In one of her first decisions as Alberta’s new premier, Alison Redford announced that the fall session of the legislature would be cancelled. She promptly flip-flopped after opposition parties kicked up a fuss. On Thursday, Ms. Redford decreed instead that the session would be quickly adjourned and then significantly shortened.
The legislature will sit on Oct. 24-25 – long enough for Ms. Redford to address the global economic crisis in a type of “state of the union address” – followed by month-long break, before returning on Nov. 21 for a two-week session. Government House Leader Dave Hancock was left to explain the decision.
“That will allow us time to take the Premier’s new agenda and direction,” he told reporters.
Opposition parties were quick to criticize the decision as lack of change in the Progressive Conservative government despite the fact that Ms. Redford focused her winning campaign for the party’s leadership on a platform of change. She was selected as Ed Stelmach’s replacement on Oct. 2.
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman, who left the Tories after a falling out with the government and was elected last month to head the Official Opposition, said he was disappointed that the session was shortened.
“We supported the Premier when she changed her mind and decided to hold a fall sitting after all, but this is the wrong approach,” he said in a statement.
Wildrose Party MLA Rob Anderson, another former Tory, turned to Twitter to describe the decision as a “disrespect for democracy” and “shameful.”
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, who this week was host of a dinner in Calgary attended by 1,200 supporters, described it as “governing behind closed doors.”
Depending on the math, the opposition parties pointed out the shortened session means the legislature would be open for business a total of just 44 or 45 days this year.
“The PCs are playing hooky,” Rachel Notley, one of two New Democratic MLAs, said in a statement. “Having a full fall sitting is important to getting work done for Albertans.”
MLA Dave Taylor, a former Liberal who now represents the Alberta Party, said the decision shows that the Tories are ignoring promises of “a lot more openness and transparency.”
The government defended the decision.
“I don’t think that diminishes our democracy,” Mr. Hancock said. “I don’t measure democracy in the number of days or the number of minutes.”