Congratulations to Alison Redford on her startling win of the PC leadership race. By virtue of her victory, Redford becomes the interim Premier of Alberta, until she can test the voters in an election.
It was a stunning upset, made possible in part by her willingness to adopt positions made popular by opposition parties, including Alberta’s NDP. In fact, there are a number of her proposals that we can support, including restoring needed funding to school boards, a Judicial Inquiry into allegations of intimidation of health care professionals, and having the Children’s Advocate report to the Legislative Assembly.
But Ms. Redford proposes to do all these things and more, without holding a fall session of the Alberta Legislature. That’s wrong. Today I called on Alison Redford to call the Legislature back into session as soon as possible to debate three things:
First, the provision of additional funds to school boards so they can rehire laid-off teachers and bring class sizes back to where they’re supposed to be. This is a $100 million hit, and that’s way too big an amendment to the 2011 budget to be decided behind closed doors. The Tories pushed the budget through the Legislature over our objections, and they need to fix it in the Legislature. The NDP will support speedy passage of an amendment to the 2011 budget that restores funding to school boards. We would also support the government giving immediate short-term funding to school boards until the Legislature could pass such an amendment, so that school boards could begin rehiring immediately.
Second, Redford promised a Judicial Inquiry into allegations of intimidation of health care professionals within 90 days. She was in the legislature when a united opposition raised example after example of intimidation, only to be stonewalled by the government of which she was a member. The Terms of Reference for the inquiry should be determined by the legislature as a whole, not by a government that still has an enormous amount to lose.
Third, fixed election dates formed part of Ms. Redford’s platform. That’s wonderful, but we are expecting an election next year, possibly in the spring. So when is it to be? The date for the next provincial general election needs to be set now, and with discussion by all political parties. If it is set arbitrarily by the government without a long lead time, it’s really little different from what we have now: a race where one contestant gets to yell GO! when she’s ready, and others aren’t.
For all these reasons, and more besides, Redford should call a fall session. Alberta’s NDP will cooperate with the government and other opposition parties to assure that all three measures are approved without delay. There are parts of Redford’s agenda that we can support, and we are prepared to work constructively to realize them.
At this point, Ms. Redford’s only mandate comes from the PC membership. Her attempts to govern without reference to the legislature are troubling. They are also contrary to principles of parliamentary government, which serves as a check on the power of the government by requiring approval of its policies, and especially its spending.
I look forward to working with Alison Redford, and a constructive and vigorous debate about the future of our province. Congratulations again.