EDMONTON – Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says she’s open to negotiating with the opposition to rescue a fractious all-party panel exploring ways to keep kids safe in government care.
“There are elements of what the opposition put forward that I think we can absolutely incorporate,” Notley told reporters at a legislature news conference Wednesday.
“Not everything that they’re asking for will necessarily be included but we’re certainly open to working with them.”
The panel was announced earlier this month by Notley after it was revealed a four-year-old girl in government care, named Serenity, died of severe head trauma two years ago amid signs of violent physical and sexual abuse. Little to nothing appears to have been done since to find out why or who is responsible.
The four leaders of Alberta’s opposition parties say the panel announced by Human Services Irfan Sabir has been designed, not to solve the issue, but to whitewash it to avoid embarrassing the government.
The leaders have said they will boycott the panel unless there are changes including whistleblower protection for those who come forward. They also want assurances the meetings will not be behind closed doors unless absolutely necessary.
Sabir and Notley have faced repeated opposition calls in recent days for Sabir to quit over his handling of the file.
Notley made the comments as the legislature wrapped up its fall sitting.
In the past six weeks, Notley’s team took the next steps in transforming Alberta’s energy and economic substructure to retrofit it for a future of greener technologies.
The government passed a bill to cap emissions from the oilsands at levels about one-third higher than current total.
It outlined plans, timelines, and a deal with power producers to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030. The plan is to replace it with a mix of natural gas and renewables like solar, wind, and hydro.
The electricity system will move to a capacity system where producers will be paid not only for energy used but also to keep enough energy capacity available should the transformation to renewables go sideways. Rates will be capped in the short term.
It has passed a law to bring in government loans to cover any potential fiscal setbacks for consumers under the new energy plan.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed Alberta’s plan as the main reason he recently approved a controversial pipeline expansion of the Trans Mountain line that takes oil from Alberta to coastal tankers in B.C.
The opposition, however, says the climate plan is a reckless, ideologically driven multibillion-dollar misadventure where the risk rests solely on taxpayers and ratepayers.
In just over two weeks, prices at the gasoline pumps and on home heating bills will be going up as the province begins collecting its carbon tax.
Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said his caucus will be keeping a close eye on the impact as the tax dominoes its way through the economy.
“We will continue to fight the carbon tax each and every day and, if elected in 2019 … we will immediately reverse the carbon tax,” said Jean.
Progressive Conservative Leader Ric McIver said the session will be remembered for the NDP redirecting the economy in a number of ways, all of them backward.
“They got two pipelines and then they limited the ability of the (oilsands) energy sector to expand,” said McIver.
“(They’re) completely divergent actions. There’s clearly no strategy.”
Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark said it’s critical to pursue green solutions, but not at the expense of Alberta becoming an uncompetitive economic outlier.
“I do have worries that the timing of this (climate plan) and the scale of it may not fit,” said Clark.