ALBERTA

Alison Redford Talks About New Transportation Bill, Move Criticized By Opposition

10/29/2013 09:53 EDT | Updated 10/29/2013 09:54 EDT
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EDMONTON - Alberta Speaker Gene Zwozdesky says he will study and make a ruling as early as Wednesday on whether Premier Alison Redford's government broke parliamentary rules by prematurely spilling the details of its new transportation bill.

Opposition leaders say regardless of the outcome, the bill's handling reflects a trend under Redford to co-opt the machinery of government for partisan political ends, with legislation rolled out like election ads complete with splashy press conferences, smiling faces and big signs — all billed to the taxpayer.

"All it is is electioneering with taxpayer money," said Opposition Wildrose party Leader Danielle Smith.

"For (Redford) to go out and start advertising bills that she hasn't even introduced in the legislature shows incredible arrogance, and shows incredible disrespect to those of us on the opposition bench who have a job to do."

NDP Leader Brian Mason said it is out of respect for the public that legislation — and details of the legislation — must first be raised in the legislature.

"That's where the people are represented, because not all the people voted for the PC government," said Mason.

Mason says there are other disturbing trends.

On Monday, Redford delivered a speech outlining her government's priorities for the legislature sitting to a luncheon crowd at the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce.

Those speeches are traditionally read by the lieutenant-governor in the throne speech in the legislature so that representatives of all parties can hear and respond to them.

Last week, Redford's government announced it will no longer give the opposition parties advance notice of government news conferences.

"They're trying to avoid accountability," said Mason.

"They do not want to face opposition questioning, and they just have a contempt for the legislature and by extension a contempt for every Albertan that didn't vote for them."

Details of the bill were released Tuesday morning with Transportation Minister Ric McIver making the announcement at a schoolyard press conference flanked by young school crossing guards and with government signs announcing the news.

McIver told the house that they either briefed, or tried to brief, opposition parties the night before on the contents of the bill, as per past practice.

And he said there was nothing wrong with the news conference.

"We're letting Albertans know what our intention is. There was no text from the bill in the (news) release. It was completely proper," McIver told reporters.

Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said the hair-splitting is irrelevant.

"It's a lack of respect for the legislative process," said Sherman.

"The rule here is we don't talk about bills until they're introduced in the legislature.

"It seems as though the premier and her team are already campaigning for her leadership race, advertising bills that have not been introduced, that have not been debated, that have not passed."

Redford faces a mandatory leadership review by Progressive Conservative party members in Red Deer on Nov. 22.

The bill, the Enhancing Safety on Alberta Roads Act, would grant the government the right to designate lanes for specific uses on provincial highways.

McIver said that would help address traffic-flow issues by allowing priority bus lanes, high occupancy vehicle lanes and designated lanes for slow-moving vehicles.

Alberta's rapidly expanding economy has led to problems with clogged and slow-moving traffic, particularly in Fort McMurray, Calgary and Red Deer.

The bill also proposes letting municipalities set rules for when reduced speeds are in effect at playground zones to align them with school zones and to better reflect local traffic conditions.

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