Reaching and Overreaching

Hey, Hi, Hello!

Lately it’s been a challenge to keep up with the antics of the UCP. We’ve been forced to set aside some of our very valid concerns and focus our energies on, you know, violations of the Charter and Ministers abusing their power and harassing doctors. As a result some important topics have managed to slip under the wire. Things like Bill 10, which I would like to take a look at today.

Bill 10, the Public Health Amendment Act, was rushed through the legislature on April 2 with only 21 of the 87 elected MLAs present and grants Ministers sweeping powers to create, implement and enforce new laws without consultation. While it may be the most glaring example of Government overreach to date this isn’t the first questionable act by the UCP, nor is it the first to be challenged legally.

Jay Cameron, Litigation Manager for the Justice Center is quoted as saying “This concentration of power in one individual, without meaningful accountability, opens the door for widespread abuse of civilians. Bill 10 is foreign to Canada’s system of government with its checks and balances, and its limits on the use of government power. Alberta citizens ought to be deeply concerned.”

I agree, the lack of clarity around why the government feels that their ministers need to have such unprecedented power and why the Act itself is not subject to a sunset clause, allowing it to remain in effect for the duration of the public health emergency declaration by itself is deeply troubling, but there’s more.

Bill 10 grants ministers the ability to write and implement new laws, yes (52.1(2), but it also allows them to grant jurisdiction to peace officers without consultation, grants ministers retroactive lawmaking powers (52.1 (2.1&2.2) and increases the financial penalties for non compliance significantly. There is also a notable change in language of some of the amendments, for example in section (52.1 (2.2)) where the UCP has amended the act to grant Ministers the power to set out new provisions, the amendment changes the wording to say “if the person is satisfied that doing so is in the public interest” instead of the much more clear and specific “if the Minister is satisfied that its application or operation may directly or indirectly unreasonably hinder or delay action required in order to protect the public health.” It may seem like a small thing, however the wording of legal documents is important as it determines how the document is going to be interpreted and implemented. Opening up an Act to broader interpretations creates an opportunity for the legislation to be misused or misunderstood. I don’t want to say that this is the intent here, but I can’t help but wonder why the same type of rephrasing seems to happen consistently throughout this bill. I’m almost as interested in the rationale behind the changes to the language of the Act as in the powers it grants directly.

It was a challenge to pare this post down to what it is, I have so many questions and concerns about the language of this bill. The scope of this government’s overreach is truly shocking when viewed with a wide lens. To the point that I’m unsure how to cover it all in a concise way. Denying special needs children access to the supports they need to attain an education in our province, the destruction of our public health services, budget 2020 and now this bill shows us that this government isn’t even trying to pretend to respect the people of Alberta anymore. With courts closed and/or severely restricted, there are few to no checks and balances in place to protect the people of Alberta from a government that has shown a pattern of disrespect for boundaries, ethics and even the Charter.

Stay safe, protect each other, keep records and for goodness sake, stay home.

Calamity out.

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