By Trevor Busch
With a busy fall session of the legislature now concluded, Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter looked back at some of the key issues that were before the house in late 2017.
The fall sitting started Oct. 30 and wrapped up on Dec. 13, with the Notley NDP government continuing its focus on jobs, affordability and strengthening the public services. During the fall session, the government introduced 15 bills.
“We’ve seen a lot of changes obviously in the last little while,” said Hunter. “In terms of the session, the government did bring forward a lot of bills. In the last week to 10 days, I think they brought forward four omnibus bills. It was about 800 pages of legislation that they brought forward and were wanting us to be able to go through that in less than a week. So we actually pushed and went an extra week than what they wanted, because we just didn’t feel like we could go through the material and give it the proper critique in that short of a time.”
Other targeted areas for the government during the session included strengthening consumer protection, improving workplace health and safety and protecting LGBTQ students.
“So we went an extra week, but I still feel like we needed more time, that Albertans needed more time,” said Hunter. “They did a lot of changes, especially to Occupational Health and Safety and the Worker’s Compensation Act. They added about 100 pages onto the Occupational Health and Safety Act, that might affect businesses’ decisions as to whether they want to stay open or not.”
Key pieces of legislation addressed managing legalization of cannabis in Alberta with a focus on keeping cannabis out of the hands of children, protecting public health and safety on the province’s roads and limiting the illicit market.
Efforts at expanding participation in elections and regulating election spending through third-party entities were implemented, but Hunter was against the removal of a residency requirement period for voters.
“I think the intention was good, but they did away with the six month residency requirement — which we think was a mistake. So people can come in and they can actually vote in an election. So I think we should have had some kind off residency requirement — maybe six months isn’t the right amount — but we should have something. So we put forward an amendment to get some sort of residency amount — maybe six days, 30 days — but they rejected all those.”
The United Conservative Party caucus was hoping to see rules released involving farms and ranches through Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), but this has been postponed until early 2018.
“We had thought that OHS rules were going to be coming out for farms and ranches, which affects us. In speaking with Minister (Oneil) Carlier (Agriculture and Forestry), it looks like they’re going to be coming out in January at some time. So we’re waiting in anticipation for that.”
The increase in the province’s carbon tax levy is bound to have an impact on bottom lines, added Hunter.
“It’s not legislation, but the increase in the carbon tax, in talking with any of the businesses in our riding, that carbon tax increase is going to be sucked up, and then also the increased cost to heating. It’s going to be difficult for people.”
There was also legislation to prevent gas drive-aways, as well as providing protections for consumers making online purchases of event tickets.