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Alberta Legislature Fall Sitting Ends: Smith Calls Tories Bullies, Mason Describes Them As Acrimonious

The fall sitting for the Alberta legislature came to end on Thursday and opposition parties walked away bitter and frustrated.

It was by most accounts a successful fall session but the fireworks that accompanied the sitting were more reminiscent of a dysfunctional, fractured governing house.

The reigning Tories went in to the fall session with 10 bills to pass, which was not that difficult of a task to accomplish, considering their majority in the legislature. What is impressive, however, is the fact most of the bills passed with opposition support.

The bitterness, as the fall session came to a close on Thursday, and venomous exchanges at question period stem from the government's attitude towards the other parties and towards accountability, Opposition and Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith told CTV Calgary, before heading into the last day of the current sitting on Thursday.

"I have to worry about the government's attitude. They're bullies and they intimidate," said Smith, adding that much of the partisanship that has marred question periods this session is of the Tory's own making.

"It's unfortunate for the government there's been nothing but scandal, after scandal, after scandal and we think it's our job to hold them to account on those."

NDP Leader Brian Mason may be sitting on the other end of the ideological spectrum but on Thursday echoed Smith's sentiments and his frustrations with walking away from the legislature with few answers to what he feels are many important unanswered issues.

“The session began with the $430,000 Katz donation to the Tories, and then stories broke about a rash of public institutions and employees – including the premier’s sister –donating to the Tories.

"Taken together with this latest tobacco lawsuit issue, I think Albertans should have serious concerns about the integrity of the Redford government."

Oilers Owner and Rexall tycoon Daryl Katz found himself in the eye of a political tempest earlier in the fall when it was discovered that nearly half-a-million dollars in campaign donations to the Redford Tories could be traced back to him, his family or close associates. Law states any one person or company can only donate $30,000 to political parties.

Things got a little smellier when more dots were connected and it was brought to light that the amount of money given by the province to pharmacies for administering immunization shots was increased this year, all the while Katz - the head of a pharmacy empire - was working hard to get more government cash for a proposed downtown arena for his Oilers.


Later, the opposition demanded Redford step down after memos seemingly pointed to her, while at the time in her capacity as justice minister, recommending a law firm her ex-husband works for to lead the province's $10-billion tobacco lawsuit. Both the Wildrose and NDP called it a conflict of interest but the Speaker of the House ruled this week the decision to choose the firm was made after Redford left her post as justice minister.

Then there were costs and expenses accrued by Tory MLAs attending the London Olympics and paid for by taxpayers, and the premier's sister Lynn Redford being accused of expensing questionable expenses to the taxpayer in her role as provincial health official.

But finally, bot the NDP and the Wildrose came out of the last sitting criticizing the PCs for what they say is their inability to play nice with others.

Mason described the fall session as, "acrimonious."

“The government introduced two bills that were supposedly going to create more transparency and accountability – the whistleblower legislation and the so-called Elections Accountability Amendment Act,” he said.

“But both of those pieces of legislation, and the government’s responses to any questions we had about transparency, have shown that the government is just not interested in improving either its record or its legislation."

Despite differing ideologies, the opposition parties managed to find common ground on several occasions, but that aptitude seemed to be too far out of reach for the Redford government, Smith said.

"When you look at the debate that's taken place over the bills, the opposition has found many areas of agreement with the government. Ten bills past, seven of those past with opposition support," she said.

"We found amendments to support with the NDs and the Liberals. So the opposition parties are finding areas of agreement.

"I don't see the same attiditude on the other side."

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