Alberta opposition parties call for more business-sector input ahead of labour legislation review

The Alberta legislature. Caley Ramsay, Global News

Alberta’s opposition parties presented a united front on Tuesday as they called for the NDP government to allow more time for consultation before it considers introducing what could be significant changes to the province’s labour laws.

Tuesday marked the final day for workers, employers and other stakeholders to have their voices heard before the Notley government conducts a review of provincial labour legislation.

In a news release, the Opposition Wildrose said the government had only held four private meetings with business representatives and that more consultation was needed with job creators.

“We have seen repeatedly from this government a pattern of driving through policies that go against the grain of Albertans and our industries,” Wildrose labour critic Glenn van Djiken said in a statement. “Recent labour changes in other provinces were only done after nearly two years of consultations.

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“The government needs to start listening to Albertans who are worried about the long-term prosperity of our province before they decide to try and ram through ideological legislation.”

The NDP has said it is looking to update Alberta’s Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code, both of which have not been changed in almost three decades.

The government has said it wants to look closely at issues involving maternity, paternal and compassionate care leave, the employment insurance program and collective bargaining.

READ MORE: Union in Alberta reaches deal that includes domestic violence leave

“This is an issue that the previous government studied, studied and took no action on,” Labour Minister Christina Gray said Tuesday.

“These codes have not been updated since 1988. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito starred in the movie Twins that year.

“There’s significant issues where Alberta’s out of line with other parts of Canada and we need to take action on that and make sure that we are making life better for everyday Albertans.”

Alberta Labour Minister Christina Gray speaks to reporters on April 18, 2017. Global News

“The number one focus for the government needs to be protecting jobs, but time and time again, we have seen the NDP government continue to ram through changes that will only make things worse for Albertans,” Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said. “If they want to make positive changes, they should work with job creators across the province, not against them. It’s critical the government extends consultations and start focusing on what’s best for our economy.”

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Jason Kenney, the newly-minted leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives and a politician looking to merge his party with the Wildrose, also blasted the NDP for not further consulting with business.

“Once again, we are seeing the NDP government put their ideological agenda over what’s best for Alberta families,” he said in a statement. “Our job creators are willing to work collaboratively and it’s concerning the provincial government is not willing to do the same.”

The Alberta Liberal Party also called on further consultation with businesses before moving forward with a review. However, a party tweet acknowledged it was “not denying that the laws need to be updated.”

The Alberta Party also called for further consultation.

“The opposition is calling for further delays,” Gray said. “The previous government performed reviews of the employment standards code and then did nothing.

“We need to make sure that we are taking care of everyday Albertans, that Alberta has workplace legislation that works for employers and employees.

READ MORE: Alberta holding meetings, seeking online input on changes to labour rules

The government issued a call for public input on labour legislation in Alberta last month.


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