EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Alison Redford is dismissing opposition accusations her team took a baseball bat to democracy in a spring legislature sitting that featured last-minute, pell-mell lawmaking.
"I think it was a really good session in terms of what we were able to accomplish in terms of legislation," Redford told reporters Thursday as she stood in front of many caucus members on the steps of the legislature.
"I'm proud of the work that our caucus has done. I'm proud of the work that ministers have done."
The spring sitting wrapped up Wednesday and the house will not sit again until Oct. 28. In November, Redford faces a mandatory review of her leadership by members of her Progressive Conservative party.
The three opposition parties said that the spring sitting continued the trend under Redford of little legislation being introduced and key bills that are brought forward are held until the end and rammed through the debate process, sometimes in all-night sittings.
"I wouldn't look at this as a session of accomplishment. I think it has been a session of failure, and it's the reason why they (Redford's Tories) are desperate to get out of here and go home for the summer," said Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith.
Critics point mainly to the recent Children First Act. The act was passed earlier this week, just seven days after it was introduced and debated.
The bill makes broad changes to care for children across a number of other acts, and clarifies that police, social workers, educators and foster parents can share private information about children in need.
Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton and the opposition parties say they still have concerns that there are not enough safeguards in place to prevent a child's private information from falling into the wrong hands.
NDP critic Rachel Notley said the act fails in other areas, too.
"It's an act that lays the groundwork for the government to privatize and fracture even more the services which provide child protection in this province," said Notley.
"And the government chose to bring it through literally in the middle of the night," she added, referring to the debate on amendments earlier this week that ran past 4 a.m.
Liberal house leader Laurie Blakeman said a bill imposing a wage deal on teachers and a bill allowing government to collect a levy from industry for aboriginal consultation were also rammed through at breakneck speed.
Blakeman said normally politicians are given at the very least a day for every stage of debate on a bill to allow for consultation, research and discussion. She said Redford's team is now cramming those stages into one day.
"(It's) parliamentary process that I've never seen used," said Blakeman.
"It's meant to make sure that nobody else gets to comment on (the bill) and (and) we don't get to talk to stakeholders," she said.
Notley said the total amount of legislation being debated has dropped drastically under Redford as more government work is done behind closed doors by cabinet fiat.
The NDP said Redford has passed 16 bills this year and passed 16 last year. That is about half the average yearly legislation completed under Redford's predecessor Ed Stelmach and a third of the work done under former premier Ralph Klein.
"These guys have just stopped working. They've stopped working in the legislature," said Notley.
"They do everything behind closed doors."
Redford said the government accomplished a lot by delivering a budget that walks the line between austerity and funding crucial services, including the construction of 30 new schools with more to come.
"The house may not be sitting, but we're not slowing down," she said.
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