MLA proposes process to increase public feedback in new legislation
Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson is keen on making a change to how new legislation is debated in Alberta.
On May 14, Anderson, who is the Wildrose official Opposition house leader, sent a package of proposals to Government House Leader Dave Hancock, which would see third readings of new bills put off to allow for public and stakeholder input.
“Premier (Alison) Redford (has said she) wants the work we do at the legislature to be more constructive… and allow more opposition input,” said Anderson. “We thought this would be a good way to get the ball rolling. Instead of having bills rammed through the legislature without much debate, (these changes) would allow time for more meaningful input.”
In a letter to Hancock, Anderson made a four-step proposal for how the new all-party Legislature Policy Committees (LPC), which are currently in place, could improve the legislative process.
The suggestions include:
1. All substantive government bills should be introduced and debated in second reading during the spring sitting of the legislature. After passing second reading, each bill should be referred to the appropriate all-party LPC.
2. During the remainder of the spring sitting and during summer recess, the LPC would review the proposed legislation and seek advice from stakeholders and Albertans as to potential amendments or needed improvements. This would provide the opportunity for all MLAs to solicit direct feedback from constituents.
3. When session resumes for the fall sitting, the bill would then be further debated based on the feedback received. A final vote for third reading would be completed during fall sitting.
4. During the fall sitting, the LPC would hold pre-budget consultations, soliciting input and presenting findings to government in advance of the following year’s budget.
Anderson said Redford’s proposal to create more meaningful all-party LPC is a step in the right direction, however, Albertans need to hear some specifics on how these revamped committees would work.
He said his proposal would allow for more careful consideration of government business and give MLAs and Albertans a greater role in the creation of new legislation.
“Our proposal will give regular Albertans and their elected representatives much more influence on the business of the Legislature regardless of which party their MLA belongs to or what position their MLA holds,” said Anderson. “Premier Redford has indicated she wants to improve how the Legislature operates and we certainly support that. We believe our proposals would go a long way toward achieving that goal.”
Anderson added that, if approved, his suggestions would likely lead to less red tape and fewer controversial laws.
Anderson said Alberta’s tougher impaired driving law, which limits people to .05 blood-alcohol content, is a classic example of a law that was rushed through without enough debate.
“They probably could have come up with a bill that actually saves lives instead of annoying people,” he said, adding Airdronians have told him they don’t want top-down decision making in the Alberta government.
Anderson is optimistic his suggestions will be considered.
“Our feeling is that we are starting a brand new fresh session here and it is a good opportunity to implement some change,” he said. “The premier talks a lot about change… here is a chance to show she means it.”