Mr. Speaker, with the exception of the Premier and cabinet, all other members of this Assembly are private members who share in a long-standing tradition to sponsor motions and bills on issues of importance to them and their constituents. These opportunities are very rare. It is done on a purely random draw, and it’s not unusual for members to be drawn only once or even not at all. Private members matter.
In 2007 Speaker Kowalski stated that “the work and the advocacy of private members [is] to be paramount in the Assembly.” Retiring members giving their farewell address often state that their sponsorship of a private member’s bill was their proudest moment as a legislator. The three hours of private members’ business yesterday saw those principles, those rare opportunities both honoured and trampled. For two hours we had great debate on the benefits of tourism in our province. Members from all sides participated in a spirit of respect. But that all changed at 5 o’clock. The Member for Calgary-Hays introduced the motion to affirm parental choice in education. An amendment that had not been shared with the mover and did not have his support was introduced. This amendment effectively denied the Member for Calgary-Hays his potentially only opportunity to introduce and debate his motion during the term of this Legislature.
Now, as I learned yesterday, private members’ motions can be amended, but it is very rare, and it has always been done with the knowledge and consent of the mover. Sadly, both Deputy Government House Leaders either overlooked or purposely neglected to note this when they argued that these amendments are commonplace. This point, however, was raised by the Member for Calgary-Lougheed, who was there and witnessed it happen along with the Member for Edmonton-Calder, today’s Minister of Education.
Mr. Speaker, the 68 private members and their constituents deserve to have their limited opportunities to raise issues respected by all members of this Assembly and especially by those in government, that hold the majority. But at 5 o’clock yesterday that didn’t happen. It was a sad day for democracy in Alberta.
On April 19, 2016, Richard Starke defended MLA's ability to represent Albertans through private members' business
PC Caucus in the Legislature
PC Caucus members have proposed and passed bills, amendments and motions. Read about them here.