Friday, November 29, 2013

Alberta Bills 45 and 46

Others have spoke very eloquently about the problems with Bills 45 and 46.

What I want to bring to readers' attention is how the Redford Government is abusing not just legislative procedure, but democracy itself.

It is not unusual for this government to limit debate on bills.  What is unusual is to introduce a motion limiting debate prior to tabling the bill itself.  No MLA should ever have voted in favour of limiting debate on a bill without first having had the chance to vet it.  Yet, that is precisely what has happened here.  In the Hansard from Tuesday, November 26 Afternoon session:
Mr. Hancock: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a number ofnotices to provide to the House today. First, I would like to giveoral notice of intention to introduce Bill 45, the Public SectorServices Continuation Act, which will be sponsored by myself.I would also like to give oral notice of intention to introduceBill 46, the Public Service Salary Restraint Act, and Bill 42, theSecurities Amendment Act, 2013, which are sponsored by thehon. Provincial Treasurer and Minister of Finance.Mr. Speaker, I also would want to provide oral notice ofintention of introduce two motions. The first motion would be:Be it resolved that pursuant to Standing Order 77(2) Bill 45,Public Sector Services Continuation Act, may be advanced twoor more stages in one day and that if Bill 45 has not yet beenintroduced, then immediately following the passage of thismotion the Assembly shall revert to Introduction of Bills for theintroduction of Bill 45, Public Sector Services ContinuationAct.The second motion that I'd like to give notice of is:Be it resolved thatA. On Thursday, November 28, 2013, the Assemblycontinue sitting beyond its normal adjournment hourof 4:30 p.m. for consideration of Bill 45, PublicSector Services Continuation Act, and any relatedmotions; andB. Upon Government House Leader advising theAssembly no later than the time of adjournment onThursday, November 28, 2013, the Assemblyreconvene on Friday, November 29, 2013, at 10 a.m.for a special sitting, and the only business to beconsidered by the Assembly that day shall be Bill 45,Public Sector Services Continuation Act, and anyrelated motions.
If something about this smells a little strange, it is the pre-emptive issuance of motions to limit debate on these bills when there is no legislative crisis at hand.  When there is a crisis at hand, I can appreciate the need to be expedient.

So, the government is moving to push this legislation through with only the bare minimum of process.  With the excessive majority that the PCs have in the legislature, this is almost unnecessary window dressing.

The second item in the Hansard of interest comes from Thursday Afternoon's session:
Ms Notley: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. ...3:10The other action which occurred, frankly, just occurred, Mr.Speaker, in that it is now as far as I can tell 3:10, and I have notyet received a copy of either Bill 45 or Bill 46, yet I am advisedthat the media have received a briefing on this bill as of 2:45,which also amounts to a breach of the privilege of the members ofthis Assembly.
Note that the media was briefed on this
What's the big rush?  They only have to whip the votes to get this legislation through.

The short answer is that the government doesn't want us to look at the legislation too closely, nor do they want any amendments or scrutiny before it becomes law.

These two bills are arguably the most blatant attack on collective bargaining, and labour rights in general that we have seen in decades.  At best, parts of the legislative could be considered punitive - punishing all public sector unions for the wildcat strike that prison guards pulled earlier this year.  At worst, it demonstrates a government that is unwilling to negotiate in good faith, and legislation which is also arguably unconstitutional as well.

It is the willingness to subvert the core principles of our parliamentary democracy that is most concerning.  Whether Redford is taking a page from Harper's playbook, or Harper has modelled his approach to governing on the worst excesses we have seen in Alberta is irrelevant.  In both cases, we are seeing the processes of democracy being made a mockery, and laws being passed which grossly overreach the authority of the government.

Harper's "anti-bullying" law resurrects Toews' "spy on everyone" internet surveillance law which violates all sorts of principles of our constitution, and arguably the Redford government has passed a number of authoritarian laws which fundamentally overreach as well.

These are not conservatives in any reasonable understanding of the term - they are authoritarians.

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