Bill 32: Why is the Opposition in an Uproar over Billboards?

It should have been a no brainer—passing into law a bill aimed at improving public safety.  Instead Bill 32:  Enhancing Safety on Alberta Roads Act turned into a roadmap for bad governance culminating in a motion that the government was in contempt.

Transportation Minister McIver

What did the government do to kick up such a stir?  Three things actually:  (1) it issued a press release touting the new Bill before it had been introduced in the Legislature,  (2) it held a press conference outlining the Bill to the media before it had been introduced in the Legislature and (3) it engaged in an advertising campaign by erecting billboards emblazoned with the banner “Alberta Government, Building Alberta: Enhancing Safety on Alberta Roads (Bill 32), Honourable Alison Redford, Premier”, which was retweeted by Transportation Minister McIver’s press secretary before the Bill had been introduced in the Legislature.

You’re picking up my theme here, right?

Good governance

It’s a matter of good governance and respect for the Assembly that the government provide the Opposition with a heads-up before a bill is splashed about in the media and in the public arena.

In fact, good governments have “technical meetings” with the opposition parties to bring them up to speed on proposed legislation before its introduced in the House.  Technical meetings were a matter of course in the pre-Redford days, but appear to have fallen by the wayside as she stampedes legislation out the door.

As shocking as this may sound, even a majority government cannot assume that every bill it proposes will be passed into law—just look at how quickly Doug Griffiths’ amendments to the Municipal Government Act (Bill 28) went off the rails.

Pop Quiz

So here’s the big question.  Ms Redford could have waited a couple of days to table Bill 32 and then mount her PR campaign.  If she had the Opposition would have been helpless to stop her.  So what’s the rush?

Pick an answer from the ones listed below or send me your comment in the comment section:

(a)    Premier Redford is desperate to convince PC delegates that she’s made progress in her first year as premier and should be reconfirmed at the leadership convention on Nov 23.

(b)    The PCs have been in power so long they know how to rule but have forgotten how to govern.

(c)    All of the above

And the correct answer is…..?

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20 Responses to Bill 32: Why is the Opposition in an Uproar over Billboards?

  1. Carlos Beca says:

    The answer is definitely a C

  2. Yup, that’s the one I picked as well.

  3. Verna Milligan says:

    Thank you, Susan, for pointing out this important incident. In the late ’90’s Premier Klein cancelled the Fall Sitting of our Legislature, and often talked, with distain, about the Legislature, and promoted ‘getting out from under the Dome”. However, that “Dome” is where each citizen is represented and that is where issues need to be openly discussed. A few weeks ago, Andrew Coyne, popular columnist with the National Post and a regular panelist on CBC “The National”, gave a speech in Edmonton and Calgary entitled, “The Alarming State of Canada’s Democracy”, available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIGO6QYL-ng He spoke sadly of the fact that provincial governments were meeting fewer and fewer times per year. Since then, I wonder what he would have said about the Minister of the Crown, who is responsible for all our taxpayers’ money, Hon. Jim Flaherty, going to a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Edmonton this week to present the update on the Budget — money that was entrusted to him by ALL Canadians. Thank you, Susan, for reminding us to ‘Stand on Guard’ for our democracy, and the importance of our Legislative Assembly!

  4. Carlos Beca says:

    Verna you are absolutely right. Ralph Klein not only disliked our Legislature but he mistreated with a certain amount of visible arrogance our teachers and also our nurses that in the end provided to him the best of care so that he could die with dignity. Despite all of we want he did, he got the Governor General’ s award of excellence.
    It is only very recently that Andrew Coyne has started to talk openly about the state of our democracy and our outdated voting system and even against some of what Stephen Harper has been doing. During the very first conservative minority government, Andrew Coyne was completely on the side of this conservative charade. He is a smart man and realized that to be a good journalist one has to observe reality rather than blindly follow some bankrupt ideology.
    Jim Flaherty delivered the budget where he did because his budgets are for businesses and corporations not for the rest of us. We are here simply to pay for every tax cut for the biggies as well as any necessary bailout that is required and they have been quite hefty as we all know.
    I am glad that you still feel that you live in a democracy. I certainly do not.

  5. Maria Yakula says:

    “C”. All of the above.
    So now what? What action steps can be taken to alleviate this problem?
    Do you think maybe it’s time to give a coalition party a chance? NDP and Wild ‘West’ majority coalition and PC’s minority? That would be my vote. Couldn’t get ‘Wilder’ than it is right now.

  6. C would get me a B+. Perhaps they are in real need to hide a Coal Mine Slurry Spill which is a free-falling bomb for failure to warn the citizens. Recent court cases on not releasing information in a timely fashion regarding the Obed Mine Coal slurry pond failure is not looking good for all concerned. Sherritt – the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund – AER – Health and Environment. Mind you there is so much hidden away in the closet they beginning to dance like Keystone cops. Now when it comes to Keystone – and our CO2 free oil – why is it when they drill unconventionally for light crude – condensate and gas the companies pay no royalties. The new term for lc&cond & gas is diluent which is now the solvent used to pump back underground to retrieve the tar aka Bitumen. How can drilling for oil twice be less carbon intensive. Just saying.

  7. Jane Walker says:

    I picked ‘c’ as well, of course, and am so pleased to read the appreciative note from Verna.
    Well done, my dears …. thanks for keeping us alert to just how ‘dumbed down’ the attitude of our government has become toward respectful protocol. (We’ve long since realized that there’s a persistent democratic deficit but there has been some level of polite pretense at times.) It seems that there should have been bureaucrats who know better and could have thrown cold water on some of the enthusiasm for inappropriate pace of getting ahead!!

    • Many of the long term steady ones have already retired.

    • Jane, I know you’ve been active in provincial politics for quite some time. Do you think the progressive parties would form a coalition—even a loose informal one when it suits their purpose—in the 2016 Legislature? I note that the progressive MLAs and the WR have worked together to stop the PC’s more regressive bills and have had some success when the public joins in the effort (see Bill 28).

  8. You have good commenters, Susan. I enjoyed their comments as much as your blog that spawned them.

  9. What great comments! I just got back into town and am finally able to check out the blog. I’m not surprised that we’re in agreement that the correct answer is “C”; good grief even staunch conservative media types like Andrew Coyne now recognize this type of behavior as a blatant abuse of the democratic process.

    Carlos and Verna referred to Jim Flaherty delivering an update to the budget at a meeting of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce; Brian Mason said the only reason he has any idea of Alison Redford’s priorities for 2013-14 is because he paid $80 to attend a luncheon at the Chamber of Commerce at which she was the guest speaker. He wryly pointed out that the Premier’s decision to preview the government’s strategies with the business community is a clear indication of who she sees as her primary constituents (hint: it’s not the general public).

    So on to Maria’s question: what are we going to do about it. I’ve heard that none of the “progressive” parties are interested in merging, but that doesn’t mean that a coalition of progressive MLAs is out of the question. If the PCs continue to tick off the public at this rate we will be looking at a WR minority government with a very angry PC opposition and a smattering of progressive MLA filling out the opposition ranks. That means that the WR will need the support of the progressives MLAs to get anything done (I suspect that the PCs will go out of their way to block anything the WR puts forward). This could present the progressive MLAs with an opportunity to wield great influence on the issues that matter to them. That said, who do we vote for…I’m leaning toward voting for the MLA who best represents my values regardless of his/her party affiliation. I know that won’t work for everyone, but it’s one way to approach the problem if it looks like none of the progressive parties has the heft to outnumber the PCs in opposition. Having said that things are evolving rapidly so who knows.

    PS I agree that the bureaucrats could have and should have done something to prevent this from happening, but I think Holycow is right, many of them are gone and the ones that are left don’t have the courage to speak up. Actually even the MLAs are too weak to push back–how else do you explain the mess Doug Griffiths got himself into last week. Pathetic

    PPS And Will you nailed it, the Soapbox commentators are well worth reading in their own right!

    • Verna says:

      Thanks, Susan! Gee, did you do all that on the bus on your way home??? Awesome input. Thanks so much for all your influence and great, great reading!! verna

    • Joan Jett says:

      Brian Mason is so right! The hospital Lab privatization proposal is all about the business community. ( ie Dynalife, Katz group, Aimco ). It’s not about better service for the people, its about the rich getting richer. Even though the waters are extremely muddy we still see through this deal. We know we are not primary constituents, if we were, we may have been consulted when this deal evolved back in 2008.

      • Joan now that I’ve managed to reply to your comments all over the place I’ll try again by simply saying that the fact that you and the unions are going public with your concerns is absolutely vital. It’s the only way ordinary Albertans have a glimmer of what’s really going on–we certainly can’t trust Horne and his cronies to tell us the truth. And I loved your suggestion made on another post that we should replace Fred Horne with Rob Ford–at least Ford would be harmless (an embarrassment yes, but damaging, no).
        All the best at the rally on Friday. I’ve contact two opposition MLAs in two different parties to alert to them this. One said he’ll contact the unions to get a better understanding of their position. As they say, it’s not over until the fat lady sings!

  10. Carlos Beca says:

    Susan at least I got a reply from Danielle Smith. It looks like a very carefully written letter and probably the same everyone is getting. One of those letters to not offend anyone and to cover all possible angles. This is to do with the LabCorp. If by any chance you are interested in reading it just let me know where to send.
    I do not like these letters but I did just a tiny little to make the issue more visible. I would rather have a 15 feet by 20 feet card protesting it in a more agressive way. Maybe soon.

    • Carlos, I too got a response from Danielle Smith, quite likely the same letter as you received. She talked about the lack of consultation, the concerns raised by pathologists around centralization causing delays, and the dangers of putting all lab services into the hands of a single provider. She closed with this: “Major changes health care delivery should not be done on a whim and without consultation. Wildrose caucus will continue to ask the tough questions until these concerns are fully addressed by Alberta Health Services and the government, and we will push to ensure that those who are affected are included in the conversation.” If the WR can achieve this, then more power to them! I’m also discussing this further with the Liberals to see what they can do. If nothing else they should support the WR in pushing for as much transparency and consultation on this project as possible.

      Meanwhile the AHS is drifting closer to the iceberg. This morning’s Herald reported that the AHS interim CEO, Duncan Campbell, who replaced the previous CEO Dr Eagle, has been replaced by two interim co-CEOs, Brenda Huband and Rick Trimp. Apparently the CEO position is complex and had to be split up. Why Fred Horne, Janet Davidson and Dr Cowell didn’t figure this out a month ago when they appointed the hapless Dr Campbell is beyond me. It’s a miracle that our hardworking doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals show up for work every day.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Yes you are absolutely right. It is always a sad and frustrating to work for any organization without clear objectives and without any real leaders. It feels they are all there just getting the pay cheque and the heck with what happens next. Some silly announcements here and there and nothing else. The emergency rooms are purgatory and in the hands of this triage nurse that behaves like a witch determining who gets the lucky number to go in. If our leaders cannot resolve this issue how do we expect them to resolve any other much more complex Health System processes. It is embarrasing. Furthermore there is this doctors tradition that it is in the emergency rooms that doctors get their wings to a future career by enduring in some cases shifts that go as long as 36 hours. I would like to understand in what way is this good for a young doctor? Is this some kind of passing the batton of carrying on with awful emergency service with walking dead doctors? How is this even allowed by the Association is beyond me. If this is a tradition of some sort, kill it. It is no different than othe old ideas that just did not fit in our present reality. It seems like a rite of passage of some sort. It is dangerous and no wonder it takes 8 hours to even see a real doctor.

  11. Joan Jett says:

    Susan, working in Health care right now is like cruising on the Costa Concordia. The decisions being made are by people who don’t know what they are doing. The reason we show up for work every day is because WE are serving the people of this province, we CARE about the people of this province. We know AHS is taking us through some very rough waters, but we put our life jackets on and get to work to serve the people. The same people that will vote in 2016 and hopefully get rid of our current “captain of this ship”. We are embarrassed to be under a very dysfunctional group, but we faithfully show up and do what health care workers do, CARE for the people of this province.

  12. Joan, I just responded to your great comment but for some reason it appeared under the Running with Scissors blog, so I’m just going to repeat it here. Hopefully this won’t get too confusing for our readers!
    “Joan I know I speak for many many Albertans when I say that we have the utmost respect for you and your colleagues. I marvel at how you drag yourselves out of bed and into work every day, not knowing what calamities will befall you due to yet another idiotic decision from on high. The removal of yet another CEO will surely paralyse everyone with decision making authority which will make matters even worse. The fact that you and the unions are going public with your concerns is vital–it’s the only way ordinary Albertans have a glimmer of what’s really going on. We certainly can’t rely on Horne and the rest of his cronies to tell us the truth.

    PS I love your suggestion of replacing Horne with Rob Ford for the very reason you gave–at least Ford would be harmless (an embarrassment yes, but damaging, no).”
    :

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