EDMONTON – The Alberta government says its first job of the spring sitting of the legislature will be to cut school fees.
The government revealed proposed legislation in its throne speech Thursday which would ban charging parents for essentials such as textbooks or bus transportation for children who live within their designated school area.
“This session your government will take a major step forward to make life more affordable for parents and families,” Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell told legislature members and dignitaries seated in the debate chamber.
“The first bill tabled this session will start that work by eliminating these fee categories in time for the start of the next school year.”
Mitchell said the changes will cut fees by 25 per cent.
Details and dollar amounts were expected to be released later Thursday after the legislation was tabled in the house.
The throne speech outlined the goals and priorities of Premier Rachel Notley’s government as it begins a new legislature session that is to run until June 1. Government house leader Brian Mason had already said there will be at least 15 bills introduced, including the budget on March 16.
Other initiatives outlined by Mitchell include a consumer bill of rights. The province has already passed legislation that bans door-to-door energy sales and eliminates what was viewed as predatory interest rates charged by payday lenders.
Legislation to help and protect victims of sexual assault and domestic violence is also expected.
The province, working with the federal government, plans to make sure orphan oil wells are safely closed and the land reclaimed.
There are to be new measures to expand whistleblower protection and strengthen conflict-of-interest laws.
The province also hopes to pass legislation giving legal teeth to a promise made last year to cap electricity rates so families won’t be hit with price spikes as the province moves off coal-fired power to renewable energy.
Notley’s government indicated it will also continue to pursue programs to diversify and grow the economy using financial incentives and incubator programs.
It will also maintain the fight for more pipelines to the coast, so that Alberta crude can more easily be shipped overseas where it can fetch better prices.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has approved expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia ports. The B.C. government has signed off on it as well.
Opponents, however, are promising renewed legal fights to prevent it. Three B.C. First Nations filed new lawsuits in January. Mitchell announced the province is seeking intervener status to give the province a chance to make its case.
“Your government will defend our province and its key industry in court,” she read.
This is the third throne speech from Notley’s NDP government, which reaches the midpoint of its mandate in May.
It’s been a rocky ride as low oil prices have led to tens of thousands of Albertans losing their jobs and seen the province’s deficit rise to $10.8 billion this year.
The economy appears to be on the rebound. Rising oil prices allowed the government to take in $1.5 billion more than expected in the current fiscal year, but the province spent the extra money.
Opposition critics say it’s critical the New Democrats get serious about their promise to get spending under control.