Well, that’s one way to make a statement.
Opposition Leader Rachel Notley was kicked out of the Alberta legislature on Tuesday after refusing to apologize for accusing the UCP of committing obstruction of justice through Bill 22. The NDP leader and former premier was not permitted to return for the rest of the day.
“The House leader is misleading the House ... [Premier Jason Kenney] is saying Albertans are subject to one set of rules, but when it comes to himself, it’s a whole new world and he can rewrite them as any coverup demands,” Notley said.
This prompted Speaker Nathan Cooper to demand Notley apologize to House leader Jason Nixon.
“I will not apologize until we have fully canvassed the destructive nature of this bill,” Notley responded, before being ejected by Cooper.
Kenney’s government tabled Bill 22 on Monday. The bill moves to “merge and consolidate the Office of the Election Commissioner into the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer,” terminating Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson’s contract.
Gibson had been investigating the UCP leadership race Kenney won in 2017. To date, the election commissioner has fined members of the party more than $200,000 in total in relation to the “kamikaze” campaign of candidate Jeff Callaway.
Callaway was one of Kenney’s main opponents in the leadership race. Since then, however, documents have surfaced indicating that the Callaway and Kenney teams worked together to undermine Kenney’s main rival, former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean. Callaway and Kenney have denied any wrongdoing.
Finance Minister Travis Toews said neither the bill nor Gibson’s termination had anything to do with the investigation, citing bureaucratic restructuring as the party’s main motivation.
In a letter to Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell, sent Tuesday ahead of the legislature sitting, Notley called the bill a “misuse of the authority of the legislature” and called on the lieutenant-governor to step in and block it.
“While I recognize that it is unusual for the lieutenant-governor to exercise this authority, I am convinced that the exceptional nature of this proposed legislation calls for such extraordinary measures,” Notley writes.
‘Profound existential threat’
In an evening appearance on the CBC’s “Power and Politics” following her ejection, Notley doubled down on her actions.
“[Bill 22] is a profound existential threat to the integrity of our democratic system... Subjective rulings about what is or is not out of bounds when we’re dealing with something that is so much more important is not something that we’re going to play around with,” she said.
An MLA hasn’t been ejected from the Alberta legislature in several years. In 2016, then-interim Progressive Conservative leader Ric McIver was thrown out after disputing a ruling from the Speaker and refusing to sit down. He apologized the next day.
“I stood and refused to take my seat, though you, Mr. Speaker, asked me to do so several times,” he told the legislature the following afternoon. “Eventually you asked the sergeant-at-arms to escort me from the House. I would like to acknowledge that when you did that … you were correctly discharging your duties and acting within the scope of your authority.”
Notley will be permitted to return to the legislative assembly on Wednesday.
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