The 10 bills that were passed by the NDP in 2015

Bill 1: An Act to Renew Democracy in Alberta

Introduced by Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley (external - login to view), Bill 1 (external - login to view) banned corporate and union donations to provincial political parties in Alberta. The bill received royal assent on June 29, 2015, but was made retroactive on June 15, 2015. This new law was a major blow to the Progressive Conservative Party (external - login to view), which had become accustomed to relying heavily on corporate donations to fund their campaigns and operations.

Bill 2: An Act to Restore Fairness to Public Revenue

Introduced by Finance Minister Joe Ceci (external - login to view), Bill 2 (external - login to view) eliminated Alberta’s 10 percent flat tax and introduced (external - login to view) a progressive taxation system with five rates of personal income tax up to 15 percent for income above $300,000. Bill 2 also increased Alberta’s corporate tax rate (external - login to view) from 10 percent to 12 percent, bringing our province in line with Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Despite the increase, tax rates in Alberta still remain lower than what existed during much of the time Ralph Klein (external - login to view) served as Premier.

Bill 3: Appropriation (Interim Supply) Act, 2015

Introduced by Mr. Ceci, Bill 3 (external - login to view) reversed funding cuts (external - login to view) made to education, health care, and human services by the PC government before the May 5, 2015 election (external - login to view).

Bill 4: An Act to Implement Various Tax Measures and to Enact the Fiscal Planning and Transparency Act

Introduced by Mr. Ceci, Bill 4 (external - login to view)repealed and replaced the Fiscal Management Act (external - login to view) and introduced requirements in a Fiscal Planning and Transparency Act (external - login to view), which include presenting government finances in a three-year fiscal plan and the establishment of a new debt cap based on a debt-to-GDP ratio of 15 percent.

Bill 5: Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act

Introduced by Ms. Ganley, Bill 5 (external - login to view) expanded the “sunshine list (external - login to view)” to include employees of public agencies, boards, commissions, post-secondary institutions and health service entities whose earnings are more than $125,000 annually. This is a continuation of work already done by the previous PC government and has been criticized (external - login to view) by supporters (external - login to view) of the NDP as “bad policy.”

Bill 6: Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act

Introduced by Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Minister Lori Sigurdson (external - login to view), Bill 6 (external - login to view) introduced occupational health and safety and mandatory Workers’ Compensation Board coverage for employees of farming operations. Alberta is currently the only province in Canada without OH&S laws and employment standards coverage for farm and ranch workers

Bill 7: Alberta Human Rights Amendment Act, 2015

Introduced by Ms. Ganley, Bill 7 (external - login to view) amended (external - login to view) the Alberta Human Rights Act (external - login to view) to add gender identity and gender expression as expressly prohibited grounds of discrimination.

Bill 8: Public Education Collective Bargaining Act

Introduced by Education Minister David Eggen (external - login to view), Bill 8 (external - login to view) restructures collective bargaining between teachers, school boards and the government.

Bill 9: Appropriation Act, 2015

Introduced by Mr. Ceci, Bill 9 (external - login to view) provides budget funding authority to the Government of Alberta and the Legislative Assembly for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Bill 204: Residential Tenancies (Safer Spaces for Victims of Domestic Violence) Amendment Act, 2015

Introduced by Ms.Drever, Bill 204 (external - login to view) amended the Residential Tenancies Act (external - login to view) to allow victims of domestic violence to end their housing leases early and without penalty in order to leave unsafe home environments. Lethbridge-East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick (external - login to view) bravely stood in the legislature to share a powerful story about her personal experiences (external - login to view) with domestic violence
A few good ideas, mostly bad and a lot of time wasted on things of lesser importance. Time to get their heads out of thief arses and deal with the economic issues facing the province.
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Taking money away from those that make the jobs is a staple policy in Lefty Land.
Higher taxes and higher spending on government employees. Typical way the NDP destroys an economy. Exactly what they did to BC in the 1990s and our forest industry never recovered.
The New Democratic Party Government’s notorious Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act became the law of Alberta on Jan. 1, 2016, after a protracted temper tantrum by a significant number of farmers encouraged by right-wing politicians who strove mightily to scare the bejeebers out of them.

What has happened since, and what does it mean?

Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier and Labour Minister Christina Gray, who was appointed to cabinet after the Bill 6 brouhaha, have both worked hard to calm the seething fears of the farm community, with limited success.

But one measurable thing that’s happened is that in the first year since the NDP government brought in the controversial farm safety legislation the number of farm workers making Workers’ Compensation claims has skyrocketed by 134 per cent.

A total of 793 agricultural industry injury claims, including three fatality claims, were accepted by the Alberta Workers Compensation Board (external - login to view)in 2016, compared with 339 claims in 2015.

The number of agricultural businesses registered with the WCB – it’s a little misleading to refer to these businesses simply as “farms” since many of them are more like farm-products factories – has increased a similar amount, by 107 per cent. That is to say, 3,629 agricultural operators with employees who are paid wages are now registered, compared with only 1,756 immediately before Bill 6 was enacted.

The dots are obvious and should be easy for anyone to connect: What this statistic illustrates is that hundreds of Alberta farm workers who before the NDP was elected didn’t have access to workers’ compensation were being injured and losing income without compensation.

In other words, what this statistic shows is that Bill 6 was desperately needed, and that the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act courageously passed by the Alberta Legislature on Dec. 10, 2015, by the government of Premier Rachel Notely in the face of huge – and when it came to its political opponents, hugely dishonest – opposition was the right thing to do.

Before this sensible and necessary legislation became the law of the land, injured farmworkers were basically abandoned, left to their own resources. Or, if they had family resources, they could try to sue their employers for compensation – and it’s a hard road even for people with money to pursue a legal case.

If the victims of agricultural accidents were impoverished as a result, it fell to taxpayers to support them through an inadequate and capricious welfare system. Which means it fell to us to subsidize agricultural businesses at which worker safety was not a high priority.

Before Bill 6 became the law, agricultural businesses could voluntarily sign up with the WCB, or they could buy private insurance. Of course, as the Calgary Herald pointed out in an unusually balanced story (external - login to view) about this development, there’s no way to determine how many agricultural operations have bought private insurance.

But as should be obvious to anyone who understands how Workers’ Compensation works – or, at least, how it’s supposed to work and used to in Alberta before creeping corporatization took hold at the WCB – it is far superior to private insurance because it is a no-fault system in which workers give up their right to sue in return for assured compensation if they are injured.

At least in theory, there should be no financial incentive to the WCB system to deny injured workers compensation to which they are entitled. Private insurance, beloved of neoliberal politicians as “choice,” does not work this way. Finding ways to deny legitimate claims is standard operating procedure at for-profit insurance corporations, and the cost of premiums encourages employers to press injured employees not to report their injuries.

Little Bow MLA Dave Schneider, the Wildrose agriculture critic, touts private insurance and claims replacement legislation would likely be drafted – you know, like the replacement legislation Donald Trump’s Republicans will create to replace Obamacare.
Any future conservative Alberta government would also likely try to reimpose the longstanding unconstitutional limitation on union membership by farm workers included in Bill 6, which was at the heart of the fury against the bill.

Despite the hard work by the government to rebuild its burnt bridges to the farm community, the NDP was seriously rattled by the Bill 6 fiasco. The Opposition has exploited this ruthlessly and effectively. Mr. Jacobson’s comments, at least, suggest that a campaign based in part on outright lies is starting to fray a little around the edges.

But the NDP can no longer afford to sit around naively waiting for the public to get it about the merits of its legislation. It must no longer let opposition groups and politicians dominated by corporate money and agendas set the narrative for sound legislative ideas that won’t necessarily just sell themselves.

Above all, as these figures show, it’s time for the NDP to get over their rude welcome to governing and get back to implementing the progressive agenda they were elected to enact.

Alberta PoliticsEven some farm leaders admit the Alberta NDP’s notorious Bill 6 is an improvement - Alberta Politics (external - login to view)

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