The fall sitting of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly started yesterday and it did not take long for the Opposition Parties came out swinging against the governing Progressive Conservatives.
“Opposition cries emergency debate.
Boy cries wolf.
Blah Blah Blah.”
– Local futurist Kevin Kuchinski
The 2 MLA NDP Opposition were denied their chance to start an emergency debate on the state of Alberta’s Emergency Rooms. While this is an issue of critical importance that deserves the level of attention that an emergency debate should create, it is not a surprise that the motion was defeated. Calling for emergency debates is a legislative mechanism that Opposition MLAs frequently attempt to trigger, which has somewhat diluted its purpose and desired effect (see: April 2005, May 2005, May 2005, October 2005, July 2006, August 2006, August 2006, August 2006, March 2007, April 2007, November 2007, June 2008, July 2008, July 2008, May 2009).
According to Standing Order 30, 15 votes out of 83 are needed to trigger an emergency debate. None of 68 PC MLAs voted in favour of the motion and the opposition benches banned together to garner 13 votes out of 15 Opposition MLAs (I am told that Liberal leader David Swann and MLA Bridget Pastoor were absent for the vote and knee-deep in Potatogate).
The NDP deserve credit for taking the initiative in bringing this issue to the forefront and effectively defining the first week of the sitting. There are all sorts of political reasons why the motion for emergency debate did not pass yesterday. The most obvious reason was that the PCs had no interest in being lambasted over the situation in our Emergency Rooms on the 6pm news. The Liberals also have little interest in providing NDP MLA Brian Mason with a platform to grandstand on the first day of the session. Politics as usual.
Away from the politics under the Dome of the Legislative Assembly, I attended the Alberta Party‘s Big Listen on Public Health Care last night. Crowded around a table in the basement of Sacred Heart Church on 96 Street in Edmonton, a group of former PCs, Liberals, and New Democrats participated in listening and respectful discussion about hopes, pressures, and opportunities for our public health care system. It was a refreshing contrast to the political plays and drama on the Assembly floor. The Alberta Party have been developing their policies at hundreds of meetings like this over the past six months and will be creating their policies at a November policy convention in Red Deer.