May 28th, 2024

Emergency response bill includes change to election date


By Lethbridge Herald on May 9, 2024.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith speaks in Edmonton on Wednesday April 10, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson JASON FRANSON

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

The provincial government is introducing sweeping legislation that the UCP says will allow it to more quickly and effectively manage emergencies.

The Emergency Statutes Amendment Act was to be introduced Thursday afternoon in the legislature.

Among the proposed changes is to the Election Act which would move the set election date from May to October so it doesn’t conflict with the spring wildfire, drought and flood season. 

The Opposition says in doing so, Premier Danielle Smith’s government is conveniently granting itself six extra months of power.

If the legislation is approved, the new election date would be the third Monday in October in the fourth calendar year following an election.

“With natural disasters like wildfires, drought, and floods more likely to occur in the spring and summer months, moving Alberta’s election date from May to October just makes sense. The change would also bring Alberta in line with other jurisdictions that already hold provincial elections in the fall,” Mickey Amery, Minister of Justice, in an embargoed media release sent Thursday morning.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said given climate change is making natural emergencies more frequent, she is not opposed to reconsidering the fixed election date.

But she said Smith could have looked at going to the polls earlier than the current date, such as February 2027 or October 2026.

“Giving themselves an extra six months seems very self-serving and opportunistic from a government that has a strong record of being very self-serving and opportunistic,” Notley told reporters. 

Notley said if the problem is a need for proper communication, the government could instead have had public servants lead public emergency updates.

The bill, if passed, would also give the province the authority to quickly take over local emergency response efforts in what it considers extreme circumstances.

“When an emergency strikes, we need to be able to pull together quickly. We need to be sure that, no matter which region of the province is affected by an emergency, we are able to have an all-hands- on-deck approach. Emergencies will happen in the future, but we can be better prepared for them when they come and that’s what we’re proposing to do,” said Premier Danielle Smith in the release.

Circumstances when the province could intervene include when it’s asked for assistance by a local authority, when a local authority’s staff or council may no longer be able to respond due to the overwhelming and sudden nature of an event or when an event spans several jurisdictions and requires the enhanced provincial coordination of resources.

The province says that additional amendments would require local authorities to report more information to the province during an emergency.

That info could include the nature of the emergency, powers that the local authority intends to use, actions that have already been taken, the resources being utilized, the state of evacuation orders or alerts and the establishment and location of reception/registration centres.

“Local authorities will continue to be responsible for the day-to-day emergency planning and management within their jurisdictions, unless the situation needs a provincial response. The proposed changes would clearly define provincial authorities and would help foster co-ordination during particularly challenging situations,” says the province.

Mike Ellis, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services, said in a statement to media that “the priority in any emergency, big or small, is the safety and well-being of all Albertans. These amendments underscore the government’s commitment to protecting lives and ensuring a swift and effective response to emergencies. By providing clearer mechanisms for government intervention and enhancing co-ordination efforts, we’re strengthening our ability to keep Albertans and communities safe during times of crisis.”

Proposed amendments to the Forest and Prairie Protection Act would clarify and enhance the government’s discretionary authority to conduct emergency wildfire responses inside and out of the Forest Protection area which are currently managed by municipalities unless provincial assistance is requested.

“If passed, these changes would help ensure that, when large or multi-jurisdictional wildfires occur, Alberta’s government can step in to support and potentially lead response efforts,” says the media statement.

“Proposed changes would also clarify the Alberta government’s authority to construct fireguards and allow the removal of buildings or structures in emergency situations when required by wildfire suppression efforts. Additionally, the act would be amended to include Metis Settlements and clarify that the government can take action to fight wildfires on any provincial lands, including Metis settlements,” adds the province. 

Amendments to the Water Act would help the province protect water supply for all communities and ensure it’s readily available for priority uses including public health and safety, livestock welfare and critical infrastructure.

If approved, the changes would let the province determine the priority of water use in an area, direct licence holders to change if, when or how they divert water for their use, allow temporary low-risk transfers between major water basins and exempt certain drought or flood mitigation activities from authorizations.

The province says the amendments could only be used if a water-related emergency is declared under the Water Act and would only apply to the geographic area within the declaration.

Thursday’s proposed legislation comes after two other pieces of legislation have already sparked backlash from municipalities over concerns the province is making an unnecessary power grab.

One bill would give the province gatekeeping power to veto federal funding deals with cities and towns. Another would give Smith’s cabinet the power to fire councillors and overturn local bylaws.

Tyler Gandam, the head of Alberta Municipalities, which represents Alberta towns, cities and villages, said he was still examining the bill but has concerns.

“Once again, another bill was introduced and tabled without consultation with municipalities,” said Gandam.

— with files from Lisa Johnson in Edmonton – The Canadian Press

Share this story:

30
-29
Subscribe
Notify of
6 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
lumpy

I cannot wait to vote this dictator out of office!!

Sharkmeister

She is getting scarier by the day. Her blatant power grabs are just getting out of hand.

Dennis Bremner

Notley said: “Giving themselves an extra six months seems very self-serving and opportunistic from a government that has a strong record of being very self-serving and opportunistic,” Notley told reporters. 

and…………of course had the NDP thought of this, they would have given themselves 6 months less, in power….too funny! A very righteous, self serving and opportunistic statement if I do say so myself!

SophieR

I thought Danielle was going to send her personal militia into the forests to catch those anarchist arsonists and flood makers. If she did her job, maybe she could manage to hold an election on time.

buckwheat

Look at all twisting in the wind. Trudeau moves
Ahead a week so his crew qualifies for pension using a religious holiday and all Smith haters are happy. Moving ahead for things like wildfires and other emergencies a no go. What a bunch of self serving critics. And we can’t wait for you to cry another four years lumpy.

lumpy

How is it UCP fans are so challenged when it comes to punctuation and grammar?
Keep dreaming, buck.



6
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x