Premier too tied up with work, trip to appear in question period this week

Premier too tied up with work, trip to appear in question period this week

Premier Rachel Notley was back at the Alberta legislature Thursday after a three-day trip to Texas. But she was too tied up in meetings to attend question period.

On Wednesday, Notley cancelled a telephone conference with reporters on short notice and didn't make herself available to Alberta reporters on Thursday.

However, she did appear for the launch of a bike-a-thon fundraising event at Strathcona High School in her constituency Thursday morning.

Combined with her three days in the United States, Thursday's absence means Notley missed the first full week of session. That meant the premier wasn't around while a firestorm erupted over a protocol directing Alberta Crown prosecutors to triage criminal cases.

Cheryl Oates, Notley's director of communications, said the premier needed time to catch up on work after back-to-back trips to Washington D.C. and Texas. She said it wasn't true she was trying to avoid controversies in the legislature. 

"As you can imagine, her work has been piling up for her at the legislature while she's been away and a lot of that work includes meetings and events with communities and organization outside of the legislature," Oates said in an email.  

"She's catching up on that work today, but you can expect her to be back in question period on Monday."

Notley met with the governor of Texas and representatives from the resource and business sectors during her trip to Austin and Houston.

Her trip was tied to CERAweek, one of the biggest energy conferences in the world, where she took part in a panel on energy and the environment.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean said he hasn't seen the premier in a long time and he has questions for her.

"I really wish she'd come out and answer them," he said. "I think Albertans want to know what's going on in our justice system. They want to know what's going on with our economy and how they're going to create jobs."

Interim Progressive Conservative leader Ric McIver said the government controls when the legislature sits and said a constituency week could have been scheduled around Notley's trip. 

"It's important for her to be here for opposition to hold the government to account," he said. "In my opinion, this NDP government doesn't seem to put a lot of stake and a lot of value in democracy and a lot of value in any voice of dissent."

Alberta Party leader Greg Clark had no issue with Notley travelling to Texas to promote Alberta but he says she should be in the legislature now that she's back in Edmonton.

"If she's in the building and she's here today I would expect to see her in question period," he said.