EDMONTON — The first few minutes of the first full day of the new Alberta legislature sitting brought confusion, allegations of parliamentary rule-breaking, and even a do-over vote.
"It certainly was a gong show. We'll never know if it was a vote that we won or lost,'' said Nathan Cooper, house leader for the opposition Wildrose party.
"What happened today, in my opinion, is the government didn't show up for work.''
It was supposed to be a routine piece of housekeeping business: a vote by members of the house to pick a new deputy chair of legislature committees.
As per tradition, Speaker Bob Wanner ordered the doors to the chamber barred by the pages to prevent other MLAs from entering while others were voting.
The NDP, with 54 members in the 87-seat legislature, had ample numbers to elect their MLA, Heather Sweet, who was running against Wildrose MLA Prasad Panda.
Only about 30 NDP MLAs were in attendance
But Cooper said when he looked across the aisle, there were fewer NDPers in the house than expected, maybe 30 or so. It looked like the Wildrose could win, a result that would prove very embarrassing to the governing party.
"It was very close,'' said Cooper.
"We were shocked and amazed at how close it was going to be.''
That was, he said, until the confusion began.
He said additional members then began flowing in from the NDP side, ignoring the rule to stay out during voting, including government house leader Brian Mason.
MLAs broke rules to enter
"The government house leader bullied himself past two pages and took his seat in the assembly,'' said Cooper.
When the opposition protested, Wanner ordered the results of the first vote nullified without the winner announced.
He ordered another vote, but admitted there was confusion over who came early, who came late, and who should cast a ballot.
"I would rule that we re-vote. And to those members who were not here, who entered the chamber after the house was advised that the doors should be secured, I would urge you to consider not voting,'' Wanner told the house.
In the second vote, 59 members cast ballots and Sweet defeated Panda. The breakdown, as per tradition, was not revealed.
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