A number of provincial cabinet ministers have hit the road in the last week to hold ‘meet and greets’ with the public. Sending out invitations titled, “We want to hear from you,” the ministers want to calm the criticism of Bill 50 and assure the public that they will be submitting amendments to fix the controversial Bill 19 and Bill 36. All three bills have been passed into law. The opponents of the bills refer to them by their previously assigned numbers for simplicity.
Bill 36 granted unprecedented powers to the provincial cabinet to extinguish water rights, land titles, mortgages, wills, trusts and grazing dispositions without compensation. It removed local land decision making and planning authorities from local municipalities. Moreover Bill 36 eliminated the constitutional right of an individual to have access to the courts for redress against the overly intrusive actions of the government.
Bill 19 gave a cabinet minister the power to circumvent the courts, and issue an enforcement order as if it was a judgment of the Queen’s Bench. The law reads, “If in the opinion of the Minister” he or she could file an enforcement order as a judgment of the court. The maximum penalty a landowner could face is a $100,000 fine and two years in jail.
Bill 19 is actually amazing if one thinks about its implications! A murderer cannot be jailed on an opinion of an individual. Charges must be filed and proof must be presented in a court of law to convict a murderer. In contrast, a law abiding landowner could find themselves in jail with a $100,000 fine having never seen the light of day in a courtroom. In reality, until this law is removed, a murderer has more rights than a farmer or landowner!
Bill 50 paves the way for the inefficient overbuilding of Alberta’s electricity transmission system. The Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta, which represents 20 industries that consume 30 per cent of the province’s power and pays for 60 per cent of all transmission costs, has repeatedly warned the government that this plan to expand transmission lines is unnecessary, uneconomic and unrealistic. It could drive business out of the province.
Critics of these bills welcome any efforts by this government to amend or repeal these bills, but the ministers are not addressing the most important questions in their ‘meet and greets.’ Why did they pass these bills in the first place? Someone had to write these bills — someone had to know what was in these bills. Did any MLA read the bills before they voted? If they don’t read the bills before they vote, why did they get a 30 per cent pay raise? How could they possibly do this to a democratic society?
The questions I pose are valid. These bills were drafted and voted on deliberately, either that or Forest Gump could have done a better job protecting our rights as an MLA. Which is it?