UCP and NDP bickering ends bitter fall legislature session
Eight-week session saw UCP's first budget, firing of election commissioner
Bickering between the governing United Conservative Party and the Official Opposition NDP on Thursday served as a symbolic cap to a bitter and divisive fall session of the Alberta legislature.
Arguments over room bookings and participation in a non-partisan poll erupted hours after the eight-week session ended early Thursday morning.
Staff in the office of Premier Jason Kenney refused to allow the NDP to hold an end-of-session news conference in the media room of the legislature at 10:45 a.m., even though no events were scheduled until noon.
The NDP said they had permission to use the room, which is booked through the infrastructure department. The UCP said they had a block booking and that the NDP didn't follow the rules.
Media were told they had to move to the nearby Federal Building 15 minutes before the start of the event.
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For their part, the NDP refused to vote in a non-partisan poll conducted by Speaker Nathan Cooper to select MLAs in categories like "most promising newcomer" and "hardest working MLA."
Two NDP MLAs were recognized by their peers — Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin (best community outreach) and Edmonton Northwest MLA David Eggen (lifetime achievement).
But Richard Feehan, the NDP MLA for Edmonton Rutherford, said the contest wasn't accurate as no one from his caucus took part in the vote.
"This is the UCP giving awards to themselves with the explicit aid of the Speaker," Feehan said in a tweet he later deleted.
Asked why the NDP caucus didn't vote in Cooper's poll, NDP House Leader Deron Bilous said MLAs are frustrated by the actions of the UCP government, including the firing of election commissioner Lorne Gibson and moving control of the teachers' pension plan to the Alberta Investment Management Corporation.
"I appreciate that the Speaker did it in good faith for fun," Bilous said. "If MLAs decided not to participate in it, that was their own choice."
Bilous said the NDP caucus discussed the poll but no direction was given for members to abstain. He said he didn't vote because he was tied up with other matters and there was a short timeline for voting.
Government House Leader Jason Nixon denied his government was confrontational and said problems with decorum lie with the NDP.
"The NDP in my mind, from what I see inside the chamber, and I sit in there a lot, still haven't learned the lesson or understand why Albertans terminated them from (government) and from our perspective continue to be angry at Albertans for that decision," he said.
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"The constituents of Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre did not send me up here to go out of my way to spend my whole time trying to figure out how to find common ground with the official opposition."
The legislature will resume in February when the UCP government will introduce a budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
Bilous said the NDP will release a "shadow" budget — an alternative version of the October budget — in the next few days.