Search
Close this search box.
cropped-TheRockies.Life-logo-horizontal.png
Search
Close this search box.
Jason Franson | The Canadian Press

Onions for Christmas? Does Premier Smith’s Bill 8 Legalize Bribery?

Does gift-wrapped, fast-tracked legislation open doors for political bribery just in time for Christmas

If you haven’t heard of Bill 8 yet, you’re in for a holiday treat.

The ‘delectable’ taste of the new legislation the Danielle Smith’s government pushed through in early December is reminiscent of the delightful taste of raw onions that The Grinch favours around the Christmas Season.

It reeks from a mile away, and the effects will linger –  not in a good way.

While many Albertans are struggling to buy their kids Christmas presents and pay the greedy grocer for a holiday turkey or ham, Premier Danielle Smith decided it was an appropriate time to prioritize… what?

Helping Albertans struggling to pay their highest electric bills in Canada?

Hell no! 

She wants to ensure MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) can receive more lavish gifts this season! 

Pass the onions, please!

What is Bill 8?

Over the past five weeks, Alberta’s government introduced nine bills. 

Many of them, such as the Premier’s controversial new pension plan, have received massive criticism from the public. 

But not all nine new controversial laws got the scrutiny they deserved before Government House Leader Joseph Schow tabled motions in the legislature on Wednesday, December 6, to limit debate.  Three new bills were affected, speeding up the process of passing them.

“I think that time allocation was used in a heavy-handed manner to shut down debate on issues that the government was uncomfortable continuing to talk about in the legislature,” NDP House Leader Christina Gray told reporters.

Bill 8 was one of the new laws forced through with limits on debate.

How convenient!

To summarize, Bill 8 will affect Albertans in three ways:

  1. It takes away our ability to give public input on changes to the Conflicts of Interest Act for MLAs.

The Conflicts of Interest Act, which governs MLAs using their public political power in a way that benefits themselves or the private interest of another person, formerly could only be changed through a transparent process.

Bill 8 has altered it without the need for any public input. 

Yikes!

  1. It prevents the Ethics Commissioner from investigating MLA activities during election campaign periods.

If that doesn’t stink like an onion, we don’t know what does. 

Bill 8 was likely motivated as a heavy-handed response to the investigation on Danielle Smith, which the Ethics Commissioner conducted during last spring’s provincial general election campaign. 

The Ethics Commissioner, Marguerite Trussler, determined that Smith violated the Conflict of Interest Act. Commissioner Trussler slapped Smith’s hand for her discussion with Tyler Shandro, the former Justice Minister, about the criminal charges against Artur Pawlowski. Pawlowski, a pastor from Calgary, was involved in the Coutts border blockade.

The Ethics Commission ruled Premier Smith broke ethics rules, and she later apologized to the house for her actions. 

Bill 8 will stop the future Ethics Commissioner (Trussler will be released at the end of her term in May) from investigating potential breaches during future election campaigns.

Wow! So much for democracy.  

  1. And finally, it allows MLAs to be on the receiving end of expensive gifts – No limits.

Previously, MLAs were only allowed to accept gifts valued at a maximum of $200 and event tickets valued at up to $400 per year from any one source.

Now, Premier Smith’s inner circle, her cabinet can independently set dollar limits and change rules for gifts without any oversight from MLAs.

Alberta Reddit, an active source for political commentary, summarized the situation eloquently.

In a time when Albertans are suffering through sky-high rents, inflated energy and food costs, and declining health care delivery… fast-tracking a bill that prioritizes unlimited gifts to MLAs is just so out-of-touch. 

No wonder Albertans are pissed off!

Backend Deals?

But beyond poor optics, Bill 8 opens the door for backend deals and private interests influencing the politicians who are meant to represent the needs of ALL people, not just the rich.

Smith said changes to the rules were needed because they restricted her government’s ability to meet people and represent Albertans at events.

Huh?

If it takes an MLA more than $400 of gifted tickets from any single venue or event coordinator to “meet people and represent Albertans,” maybe MLAs need to rethink their approach.

There are so many public events all around the province that would welcome local MLAs for free, so having to ‘bribe’ MLAs to show up with free goodies is just wrong. 

MLAs are paid to engage with the public their constituents… showing up only if there are “freebies’ is beyond distasteful.

It’s not only Smith’s UCP MLAs that could benefit from uncapped gifts; NDP MLAs could also rake in benefits. 

Some NDP MLAs like Marie Renaud (St. Albert) have strongly criticized the recent amendments. “It’s just more corruption…Life is not affordable for so many people, and here we have a government focused on making life more comfortable for themselves,” Renaud told the St Albert Gazette.

Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, said that the amendment appears to serve only politicians and not the public.

The Alberta NDP could move beyond talk to action by publicly committing not to accept any gifts worth more than the old $200 cap. 

The BC Green Party voluntarily imposed a ban on accepting any donations from corporations or unions in the lead-up to the 2017 election. This voluntary ban helped propel the Party into the power-sharing agreement with the NDP that governed BC until 2020. 

One thing’s certain: Danielle is hopping on the gravy train this Christmas, bringing her cronies on a free ride with her.

Merry Christmas. Pass the onions!

TheRockies.Life Staff

Share this story

Stories in your Inbox, daily or weekly

Choose the types of stories you receive.

Related Stories

Search