she said. "Are we going to overrule them sometimes? May well be, if it gets too out of control. But are we trying to bring them in, in a way that hasn't happened before? Yes."

Early morning debate 

MLAs wrapped up the spring session at about 2:20 am. Tuesday after they debated and passed the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplace Act and the Child Protection Accountability Act.

Opposition parties criticized changes to the labour code, claiming they were crafted to make it easier for unions to set up in workplaces across the province.

Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark said he was alarmed when Labour Minster Christina Gray introduced two pages of amendments at 12:50 a.m.

"That's not, I think, serving democracy," he said. "And so we'll continue to dig into that and make sure they haven't slipped something in at the last minute that we don't know about."

Notley said the opposition was told about these "minor" amendments earlier in the evening. 

Though the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties fought the labour code changes, they didn't appear overly keen to prolong debate on the issue, perhaps wanting to wrap up the session so they could hit the road to sell a new deal to unite their parties.

Asked about that, Wildrose house leader Nathan Cooper said as the session wound down it was clear the government wasn't going to budge. 

"I don't think that an extra day of session is going to make a significant difference or not," he said. "The things that needed to be said certainly were said. And like I said, we used all of the tools available to ensure they were held to account."

Notley and Mason suggested the opposition was eager to wrap things up. 

Mason said the government was expecting the session to continue all week. Notley said they were prepared to sit as long as necessary. 

"We're leg(islature) geeks," she said. "We're happy to stay here until July."

Labour code updates

Bill 17 marks the first update to employment standards and labour codes in 30 years.

Opposition parties said they had no problem with the employment standards part of the bill, which now allows Albertans to take compassionate leave without fear of losing their jobs.

But Wildrose and PC MLAs took particular issue with a provision that eliminates the need for a secret ballot vote on union certification if 65 per cent or more members sign union cards.

The bill means Alberta joins the majority of Canadian provinces in having first-contract legislation.

The government passed bills this session to reduce mandatory school fees, provide better protection for government whistleblowers, and require licences for home builders.

The government also passed a budget that forecast a $10.3-billion deficit for this fiscal year and $71.1 billion in provincial debt by 2020.