April 15th, 2024

City Notebook: Hurry up and wait in Alberta politics

By COLLIN GALLANT on March 16, 2024.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

Tackling big issues, but with very little detail about how appears to be the new plan of attack for the Alberta government that’s sporadically made blockbuster announcements since the May election.

That’s broken up periods of radio silence in province where people are very concerned about the economy, health care, education… you know, the biggies.

But they’ve also been accompanied with very little in the way of concrete action out in the public view.

There’s been very little from the government since the May election, some big detail-light announcements along the way, then relatively little before a flurry this week as legislation actually had to be introduced.

Think about it:

– A seven-month review of renewables ended last month with some broad stroke statements about how to address a problem the government’s own reports say may or may not exist.

– We’re also told this week that the utilities ministry will potential alter the Alberta power market, but will have to wait until next fall for an idea how and then 2026 to see it in action.

– Just this week, there’s a new mystery mandate for Provincial Sheriffs that sounds a lot like a new provincial police force or at least a step towards one, but again no details.

– Allowing municipal-level political parties to operate in the next round of municipal elections? Expect something soon, sources say.

– Tackling transgendered issues – an issue beyond urgent for some factions of the UCP support base – was described early last month, but we won’t see actual regulations until October 2024, one month after the next school year starts.

– In the perhaps ultimate game of wait and see, the plan is to grow the Alberta Heritage Trust Fund ten times over in the next 27 years. (Personally, I’ve always thought the Alberta Pension Plan proposal has always been a play to boost the profile of the province’s investment wing AIMCo. into a world-class fund like the Ontario Teachers pension. Sure, there are political side benefits of thumbing a nose towards Ottawa and cutting costs for business owners, but might a supersized Heritage Fund be a hedge bet if the truly unpopular CPP pullout doesn’t fly?)

– That said, hearing a few more tidbits about Alberta Pension Plan soon, is hardly out of the question.

Some of this is how government works, of course, making laws and making sausages, etc. The way majority governments work nowadays, expect rubber stamping of what’s finally put forward.

Perhaps the legislature process should be revamped.

It opened on Feb. 28, but considering the traditional week off after the budget, they’ve only been at it for six days, making for a total of eight days in the chamber since last May’s general election.

Remembering Mulroney

A state funeral plan is underway for Brian Mulroney, whose time as prime minister will be remembered for Constitutional attempts, free-trade and potentially giving rise to the reform party movement in the west.

Alberta’s man at the table, former Medicine Hat MLA Jim Horsman, says that he’ll recall the former Conservative Leader as a man who could get action.

“He really could be quite aggressive, but at the same time his mind could be changed,” recalled Horseman last week.

For example, he said, Mulroney had campaigned in his party’s leadership contest against creating a commission to study free trade, but changed direction at the urging of premiers at his initial first ministers conference as PM.

A look ahead

Council sits on Monday to discuss policy on how city officials and staff interact on social media. Medicine Hat will welcome 200 delegates of the Canadian Union of Public Employees who will stage their annual convention in the city.

It’s the last weekend of skiing at Hidden Valley. St. Patricks Day is Sunday, but be sure to have a safe ride home on Saturday.

100 years ago

Winston Churchill lost his third election in a little more than two years on March 18, 1924, the Medicine Hat News reported on the day.

Hoping to challenge party system and spark a renewal of the Unionist and Liberal parties, Churchill became an independent candidate under the designation of a “Constitutionalist.”

However, the former Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty placed second in the Westminster Abbey byelection, 43 votes behind Unionist candidate Otho Nicholson, nephew of the former seat holder who had died in office.

The United Farmers of Alberta backed the move to have Ottawa complete and operate the Hudson Bay Railroad proposal.

Preferential ballots in certain urban ridings would be allowed in next provincial elections

The new summer express train of Canadian Pacific could complete the TransCanada trip in 90 hours, it was boasted.

Collin Gallant covers city politics and a variety of topics for the News. Reach him at 403-528-5664.

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