Thursday’s throne speech presented the government’s vision for an Alberta that looks outwards and is more open about what is going on at home.
Lt.-Gov. Donald Ethell read the speech from the throne to the legislature Thursday afternoon, as new MLAs sat for the first time since the election.With a promise to open an office in Ottawa, the speech said Albertans wanted a government that looked beyond the province’s boundaries.
“The people of this province have declared that they are not content to gaze inward and build walls. They want to look outward and build bridges.”
According to the government, the office will cost $850,000 per year with another $50,000 in start-up costs this year. The election, Premier Alison Redford argued, was about contrasting visions for the province and Albertans chose a bigger Alberta.
“They want to look forward, they want to look outward, they want to be citizens of the world.”
The speech also promised a more open government with better access to information, a look at conflict of interest legislation and whistleblower protection legislation for public servants.
“Albertans will be able to see with new depth and clarity how government works for them,” read the speech.
The government also took the speech as an opportunity to lists its achievements to date, with more money for subsidized day care and increases to Assured Income Severely Handicapped payments.
Not surprisingly, both local MLAs were impressed with the speech.
“It articulated the vision, the premier’s visions and there was a lot of material that we talked about during the campaign,” said St. Albert MLA Stephen Khan
He said Albertans were ready for the province to step up.
“We understand our place not only within Canada, but also on the global stage.”
The city’s other representative, Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Doug Horner, said even with 27 of 28 Alberta MPs sitting in the government caucus, it was important for Alberta to have an office in Ottawa.
“We also have to reach out to MPs from other parts of the country, because it isn’t just about lobbying our own Alberta caucus,” he said. “We want to have people there on a day-to-day basis making sure we know what is going on there.”
The opposition parties greeted the speech with much less enthusiasm. The Wildrose said it ignored larger fiscal realities facing the province.
“This is part of the reason why Albertans sent a strong Wildrose opposition to the legislature, to hold these guys to account, especially over fiscal issues,” said party leader Danielle Smith.
Smith dismissed the notion of an Ottawa office for the province.
“I don’t understand why the premier doesn’t understand that this is her job, to have a relationship with Ottawa,” she said. “It seems to me it is going to be just one more patronage appointment, I will predict right now that it is going to be one of her failed PC candidates.”
Liberal leader Raj Sherman also questioned the need for an Ottawa office.
“The prime minister of the country is not too far away, I think we have to deal with problems in Alberta before we try to deal with problems across the country.
NDP leader Brian Mason said the speech lacked any real substance.
“I thought the last speech from the throne was vacuous, I think this one is perhaps the weakest or most lacking in content of any that I have ever seen.”
The speech was the opening of what is expected to be a very short legislative session, with the legislature expected to rise next Thursday. The government has introduced one bill making it easier for emergency workers to apply for Workers’ Compensation Board payments, if they are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The legislature also elected Edmonton MLA Gene Zwozdesky as the new speaker.