Proposed law could see Alberta voters petition governments for changes

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Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu has introduced a bill that would allow petitions to push the government to consider new or amended laws. (CBC - image credit)
Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu has introduced a bill that would allow petitions to push the government to consider new or amended laws. (CBC - image credit)

A new bill would give Alberta voters the chance to petition the provincial government to change laws and policies.

The Citizen Initiative Act, introduced in the legislature Tuesday by Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, would also give Alberta voters an avenue to press the government to hold a provincial referendum on the Constitution.

Prodding the government to create a new law or amend an existing one, or make a provincial policy change, would require a voter to gather written signatures within 90 days from 10 per cent of the province's electors — about 280,000 people.

If the bill passes, voters who want to push for a constitutional referendum would need to collect signatures from 20 per cent of Alberta voters — about 560,000 people — also within 90 days. That level of support would also have to come from two-thirds of Alberta's provincial constituencies.

If approved as written, the Citizen Initiative Act would be similar to a process adopted in British Columbia in 1995, but allow for more types of petitions.

Last fall, presenters told an all-party legislative committee they wanted the ability to press for action on subjects within and outside of provincial jurisdiction.

Under the proposed process, if Alberta's chief electoral officer declares a petition on a provincial issue to be successful, a legislative committee would be required to consider the issue.

If that committee opts not to introduce legislation, the issue would bounce back to the chief electoral officer, and require the province to hold a plebiscite on the issue.

Even if the majority of voters want a law change, the result would not be binding on the government.

Policy petitions rejected by a legislative committee would be referred to cabinet, which would decide whether to put that question to a provincial referendum — and what the question should be, and whether the result would be binding.

Successful constitutional petitions would require the province to hold a binding referendum.

The legislation would also govern how much people could donate to any campaigns on citizen initiatives, and who could volunteer to gather signatures.

The proposed law would also prevent any petitions that seek to violate or erode citizens' human rights.

Premier Jason Kenney and Madu are expected to speak about the bill Tuesday afternoon.