Politics

Press Gallery #210: The Bye Bye Bye edition

Press Gallery #210: The Bye Bye Bye edition

The fall 2017 session of the Alberta legislature wrapped up Wednesday — yet it was anything but a quiet week in provincial politics. Before MLAs all said “bye-bye” and headed home to their constituencies , Derek Fildebrandt landed in hot water over saying farewell to Bambie on private land , and Premier Rachel Notley demanded Jason Nixon kiss goodbye to his position as UCP house leader over a sexual harassment case .    There was also a byelection in Calgary-Lougheed, won by Jason Kenney .  Good stuff from the gallery Dave’s pick : The excellent book Recipe for Hate by Warren Kinsella.  Paula’s picks : This read in Chatelaine about the difficulties faced by Yazidi refugee women resettling in Canada, and the most recent season of The Crown .  Emma’s pick : The very cool 2017 short story advent calendar . Make sure you grab the 2018 version next year. Graham’s pick : This Fortune Magazine piece on the net neutrality decision and why it matters.   Subscribe to The Press Gallery wherever you podcast, including iTunes and GooglePlay . 

 
 

Graham Thomson and the impact of Jason Kenney in the Alberta legislature

Graham Thomson and the impact of Jason Kenney in the Alberta legislature

Now that Jason Kenney has won a seat in the Alberta Legislature, his gaze will shift to the 2019 provincial election in Alberta and winning the hearts and minds of provincial conservatives. But political affairs columnist Graham Thomson wonders if Kenney becomes Alberta Premier, would it be a stepping stone back into federal politics?

 
 

Province wants school districts to trim travel, membership fees

Province wants school districts to trim travel, membership fees

All Alberta school districts and education organizations should scrutinize travel, conference and membership fee expenses to cut costs, says an email sent Monday to superintendents across Alberta. The email comes from education deputy minister Curtis Clarke in the wake of public sector belt-tightening warnings from Premier Rachel Notley. “Despite this fiscal reality, the (education) department continues to maintain its funding commitments to the education system,” Clarke wrote. “At the same time, it is incumbent upon you — as stewards of this system — to strongly consider following this direction through restrained spending of administrative funds.” At the legislature Tuesday, Education Minister David Eggen said the ministry has no specific cost-saving target in mind. He wanted  to remind school districts that limited funds should be spent primarily on kids in classrooms. “We can see the Alberta economy recovering, but certainly, our revenues are not. They lag behind,” Eggen said.

 
 

Alberta legislature marks Holodomor Remembrance Day

Alberta legislature marks Holodomor Remembrance Day

More than 60 people gathered at the Alberta legislature Tuesday for a sombre ceremony to mark the anniversary of the Holodomor genocide in Ukraine. “We must remember the worst of our history in order to realize a better future,” said Robert Wanner, Speaker of the legislative assembly.  “For generations these inhuman acts were largely … unrecognized outside of the people from the Ukraine,” he told the audience in the rotunda.  In 1932-33, between four and 10 million people died in Ukraine from famine imposed by Josef Stalin’s Soviet regime. “It is absolutely staggering to think about,” said Deron Bilous, minister of economic development and trade. He spoke about his experience visiting the Ukrainian national museum in Kyiv to honour Holodomor victims. “It was an extremely painful and difficult experience, but absolutely necessary that the world learn and know about this horrendous genocide.” Two Holodomor survivors attended Tuesday’s ceremony, which included songs performed by students from St. Martin’s and St. Matthew Catholic schools

 
 

Democracy watchdog barks at province over 800,000 deleted emails

Democracy watchdog barks at province over 800,000 deleted emails

A democracy watchdog has slammed the Alberta government over 800,000 emails deleted by political staffers and managers. Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, called it a “clear abuse” of the power public bodies have to destroy records, due to the sheer volume of deleted emails and who erased them. The issue stems from a series of two 2016 freedom of information requests made by the official Opposition.  What they discovered were sparse inboxes and sent email folders belonging to top staffers in Premier Rachel Notley’s office, internal ministry programs encouraging staff to reduce the number of emails in their system, and the disappearance of 800,000 emails.  Alberta’s privacy commissioner launched an investigation into the deleted emails last month. Under access to information laws, governments don’t have to retain transitory documents. However, the very definition of what is or isn’t transitory is decided by government officials. In Alberta, records management regulations give the Service Alberta minister the power to establish all policies around record management, including how records are controlled, organized, secured and destroyed. A records management committee — comprised of officials nominated from a handful of ministries and the provincial archives, and anyone else the minister deems appropriate — then reviews how policies are being implemented across government. All Government of Alberta employees go through mandatory access to information training

 
 

Thomson: The NDP’s new slogan? Making belts tighter for all Albertans

Thomson: The NDP’s new slogan? Making belts tighter for all Albertans

Suck in your gut, Alberta. The provincial government wants to tighten your belt. But not in a sharp, painful way, apparently. This is not going to leave a bruise. At least that’s how Premier Rachel Notley on Thursday described a future ramping down of government spending . “Now is the point in the plan where the same steady approach that saw us through the recession is going to see us carefully and compassionately tighten our belts,” said Notley. “And ask others to tighten theirs.” So, this will be a “compassionate” tightening of the belt.

 
 

NDP proposes penalties for impaired driving ahead of cannabis legalization

NDP proposes penalties for impaired driving ahead of cannabis legalization

The NDP introduced new legislation Tuesday that aims to fill the gap in impaired driving rules ahead of cannabis legalization across Canada.  The federal government has proposed specific drug limits as well as penalties for drivers who break the law. Ottawa has also touted the development of a roadside drug test in preparation for the July 1 milestone when cannabis becomes legal. Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason said Bill 29 — which updates the Traffic Safety Act — will reduce the number of impaired drivers on the road and encourage safe driving if passed.  “Other jurisdictions have seen an increase in impaired driving when cannabis has become legal,” Mason said, adding the province will roll out a public education campaign. “The real risk here is that people don’t feel cannabis is quite as bad or … is impairing a substance as alcohol. Nothing could be further from the truth.”  Alberta’s rules are a response to federal legislation  and pending changes to the Criminal Code of Canada. Under Bill C-46, drivers would face a maximum $1,000 fine if their blood tested positive for two to five nanograms per millilitre of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). For drivers with more than five ng/ml of THC detected on a first impaired driving offence, a minimum $1,000 fine would be imposed, with increasingly harsher penalties such as jail time for subsequent offences

 
 

Court to hear ex-MLA’s ‘typographical dispute’ with electoral officer

Court to hear ex-MLA’s ‘typographical dispute’ with electoral officer

Alberta’s Court of Appeal has agreed to hear a fight between a former MLA and the province’s top elections official that began as a “typographical dispute.”  Joseph Anglin, a former MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, is challenging a $250 penalty imposed by the province’s chief electoral officer related to issues with his campaign signs during the 2015 election.  Anglin alleges that during the election, the independent body removed some of his lawn signs because they included the word “MLA” despite the fact the legislative assembly had been dissolved.  Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler also found that sponsorship information on Anglin’s campaign lawn signs did not comply with guidelines set out in the Election Act. The current issue stems from that “typographical dispute,” Justice Barbara Lea Veldhuis wrote in a decision filed in Edmonton on Nov. 30.  The guidelines directed candidates to print sponsorship details in a font “at least 25 per cent of the size of the main text of the advertisement,” according to Veldhuis’s decision. Anglin’s sponsorship information was found to be too small and he was later fined $250.   Anglin initially appealed the chief electoral officer’s decision to the Court of Queen’s Bench, alleging “issues of bias, abuse of process and other errors.” Justice T.D. Clackson dismissed the application.   In her decision, Veldhuis did not address the merits of the appeal “other than to say I agree that this appeal has a sufficient prospect of success to justify granting leave.” Anglin, who lost his seat in the May 5, 2015 election, said he was “very pleased” with the court’s decision to allow the appeal.   The dispute is a “fundamental issue of democracy” and amounts to an independent body overstepping its authority, he said, adding he believes the removal of the signs affected the outcome of the election.  Anglin started out as a Wildrose MLA but became an independent in 2014. He said he hopes the issue will be resolved before the 2019 election but did not yet know if he would run again.   jwakefield@postmedia.com

 
 

Will Notley’s pro-pipeline sales pitch convince British Columbians?

Will Notley’s pro-pipeline sales pitch convince British Columbians?

Another speech, another standing ovation. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has had so many audiences jumping to their feet to applaud her pro-pipeline speeches these days you have to wonder why they bother to put chairs in the rooms. Her latest ovation came from the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade on Thursday after her by-now familiar address pushing for construction of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion . Construction has been delayed by nine months thanks to opposition in British Columbia. Notley and her government are getting a bit frantic, for reasons both economic and political. Getting the project built will mean more of Alberta’s energy products get to an international market where they can fetch world prices rather than the discounted amount they get selling now to the United States. That would mean more money to energy companies and more royalties to the Alberta government’s treasury. And more jobs all around.

 
 

Press Gallery #208: The Bills, Bills and More Bills edition

Press Gallery #208: The Bills, Bills and More Bills edition

The fall 2017 session of the legislature has seen bill after bill after bill after bill after bill after … well, you get the picture.  On this episode of the Press Gallery podcast, join host Emma Graney with guests Dave Breakenridge, Paula Simons and Graham Thomson  to discuss two whopping huge bills that were tabled this week. One reforms the Workers’ Compensation Board and occupational health and safety, the other includes a swath of new rules to protect consumers and outlaw ticket bots.  The team also takes a look at another set of bills — the ones facing Alberta in the wake of second-quarter fiscal results released this week, which were swiftly followed by another credit-rating downgrade.  Good Stuff from the Gallery Dave’s pick : In the wake of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apology to the LGBTQ community, this Vice read in which the gay author interviews his dad, who used to investigate and help kick LGBTQ people out of the military.  Paula’s pick : This Jason Markusoff piece in Maclean’s about the artist Derek Besant’s Calgary public art portrait fiasco.  Emma’s pick : This New York Times read about a secretive group where women are branded. Graham’s pick : This opinion piece in the Edmonton Journal about how the anti-pipeline stance in B.C.

 
 
 
 

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