UCP government plans to limit all-night legislature filibusters

Alberta’s United Conservative Government plans to limit hours of debate on bills to prevent filibusters similar to those forced by the Opposition NDP in the legislature session last spring.

Fall session starts Tuesday

Government House Leader Jason Nixon says the UCP intends to introduce 14 to 17 bills in the fall session, which starts on Tuesday. (Manuel Carrillos/CBC )

Alberta's United Conservative government plans to limit the length of debates in the legislature to prevent filibusters similar to those forced by the Opposition NDP during the spring session. 

"We will bring standing order changes to stop outright taxpayer abuse by the opposition by attempting to keep the legislature going for all times," government House leader Jason Nixon told reporters Monday, one day before the start of the fall session.

Standing orders dictate how the legislature conducts business. Nixon said the proposed changes will be in line with rules in Saskatchewan, where debate is limited to 20 hours as a bill progresses through second reading, committee of the whole and third reading. 

For example, if all 20 hours of debate is used up in second reading, then MLAs will pass bills through committee of the whole and third reading without additional discussion.

The proposed changes come in response to the NDP's tactics in the spring session. Opposition MLAs forced three filibusters on government bills, the longest lasting 46 hours and 20 minutes on the last sitting day of the legislature. It started on Wednesday afternoon and concluded just before lunch on Friday, July 5. 

NDP House leader Deron Bilous said the government has shown it is not interested in debating legislation.

He pointed to the night Premier Jason Kenney passed out earplugs to UCP MLAs while the NDP caucus was filibustering Bill 9, which delayed wage arbitration talks for public sector workers. 

Bilous said changes to the standing orders suggested by Nixon would function as "permanent" earplugs. 

"This is another way that the premier and this government are trying to limit the ability of the opposition to do our job," he said. 

Filibustering, he said, is a useful tool to delay passage of a bill and alert the public about what the government is proposing.

'Ain't seen nothing yet'

The UCP government has embarked on an ambitious agenda since taking office at the end of April. The legislature passed 13 bills in the spring session, which ran from May 21 to July 5.

"You ain't seen nothing yet" about what's to come this fall, Nixon said. The government intends to introduce 13 to 17 bills. It will introduce its first budget on Oct. 24.

The government's response to dealing with climate change is expected this session in the form of legislation to create the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) program.

TIER will target large emitters. Funds from the program will fund technology to reduce greenhouse gases and go toward the Alberta government's proposed "war room," a public relations program to counter what it considers misinformation about the province's resource sector.

Other bills will include legislation to start the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation and Clare's Law, legislation that will allow the disclosure of a domestic partner's past history of abuse.

Bilous said the NDP caucus plans to introduce private member's bills to protect public health care and increase access to child care. 

The NDP also plans to release an alternative budget.