Government House Leader Joseph Schow told Postmedia in an interview Tuesday the government will be introducing between ten and 12 government bills

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Alberta’s UCP government says it will be focused on improving health care and growing the economy, but the Opposition NDP’s first priority is to question the province’s wildfire approach when lawmakers reconvene on Wednesday.

Government House Leader Joseph Schow told Postmedia in an interview Tuesday the government will be introducing between ten and 12 government bills, including legislation on health care, municipal governance, and red tape reduction before the end of the sitting in late May.

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“I think you can expect really more of the same — just fulfilling the campaign commitments we made to Albertans, talking about a prosperous Alberta, one that focuses on balanced budgets, trying to keep life affordable, making sure that Albertans have access to good quality health care, and they feel safe where it matters most, in the streets and in their homes,” said Schow.

“We laid out pretty clearly in the election campaign what we intend to do.”

The government is set to release its 2024 budget on Thursday, but it will not include a personal tax cut first promised in the election creating a new eight per cent bracket for those making less than $60,000 – at least not this year. The UCP is also in the midst of planning the restructuring of the health care system that will see the dismantling of Alberta Health Services and the creation of four new governance organizations.

NDP to question wildfire response

Meanwhile, the Opposition NDP is expected to press the UCP about the specifics of its wildfire response at the first opportunity Wednesday, after the province declared an early start of the wildfire season last week. NDP Opposition House Leader Christina Gray is expected to speak with reporters before the house meets for question period in the afternoon.

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Premier Danielle Smith’s motion, first introduced in the fall, highlighting the aims of the contentious Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, will be up for debate Wednesday.

So too, according to the order paper, will be a private member’s motion from Caucus Whip Shane Getson recognizing the impacts of wildfires, and calling for a bill to “increase the penalties for committing an offence” under the Forest and Prairie Protection Act.

However, at a news conference Wednesday morning, Schow said a proposal first pitched in the 2023 election campaign — the Compassionate Intervention Act, which would allow for the mandatory addiction treatment for adults — likely won’t be introduced this spring.

“It’s really a piece of the larger Alberta recovery model, which you’ll continually see pieces coming out in legislation, but I don’t want to comment specifically on that piece,” he told Postmedia.

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When asked whether expected auto insurance reform might be part of upcoming legislation, Schow declined to provide details, but he said affordability is “front of mind” for the government. He also declined to offer specifics on any efforts to lower electricity prices.

“I’m going to let the budget speak for itself.”

Push for local political parties

On Tuesday, at an unrelated news conference, Premier Smith said legislation changing municipal rules was coming this spring sitting, but she did not confirm what exactly it would entail.

When asked by a reporter why the provincial government was considering bringing partisan politics to the local level, Smith reiterated her position that voters should be informed about a candidate’s political stripes, particularly in Calgary and Edmonton.

“(Municipal elected officials) are straying into areas that I think are actually provincial issues, they are straying into areas that are federal issues, and oftentimes, that is not very clear when people go to vote for what the ideology of the people are who are putting their names forward,” said Smith.

“Having an understanding of what a particular ideology is I think is increasingly important the larger these cities get. So, that’s the active conversation that is going on in our caucus and cabinet and we’ll see where it falls when legislation gets introduced in the spring session,” said Smith.

While the premier has also suggested the province has been eyeing changes to Alberta’s Bill of Rights, Schow shot that down for now.

“There will be nothing coming forward on the Alberta Bill of Rights this session,” said Schow.

More to come…

lijohnson@postmedia.com

X: @reportrix

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