The first sitting of the 30th Legislature of Alberta has come to a close, just in time for the Calgary Stampede, but as the UCP celebrates by frolicking in the fountain, the reality of our new government is not as rosy as they would have you believe.
The new government passed 13 bills in this sitting, and confirmed many of the fears that a significant number of Albertans were called alarmists for raising during the election. The Conservatives may have won a majority government, but they face one of the largest, and certainly the most experienced and determined oppositions in Alberta history. They saw record long sitting days, and faced several overnight debates, as the NDP apart every flaw in every bill.
Unfortunately, despite the long days, the constructive debate and experienced advice from the opposition, the UCP decided to – literally – put in ear plugs, hunker down and ignore the storm brewing around them. The Conservatives started off with a public claim Alberta was deeper in the hole than the NDP had stated, but this was proven to be a lie by Kenney when their own numbers showed the province was $2 billion better off on the NDP plan than anticipated.
After the lies about the previous government, the UCP, elected on a platform of fiscal responsibility, blew $13.5 billion in ill advised, ideological moves to give money away to corporations (while ignoring small businesses), cancelling the Climate Leadership Plan that brought in $7 billion, and shutting down the oil-by-rail deal that would have seen crude reach coastal markets.
They have cancelled programs and investments that puts the UCP as directly responsible for the loss of up to 30,000 jobs. They have taken food out of children’s mouths by cancelling the school nutrition program, cut wages for 180,000 public sector employees, and attacked the wages of our youth - many of them financing themselves - by cutting their minimum wage, a move even Ralph Klein recognised was cruel and unfair.
The Conservatives threw school boards into financial chaos, by refusing to set funding for schools before their budgets were due, leading many school boards to make cuts and increase class sizes, and others to take a gamble that they may overspend, hoping the UCP will follow the NDP funding plans. They will re-implement a Grade 3 Provincial Achievement test, costing us millions of dollars, despite teachers and evidence saying that these tests at that level only hurt the quality of education our children receive.
And worst of all, just before they took their celebratory bath in Edmonton, the UCP rejected numerous pragmatic compromises from the NDP to amend Bill 8, and ensure that LGBT youth would be protected. The UCP’s actions here represent the first time in Canadian history a government has rolled back legislated rights of the LGBT community, a move even conservative personalities like Charles Adler are disgusted with.
There’s a smell around the UCP and the legislature today, and it’s not the smell of roses.