When you went to the polls in 2019 and elected our Government, it was upon a very heavy mandate of change and an abandonment of the status quo. We did not take this honour lightly, and committed on the day of our swearing in that we would put in as many hours necessary to fulfill our promises to you and change our province for the better.
This year has brought with it the unpredictable challenge of COVID 19, but despite the situation presented we felt that we owed it to Albertans to continue governing as usual rather than put the election mandate you voted for on hold for an indefinite period of time while we focused all our time and resources solely on combatting the global pandemic and economic collapse, as many other governments chose to do. We knew that it would be naïve to put blinders on and govern as though all other issues Albertans were facing suddenly ceased to exist, despite the fact this seemed common across the country, so we did what we could to continue legislating while also keeping people safe during our province’s first ever declared state of Public Health Emergency and insulating our economy during the worst global recession in modern history.
As a result, our Legislature sat for nearly seven months straight in Edmonton – over twice as much as other governments across the country – to pass a total of 34 Bills, 27 of which were non-COVID 19 related. These 27 non-COVID 19 related Bills included measures to support victims of crime, protect children against harmful forces, strengthen our democracy, reduce cumbersome overregulation, and attract both jobs and private investment back into our province.
During all that happened this past year, much of the work our Government did quite understandably got lost amidst the hourly news updates of virus infections and hospital bed occupancies, but that does not make the legislation passed any less important. I want to take this opportunity to update you on my favourite Bills passed.
Bills 8, 16, 18, and 28 focused on keeping Albertans safe from harm and supporting victims of crime. The Protecting Survivors of Human Trafficking Act created a standardized enforceable definition of human trafficking while also introducing a tort law allowing victims to sue their perpetrators without proof of damages, and a warrant allowing police officers the latitude to remove victims from their place of captivity. The Strengthening Public Safety Act expanded the funding and scope of the Victims of Crime Fund through increased financial penalties on criminals, allowing for proactive enforcement to ensure less people fall victim to crime in the future. The Corrections Act established a new flexible Alberta Parole Board to end the revolving door in our court system, and the Protecting Albertans from Convicted Sex Offenders Act made it illegal for perpetrators of sexual crimes to legally change their names, which wouuld enable them to hide from their heinous past and continue preying on innocent people.
Bills 15 and 19 strived to build safer, more supportive communities for children of all backgrounds and abilities. The Choice in Education Act reaffirmed our Government’s commitment to allowing children access to an education best suited to them and their family by recognizing public schools, separate schools, Francophone schools, private schools, charter schools, early childhood services programs and home education programs all as valued and integral components of our education system, while reducing barriers to entry for the certification of new schools. The Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act banned the sale and use of vape products to minors while imposing the same strict advertising guidelines on these products as are required of tobacco companies.
Bills 26 and 32 put the power back in the hands of the people and strengthened democracy at various levels of local governance. The Constitutional Referendum Amendment Act amended existing legislation to allow for provincial referenda on any issue facing our people, whereas previously referenda could only be triggered in our province on constitutional matters. In an effort to also give voice to unionized employees, The Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplace Act barred unions from spending the mandatory dues of their employees on political campaigns and causes without their explicit consent. Gone will be the days of UNIFOR spending the dues of their oilsands workers on anti-pipeline campaigns and lawsuits!
Finally, Bills 7 and 33 were devoted to restoring investor confidence in our province and attracting jobs back to Alberta. The Responsible Energy Development Amendment Act addressed concerns from industry relating to unpredictable project approval processes and imposed maximum timelines on the Alberta Energy Regulator to come to their decisions. The Alberta Investment Attraction Act established investment attraction agencies in other countries with a dedicated focus on promoting Alberta as a business destination with low taxes, a streamlined regulatory system, and a highly educated workforce that is ripe for investment.
2020 has seemingly zipped by, but a lot has been accomplished. To date we have already passed 63 Government bills, more than half of what previous Governments passed in their full four year mandate. While the Bills I’ve highlighted for you are by no means exhaustive of the work we’ve done this past year, I do hope it helps to instill confidence in you that we are working hard to leave this province better than we found it.
By Miranda Rosin, MLA