The Alberta legislature has resumed sitting for what it’s worth, for a hard-charging United Conservative government has proven in five months they don’t consider ruling this province a nine to five endeavour.
Indeed it’s been a blitz of issues, policy changes and reviews since the new government was sworn in at the end of April.
The more official actions of governing – proposing bills, debate, votes, etc. – feels more like an afterthought.
In an age of majority mandates leading to unbendable positions, perhaps they are.
However, five months also gives some indication of the UCP style of issue management.
The official agenda includes new farm safety legislation, an emissions control program that’s an apparent end-run on the general carbon pricing that is so despised by conservatives, and, of course, what’s expected to be a very rough budget later this month.
More often than not the UCP moves quickly – too quickly according to the opposition – after launching a study, tour, consultation process or stakeholder discussions that are legion since the spring turnover of power from the New Democrats.
In their words, they’re taking the issues to the people, and in line with that they’ve also taken action on several “common sense” issues.
In the highest ideal, politicians will say they’re building consensus. In the crass political calculus, they’re providing themselves cover.
Whatever the case, the UCP is relying heavily on the idea that theirs is the party listening to Albertans who desperately want to be heard.
There’s no doubt a large portion of the population felt frustrated and forgotten by the previous government.
The UCP struck that nerve again and again and again over recent years.
It’s ironic, though, that the same portion of the population demands quick action, not more jibber jabber, on pressing issues.
To this end, a sting of so-called common sense actions by the government come out seemingly as needed.
Animal-rights protesters occupied a turkey farm? Steeper fines and harsher penalties are en route, perhaps to pipeline rights of way or oil leases as well.
Intruder sues landowner after being shot? Both the justice minister and premier took the unusual step of calling a civil action before the courts nonsense.
It’s almost unheard of for politicians not to dodge such questions with the go-to answer of not commenting on issues before the courts, but it’s well in line with a party that wants to connect with voters on so-called common sense issues.
On others, expected policy swings of massive proportion are on the way.
There is an obvious problem with promising the moon, however, in that eventually you may have to deliver.
In several areas for Alberta it’s unlikely if not impossible.
One should be skeptical about a quick recovery of the oilpatch.
A promised inquiry in to the funding sources of a “foreign funded” movement is now fading from view, with a new more limited scope, but an avenue for complaints from the general public.
Progressives called this a “snitch line” unbecoming of a democracy, but it could be an easy way to assuage those for whom the issue is visceral.
Similarly, a red tape hotline asks for Albertans to report what they see as silliness in regulations, but according to interim reports the submissions are a mixed bag.
Likewise new rounds of open houses on farm safety rules were held and form the base of new rules we’ll see this session, but the province is still bound to follow the direction of the Supreme Court of Canada on the subject.
Ditto public sector wage talks.
It used to be that if a government wanted an issue to go away they’d send it for a study, review, consultation or stakeholder engagement.
Today, the people of Alberta will expect the promised results.
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