With Alberta’s Legislative Assembly back in session until the beginning of December, there is good chance that Albertans will hear the term “emergency debate” used a lot.
With a global pandemic, a struggling economy and the United Conservative Party government implementing drastic overhauls and layoffs, MLAs from the opposition New Democratic Party will likely invoke legislative mechanisms to force emergency debates in the Assembly.
According to the rules that govern how the Assembly operates, the Standing Orders, there are two ways for MLAs to trigger emergency debates in the Legislature:
1. Standing Order 30: After the daily routine and before the Orders of the Day, any MLA can request to delay the scheduled business of the Assembly in order to discuss a matter of urgent public importance. After the MLA is given an opportunity to state their arguments, the Speaker can allow a debate on the question of urgency of debate and decide whether the call for a debate is needed.
If the Speaker agrees that debate is needed and there are any objections, then a standing vote of those in favour takes place. If 15 MLAs rise in favour in the standing vote, then the debate can happen with 10 minutes allocated to any MLA who wishes to speak on the matter.
Under SO 30, the MLA proposing the emergency debate must give the Speaker written notice at least 2 hours ahead of time.
2. Standing Order 42: This standing order allows MLAs to delay the regular business the Assembly to deal with matters of “urgent and pressing necessity” and can be invoked anytime without advance notice having been given to the Speaker.
This order requires unanimous consent of the Assembly to proceed. If no MLA objects then each MLA is given 20 minutes to debate the motion.
The government typically opposes this kind of motion.
Sweet’s motion was declined by Speaker Nathan Cooper because he determined a motion on a similar topic had already been introduced to the Order Paper by Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre UCP MLA and Government House Leader Jason Nixon.