The first sitting of the 30th Legislature of Alberta has come to a close, just in time for the Calgary Stampede. But as the UCP celebrates by frolicking in the fountain, the reality of our new government is not as rosy as they would have you believe.
Thirteen bills were passed in this sitting, confirming many of the fears that a significant number of Albertans were called alarmists for raising during the election. The Conservatives may have won a majority government, but they face one of the largest, and certainly the most experienced and determined, oppositions in Alberta history. They saw record-long sitting days and faced several overnight debates as the NDP tore apart every flaw in every bill.
Unfortunately, despite the long days, the constructive debate and experienced advice from the opposition, the UCP decided to – literally – put in earplugs, hunker down and ignore the storm brewing around them. The Conservatives started off with a public claim Alberta was deeper in the hole than the NDP had stated, but Kenney proved this a lie when the UCP's own numbers showed the province was $2 billion better off on the NDP plan than anticipated.
After lying about the previous government, the UCP – elected on a platform of fiscal responsibility – blew $13.5 billion in ill-advised, ideological moves to give money to corporations (while ignoring small businesses), cancelling the Climate Leadership Plan that brought in $7 billion and shutting down the oil-by-rail deal that would have seen crude reach coastal markets.
They have cancelled programs and investments that put the UCP directly responsible for the loss of up to 30,000 jobs. They have taken food out of children’s mouths by cancelling the school nutrition program, cut salaries for 180,000 public sector employees, and attacked the incomes of our youth – many of them financing themselves – by lowering their minimum wage, a move even Ralph Klein recognized was cruel and unfair.
The Conservatives threw school boards into financial chaos by refusing to set funding for schools before their budgets were due, leading many boards to make cuts and increase class sizes and others to take a gamble that they may overspend, hoping the UCP will follow the NDP's funding plans. They will re-implement a Grade 3 Provincial Achievement test, costing us millions of dollars, despite teachers and evidence saying these tests at that level only hurt the quality of education our children receive.
And, worst of all, just before they took their celebratory bath in Edmonton, the UCP rejected numerous pragmatic compromises from the NDP to amend Bill 8 and ensure that LGBT youth would be protected. The UCP’s actions here represent the first time in Canadian history a government has rolled back legislated rights of the LGBT community – a move even conservative personalities like Charles Adler are disgusted with.
There’s a smell around the UCP and the legislature today, and it’s not the smell of roses.