In the waning days of the Alberta legislature's spring session, one need not have looked far from the government building to see where the ruling Progressive Conservatives feel they lack political support.
As provincial politicians debated a number of bills Tuesday afternoon, in the session's last week, protesters outside celebrated the advent of April 20th, or 4/20, a day set aside by some to smoke, and celebrate, marijuana.
One of Alberta's two New Democrat Members of the Legislative Assembly, Rachel Notley, endured jeers that it was NDP voters gathered outside. So did Laurie Blakeman, the Liberal MLA for Edmonton Centre, a downtown riding.
"Oh, it's got to be spring. The marijuana people are outside," Ms. Blakeman said in response to the jeering.
"Yes, there are many constituents of Edmonton Centre that are outside on the legislature grounds, no question about it," she deadpanned.
The gathering on the legislature grounds lasted for hours throughout the afternoon, drawing a crowd of mostly teenagers.
"It was a little distracting trying to work today," Premier Ed Stelmach told reporters, before quickly clarifying it was the noise of music that was affecting his concentration.
"It's not my style, obviously," the typically mild-mannered premier added with a chuckle.
Nearly an hour later, around 4:20 p.m., Ms. Notley succeeded in having an amendment passed to Bill 7, a revision to provincial election laws. The NDP amendment allowed for people to vouch for the identity of more than one other person during an election. It was framed by Ms. Notley as a necessary step to ensure the homeless and other vulnerable communities aren't disenfranchised, allowing for care workers to vouch for several people.
It was believed to be the first time in this session, and in recent memory, that the Progressive Conservative majority government, which has ruled the province for four decades, has passed an amendment from the NDP.. Government MLAs were split on the vote.
"That was very fun. I don't think that's ever happened before," a stunned Ms. Notley told the legislature. Calling out of turn, other MLAs joked it was her "supporters" outside that made the difference.
"There you go, but it doesn't happen often," Ms. Notley told The Globe afterwards.
In a press briefing earlier, Mr. Stelmach was asked how he felt about the smoky protest.
"I'm not going to be legislating for, whatcha-ma-call-it, legislating marijuana use... we're not going to be doing that." He later joked that he'd go down and join the party.
"Now, that'd be a picture, wouldn't it?" he said, as his spokesman swiftly ended the briefing.Report Typo/Error