In another move suggesting the spring sitting of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly could end within days, it appears that the passage of the Progressive Conservative Government’s controversial public sector pension law – Bill 9: Public Sector Pension Plans Amendment Act, 2014 – will be delayed until the fall sitting later this year.
The opposition filibuster of the pension bill ended yesterday when the PC Government backed down from its intent to pass the bill during this sitting and sensibly agreed to refer the legislation to the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future for public hearings.
Despite months of loud opposition from the close to 200,000 public sector employees who pay into the plan and were not consulted about the changes, Finance minister Doug Horner had planned push the legislation into law during this sitting of the Assembly. The delay puts Mr. Horner’s own flagship bill on the back burner until after the PC Party chooses a new leader in September 2014.
It will be up to the new Premier, who many suspect will be former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice, to decide whether the pension bill should return or die on the order paper.
In spite of Premier Dave Hancock‘s instance otherwise, a letter from popular Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi sent last week and made public by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, more than certainly contributed to the slow-down of Mr. Horner’s pension bill.
The bill faced harsh criticism and stalling tactics from all opposition parties - the New Democrats, Liberals and Wildrose – and Mr. Nenshi’s letter came as a coalition of public sector unions intensified pressure on PC MLAs to negotiate, rather than legislate, any changes to the public sector pension plans.
This latest move appears to be another example of the “house-cleaning” taking place under the watch of Mr. Hancock, who last week helped the Government reach a tentative agreement with the province’s largest public sector union.
Speaking to a $500 a plate PC Party fundraising dinner last week, Mr. Hancock admitted that the 43-year governing PC Party had lost touch with its grassroots. The speech was an attempt to apologize for the excesses and gross missteps of Premier Alison Redford‘s government (it should be noted that Mr. Hancock was Ms. Redford’s Deputy Premier and staunchest public defender until her final day as premier).
A party loyalist to the core, it is suspected that Mr. Hancock is softening the ground for his successor by trying to resolve, or at least delay, some of the major political problems created by his predecessor.