Notley NDP limits Bill 6 debate as Alberta legislature gets rough and rowdy

By Rick Bell, Calgary Sun

First posted: Tuesday, December 08, 2015 09:05 PM MST | Updated: Wednesday, December 09, 2015 08:01 AM MST

Bill 6 demonstration

People hold signs protesting Bill 6 in a meeting with provincial Labour Minister Lori Sigurdson and Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier in Okotoks December 2, 2015. Alberta’s government will retool a bill that would overhaul workplace standards on farms in Canada’s biggest cattle-producing province, its agriculture minister said, after protests by farmers and ranchers. (REUTERS/Mike Sturk

It is a day where the events type out the story on the keyboard all by themselves.

It is a day where the Notley NDP government clearly has had enough of the bare-knuckles brawling, the political temperature ever rising as the aggravation intensifies.

They want to get what they need done, they want it done pronto and then they want to high-tail it out of Dodge for a Yuletide reprieve.

So it goes. On Tuesday they serve notice. Debate on Bill 6, the NDP’s farm bill, will end sooner rather than later, likely by Thursday.

The opposition is steamed but the NDP don’t care. They hold the hammer and the atmosphere is already ugly.

“We’re not ramming it through and declaring victory,” says Brian Mason, the NDP’s legislature quarterback.

“The rights of working people have to be protected.”

Greg Clark, leader of the Alberta party, offers words of caution.

“It creates headlines you don’t want,” says Clark, of the move.

They’ve already had plenty of headlines they don’t want. They’re used to it.

Yes, Tuesday is a day where Mason loses his temper and calls Wildrosers “goons” and “a bunch of gangsters” before apologizing and withdrawing the colourful lingo.

The veteran of many a political war proceeds to paint the Wildrosers as “a solid wall of noise” behaving in a way that’s “nothing more than an attempt to prevent ministers from answering properly.”

Mason adds it is “interfering with our ability to perform our jobs.”

Ric McIver, the PC’s interim leader, is no slouch when it comes to giving it back to the NDPers, talking about a “little bit of gamesmanship going on here.”

He actually refers to Danielle Larivee, the NDP municipal affairs minister.

McIver says she turned around in her legislature seat, taunting people sitting in the legislature gallery and supporting the opposition’s position.

“I would definitely say that qualifies as language designed to incite, likely to create disorder.

“Congratulations, minister. You wanted to create a ruckus and the minister created a ruckus.”

McIver goes further.

“The government can get their feelings hurt but I hope they didn’t expect to be here and not be held to account by the opposition,” he says.

“We have limited tools and one of the tools we have is to bang and make noise.

“If people are concerned about having their feelings hurt they might be sitting in the wrong room.”

Oh, it is quite the day.

It is the day where the Wildrose want the legislature to hold an emergency debate on “the bleak fiscal picture many Albertans are facing.”

Wildrose leader Brian Jean speaks of the human costs of the economic downturn, from drug use to suicides to bankruptcies and individuals losing jobs and “gripped with a sense of self-doubt and hopelessness.”

McIver supports having the debate and thinks it’s “made all the more urgent” by the NDP limiting discussion on Bill 6.

Once the legislature sitting is done politicians won’t get another chance to jaw over the issue until well into the new year.

The NDP believe it’s just a Wildrose stunt to keep the legislature sitting and the government as a punching bag. So it’s a no-go.

It is one heck of a day.

Wildroser Jason Nixon, representing the good people of Sundre and Bentley, is far from amused with the NDP closing down the amount of to-and-fro over Bill 6.

“Our constituents are asking us to stand up and speak,” says Nixon.

“I think the government is running scared. They’re doing this because they screwed up on Bill 6 so bad. And it’s their fault not the fault of the people of Alberta.”

He then mentions two women in a farm group from the Nanton area in southern Alberta.

Nixon saw them sitting in the legislature gallery, looking down at the action on the legislature floor.

“They were crying in the gallery. That’s how upset they were about what is going on. They’d driven here all the way from Nanton and they were crying.”

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