The new legislative session is open, and one MLA is very excited about it.
Drayton-Devon MLA Mark Smith, who represents a large area of the County of Wetaskiwin, said the new session that opened just a few days ago is noteworthy for several reasons.
“We’re excited about having Jason Kenney in the Legislature,” said Smith by phone Mar. 9.
Kenney is the new leader of the United Conservative Party, and recently won a by-election to take the title of MLA for Calgary-Lougheed. However, since his by-election victory in December, 2017, Kenney has never actually faced the NDP government or led his UCP members in the legislature.
Smith, who campaigned for Kenney during the fledgling UCP leadership last summer, said it’s exciting to see the new leader of a new party, especially as hundreds, even thousands, of Albertans worked very hard to see these things come to fruition.
Seeing Kenney come into the legislature and take his seat, Smith noted, “We can hardly wait to get into the house.”
Smith said many of the reasons Kenney won the leadership race also make him a good leader. “One of the things I’ve seen over the last months…is he brings an incredible level of experience and political judgment to the table.”
As most readers know, Kenney served in the cabinet of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship, Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister of National Defence. Kenney, before his political career, also worked for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a pro-business lobby group.
Smith also said that Kenney’s professionalism means a sense of decorum will return to the legislature.
“I think we have the elder statesman of Canadian conservative politics as the leader of our party,” said Smith.
Issues for debate
The Drayton-Devon MLA said technically nobody knows what the NDP government will bring forward to the legislature, although the throne speech is supposed to be a blueprint. Smith said one of the topics mentioned is “diversification of the energy sector;” he also said continued debate about the Alberta-BC confrontation over pipelines will be on the list.
Smith said Premier Rachel Notley, who proposed cutting off wine shipments from BC as a way to get pipelines built, seems to be borrowing ideas from Kenney. Kenney proposed cutting off energy shipments to BC, an idea which Notley appears to have then borrowed.
“The NDP has run out of their own ideas and they’re copying Jason Kenney and the UCP ,” said Smith.
The throne speech also seemed to suggest MLAs will discuss Alberta’s rural crime epidemic. Smith said the UCP has been lobbying for such a discussion so they can present the results of many MLA’s work discussing crime in rural Alberta with people and holding town hall meetings to gather information. Smith said he spoken to people who’ve had break and enters three, four and five times. He said it’s taken to this session of the legislature to get the NDP government to listen.
The throne speech also noted the government may bring forward changes to childcare programs and persons with developmental disabilities programs. Smith predicted these will be major issues.
Smith said the impression he got from the throne was a rosy picture, which doreswn’t actually reflect what’s going on in Alberta right now. He said the economy has picked up but not recovered from the recession and noted people seem to be going back to work, but in different jobs and with lower pay. He said it seeems many Alberta businesses are therefore operating on a lower profit margin.
The MLA stated the Canadian Federation of Independent Business recently released a survey that suggested 92 per cent of Alberta businessowners don’t believe the NDP government is committed to improving the province’s business climate.