Spring Session of the Legislature Ends with Weak Opposition to the NDP

Published on July 04, 2018

Spring session at the Legislature came to a wrap and was marked by the NDP ramming through more damaging legislation, but surprisingly, with little or no opposition from my former party, the UCP on key issues.

MLA Pay Cut

As Alberta’s debt reaches towards $100 billion, I put forward a motion to cut all MLA pay by 5 per cent until the budget is balanced. This motion was met by dead silence by every other MLA in the legislature, NDP, UCP, and Alberta Party. While the different parties might disagree on some issues, they all managed to unanimously agree that reducing MLA salaries from $130,000 a year by 5 per cent was a bad idea.

This would have saved Alberta taxpayers a bit of money, but more importantly would have shown a sign of solidarity with those struggling to pay higher taxes while the government only spends more. This move made sense for the NDP’s spending-happy budget plans, however I was surprised and disappointed that the UCP would collude with them to refuse to even debate my proposal.

Anti-Free Speech/No Protest Zones (Bill 9)

The NDP put forward Bill-9, which sharply curtailed the rights of Albertans to protest – even respectfully – against abortion. Regardless of how anyone feels about the abortion debate, singling out an individual group to attack their rights to freedom of speech and assembly is anti-democratic in the extreme. We must always stand up for free speech, especially for those that we disagree with. I would no more vote for a bill to limit the freedoms of pro-life activists, as I would to limit the freedoms of anti-pipeline activists. We can disagree with people on issues without attacking their rights to express themselves.

Like the MLA pay cut that I proposed, I wasn’t surprised that the NDP was solidly behind this bill, but I was deeply disappointed that my colleagues in the UCP were all whipped to not support the bill, or oppose the bill, but to refuse to even debate or vote on it.

On 15 separate occasions, UCP MLAs were forced by the whip to run out of the legislature before every vote, and then return to their seats to sit silently as the debate went on.

I proposed nearly a dozen different amendments which would have better balanced the bill and protected freedom of speech. All but one was defeated, but I did my job as an opposition MLA to show up, debate the bill, propose amendments, and vote on them.

As a result of being the only MLA in the entire house to openly oppose the bill, the NDP amended it themselves to triple the size of the no-protest zones.

It is the solemn duty of the opposition to support bills that it agrees with, oppose bills that it disagrees with, and amend bills that can be improved. When the opposition refuses to even show up for work, it gives the government of the day a blank cheque to do whatever it wants, and that’s exactly what happened.

Race and Gender Quotas (Bill 2)

While the mainstream media paid little or no attention to it, the NDP’s Bill 2 was a radical piece of legislation that establish subsidies for businesses in the private sector that meet government imposed racial and gender quotas. While these kinds of quotas have – officially and unofficially – been employed by the public sector and all parties currently in the legislature for candidate selection, never before in Canada has a government imposed them on the private sector.

On this bill, the NDP, UCP and Alberta Party all voted unanimously on four separate occasions to keep race and gender quotas in the bill when I put forward a series of amendments to remove them.

It is no business of the government who private businesses decide to hire, and the best person for the job – in business and in government – should always be the one to get the job, regardless of their sex or color of their skin.

Government Ownership of the Trans Mountain Pipeline

The biggest and most public issue before the legislature this fall however was the Trans Mountain Pipeline. With a massive Carbon Tax and unprecedented new regulations to limit our oil and gas industry, the NDP have failed to win “social license” from anti-energy activists, who’s demands only get more radical once their previous demands have been met.

Kinder Morgan’s CEO made clear that unless the illegal roadblocks to the Trans Mountain Pipeline were cleared, the project would be canceled. On the very same day, Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Notley, and UCP Leader Kenney all called for the government to buy and take ownership of the pipeline.

This had two immediate and one long-term consequence. With politicians on all sides calling for taxpayers to buy the pipeline, Kinder Morgan was in a prime negotiating position to sell it at a premium price. At $4.5 billion, taxpayers paid a dear price for a project that had all of the investment money that it needed if the rule of law would only have been upheld.

The second issue is that the federal government now controls a critical piece of energy and economic infrastructure for Alberta, as Pierre Trudeau (the senior) always tried to obtain. This now allows Justin Trudeau to use it as ransom if a future Alberta government ever tries to scrap the Carbon Tax.

The long-term effect of taxpayers buying the Trans Mountain pipeline is that the anti-energy and anti-Alberta radicals now know that if push comes to shove, establishment politicians will cave to pressure and put massive sums of taxpayers money at risk before they are willing to enforce the law.

Rather than buy the pipeline, Alberta should have called upon the federal government to use its legitimate trade and commerce powers in the constitution, and to provide military guard against radicals if necessary.

That’s a Wrap

So the spring session of the legislature saw the major parties disagree on a few issues, but mostly agree – or stay silent – on the issues that really mattered.

On nearly 20 votes, I was proud to represent Strathmore-Brooks as the only MLA to stand up and fight the NDP, to provide a detailed shadow budget, and to speak freely without a party whip.

This summer I will be in every corner of our great constituency listening to you so that I can take your concerns back with me when we return to Edmonton in the fall.

Derek Fildebrandt is the MLA for Strathmore-Brooks