by Stephen Dafoe
Bill 10, the Public Health (Emergency Powers) Amendment Act, was passed in the Alberta Legislature in April and further expanded emergency powers that have been in place through the Public Health Act since 2002.
On Thursday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro issues a statement saying the amendment would be repealed when other amendments are made to the Act in the spring.
“In consultation with the government members of the select special committee, I have decided that our forthcoming amendments to the Public Health Act will repeal the Public Health (Emergency Powers) Amendment Act,” Shandro said in his statement.
The Minister said the amendment was put through during COVID-19 to “ensure that vital public services would continue to operate during the pandemic.”
“The government had to consider the possibility that the assembly would be unable to meet for a sustained period and the effect this could have on funding and legislation to support an effective pandemic response,” Shandro said.
However, Alberta’s NDP Official Opposition says Thursday’s statement is little more than the UCP saving face and finally responding to pressure on the Bill.
“Albertans of all political colours told Jason Kenney that Bill 10 was an unforgivable attack on democracy from the very start,” said NDP health critic David Shepherd in a media release Thursday. “But if the UCP is serious about undoing the damage they’ve done, they must commit to immediately repealing Bill 10 when the legislature reconvenes next week.”
Shepherd went on to say Bill 10 was an unconstitutional power grab that gave UCP government ministers the power to write laws without MLA’s consent or knowledge.
The Bill is on this weekend’s UCP convention schedule, with the Calgary-West constituency calling for its repeal.
Minister Shandro said in his statement that it has become clear over the past number of months that the assembly can work quickly in an emergency and that the power to modify legislation by ministerial order is now unnecessary.
“Based on our experience over the past eight months, I am confident that the legislative assembly will be able to respond to potential future emergencies through the legislative process when necessary,” Shandro said.
Shepherd and the NDP see it differently.
“Today’s announcement is a desperate attempt to spare Kenney and Shandro the embarrassment of being held accountable by their own UCP members,” Shepherd said. “There is no need to delay – repeal Bill 10 immediately.”