With the Second Session of the 27th Alberta Legislature set to begin next week, here are a couple things that will be on my radar:
Throne Speech: Having attended five out of the past six Speeches from the Throne, I’m having a difficult time raising my expectations this year. No matter what is read, PC MLAs will roar, Opposition Liberals and NDP will oppose, but in the end, everyone will still love Norman Kwong.
Provincial Budget: Expected in March/April, this will be the first provincial deficit budget that Alberta has seen in over a decade. After sending out mixed signals, it looks like dipping into the Sustainability Fund will provide short-term protection to Premier Ed Stelmach and Finance Minister Iris Evans from being lynched by the rabid fiscal conservatives in the PC caucus. Are the days of the Deep Six long gone?
Health Care: Health Minister Ron Liepert will be in the spotlight over restructuring, layoffs, and the daily delisting and (un)delisting of services. Focus will be on Liepert, but I will be keeping an eye on his Parliamentary Deputy, Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman, says or doesn’t say on the issue of privatization during this session.
New Official Opposition Leader: Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann will lead the Official Opposition into his first Legislative Session as leader. Can he lead the rag-tag Liberal Caucus as a cohesive unit? Pay attention to what Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor does in this session.
Oil-bama: Stelmach has invited President Barack Obama to visit Alberta’s Oil Sands, but this isn’t about oil, this is all about Climate Change. The PCs are clearly concerned that Obama’s Climate Change agenda could force the traditional oil industry to clean up its act. It’s a market, and if the consumers (the United States) change their standards, it’s up to the producer (the oil companies) to either adapt or perish. It’s not hard to see what direction the energy market is moving towards when large energy companies, such as BP, continue to move resources into renewable energy projects in the United States. Albertans have a unique opportunity to become leaders in innovation in new cleaner energy markets, but as long as our leaders continue to focus on the old economy, we risk being left behind.
Land-Use Framework: Sustainable Resource Development Minister Ted Morton has the job of navigating his proposed land-use framework through the minefield that is the Alberta Legislature, and more specifically, the PC caucus. This is a very important step for Alberta, so critical debate and public attention towards this issue will be important.
Respect: Swann wants to tone down the rhetoric and dramatics in the Legislative Assembly, but it will take more than nice wishes to change an entrenched political culture. Without a joint statement between Swann and Stelmach, it is likely that it won’t become anything more than a nice idea. Bets on how long it take for Stelmach to accuse Swann of being a communist?
Post-Secondary Learning Amendment Act: Advanced Ed & Tech Minister Doug Horner will introduce amendments to the PSL Act that will pave the way for Mount Royal College and Grant MacEwan College to become Mount Royal University and Grant MacEwan University. Last week, representatives from the AUCC were spotted at Mount Royal assessing the transition.
Lobbyist Registry. After years of promising to create a Provincial Lobbyist Registry, is there a chance that we might actually see some concrete movement this spring? (fingers crossed…)