UCP Leader Jason Kenney sets new tone in first Alberta question period

UCP Leader Jason Kenney sets new tone in first Alberta question period

Jason Kenney's first question period in the Alberta legislature Monday was a tame affair, certainly compared to expectations, mostly due to the instructions he gave to his caucus to act professionally.

Kenney, the leader of the official Opposition United Conservative Party, asked his first set of questions with little fanfare from MLAs on his side of the house. 

Afterwards, he confirmed his party's MLAs have been told to not thump their desks or heckle the government. 

"I think people who tune in actually want to be able to hear their legislators and what they're saying," Kenney told reporters afterwards. "Endless, pointless background noise inhibits that."

Kenney's questions to Premier Rachel Notley focused on the need for a carbon tax, especially since it hasn't helped Alberta get a pipeline to the West Coast.

"Our point is the social-licence-equals-pipeline strategy of the NDP is a total failure and they should go back to the drawing board on it," he said.

Kenney ran out of his 30-second time allotment with some of his first questions but eventually the former MP and House of Commons veteran got his timing back.

"I've got some bad habits to unlearn from 19 years in Ottawa," he said with a smile. "The Speaker lets you finish your sentence. I'm sure I'll figure that out. Maybe we'll attach a little buzzer to me or something."

UCP amendments

The legislature spent the rest of Monday's sitting debating a motion introduced by Notley, which seeks to have the legislature endorse the need for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The UCP introduced amendments to the wording of the bill, so the line about supporting "the government of Alberta's fight on behalf of Albertans' interests" would be changed to supporting "efforts by the government of Alberta to fight on behalf of Albertans' interests."

The other amendment would add a statement urging the federal government to use a section of the Constitution to declare the Trans Mountain expansion to be in the national interest. 

Government house leader Brian Mason said that section does not cover inter-provincial issues and is irrelevant to the B.C.-Alberta dispute. 

"This clause is intended to be used to exert federal authority in a case of national interest in something that is entirely within a province," Mason said. 

The federal government has clear jurisdiction over issues that affect more than one province, Mason said. 

He said the opposition wants to add that amendment only to look like they are making the motion tougher. 

"But in fact, they are introducing an amendment that invokes an entirely irrelevant section of the Constitution and pretending that somehow adds something to the debate," he said. "It doesn't."

Debate on the motion wrapped up at 6 p.m. and will continue on Tuesday.