File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Premier Jason Kenney’s office declined to respond to Rachel Notley’s accusation of lying.

Alberta government, Opposition swap accusations, attacks in earplug debate

EDMONTON — Alberta’s earplug debate got louder Monday as the Opposition NDP accused Premier Jason Kenney of lying and sought to have Government House Leader Jason Nixon found in contempt of the legislature.

“The premier is lying and his house leader was lying. And they’re too comfortable with that,” NDP Leader Rachel Notley told reporters prior to question period.

In question period, Notley demanded Kenney apologize for handing out earplugs last week as the Opposition criticized a bill that cancels some bargaining rights for 180,000 public sector workers.

Notley called the move disrespectful to the legislature and to the workers affected by the bill, and said it was compounded by Kenney and his United Conservatives later offering up three contradictory explanations for it.

“This premier lowered the bar once again in his display of disrespect for the people of Alberta,” said Notley.

“They literally plugged their ears when Opposition members raised the concerns of these 180,000 Albertans.

“Then they changed their story about it repeatedly.”

Kenney responded, “The only apology in this place should be coming from the NDP for their constant, vicious harassment of ministers verbally, their bullying tactics (and) their name calling.”

Kenney’s office declined to respond to Notley’s accusation of lying.

The earplug imbroglio took place close to midnight last Wednesday during what became an all-night debate to push through passage of the bill.

NDP member Thomas Dang said that as he stood in the house to criticize the bill, he watched Kenney walk up and down the aisles gleefully handing out neon earplugs to caucus members.

About six members wore the earplugs, Dang said, including Nixon.

The next day, Kenney’s office admitted in a statement to distributing the earplugs, but said it was done in lighthearted fun to boost morale. In the house, Nixon also issued a blanket denial: “Nobody from the government plugged their ears during debate.”

A day later, Kenney offered up a medical reason. He told CBC that he handed out earplugs to one backbench legislature member who suffers from tinnitus because he may have been suffering in the loud debate.

Later Monday, the NDP made the rare move of asking Speaker Nathan Cooper to find Nixon in contempt of the legislature for deliberately misleading the house in what is known as a point of privilege.

NDP house leader Deron Bilous said Nixon misled the house last Thursday when he said nobody from the government plugged their ears.

Nixon responded that the only one given earplugs was a backbench UCP member, who is not technically part of government.

However, Nixon did not address the fact that he, as a cabinet minister, is part of the government and that both Dang and NDP whip David Eggen said they saw him during debate wearing earplugs.

Cooper is expected to rule on the issue Tuesday.

Also Monday, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees filed a lawsuit against the bill.

Earplug debate

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta introduces bill to change rules on charter schools, home-schooling

EDMONTON — The Alberta government is proposing to change the rules on… Continue reading

New Zealand near eradication, but virus has grim global hold

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand on Friday had all but eradicated… Continue reading

Twitter adds ‘glorifying violence’ warning to Trump tweet

WASHINGTON — Twitter has added a warning to one of President Donald… Continue reading

Statistics Canada says first-quarter GDP worst showing since 2009

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the economy in the first quarter had… Continue reading

Economy can’t be restarted until COVID-19 assistance is sorted out

Bill Morneau is calling it the “safe restart.” The finance minister says… Continue reading

Count on the military for sound climate change advice

Re: “Global warming critics find themselves under attack,” Letter, May 26. I… Continue reading

Comment: Red Deer educator is wished a happy retirement

I just want to let everyone know of the retirement of my… Continue reading

Canadian-born goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh receives U.S. green card

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Canadian-born goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh has received his U.S.… Continue reading

Whyte, Marchant willing to wait one more year to cap their Olympic careers

TORONTO — Angela Whyte and Lanni Marchant hoped to write victorious final… Continue reading

Ai Weiwei says new security law is the end of Hong Kong

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei believes the… Continue reading

Rapper lethally targeted in brazen gunplay on downtown Toronto street

TORONTO — A brazen daylight ambush and shootout on a busy downtown… Continue reading

More hospitals part of plasma transfusion trial to treat COVID-19 with antibodies

More hospitals part of plasma transfusion trial to treat COVID-19 with antibodies

Most Read