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Conscience rights bill, recall legislation likely to die if UCP granted prorogation

The Alberta legislature pictured on Monday, March 19, 2018.
The Alberta legislature pictured on Monday, March 19, 2018. Tom Vernon, Global News

Four bills that were introduced when MLAs were still sitting in the legislature will effectively die if Premier Jason Kenney’s government receives approval for its plan to not have the Legislative Assembly reconvene until late February. One of those pieces of legislation is a UCP MLA’s controversial private member’s bill.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for Government House Leader Jason Nixon confirmed the UCP government will ask Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell to prorogue the current session of the legislature sometime between now and Feb. 25.

As a result, UCP MLA Dan Williams’ Bill 207, better known as the “conscience rights bill,” will effectively die off.

“Prorogation formally ends the session. Generally, a motion or bill still on the assembly’s agenda ‘dies on the order paper’; that is, it is no longer before the assembly and must be reintroduced at the next session if members still wish it to be considered,” According to the Citizen’s Guide to the Alberta legislature.

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READ MORE: Alberta legislature will convene Feb. 25 for 2nd session

“However, a member of cabinet may move a motion to reinstate a government bill to the same stage that the bill stood at the time of prorogation.”

Bill 207 was intended to further entrench health-care workers’ ability to deny services or referrals to patients that they morally object to. The bill faced criticism as some opponents suggested it was a way of trying to reopen the debate on abortion and threatened Albertans’ right to a medically-assisted death. Other worried it could make it difficult for some sexual minorities to find doctors who would provide services for them.

READ MORE: Medical schools should deny applicants who object to provide abortion, assisted death: bioethicist

While the bill passed first reading, it was voted down at a Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members’ Public Bills hearing in late November, though the bill was still alive after that vote.

Williams, who represents the riding of Peace River, argued the bill merely served to further solidify conscience rights already in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

READ MORE: Alberta’s controversial ‘conscience rights’ Bill 207 voted down in committee hearing

In a statement issued to Global News on Friday, Williams said “private member’s bills will always have time constraints in the legislative process and I understood from the start that the normal prorogation of the legislature could affect my bill.”

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“Every voice in the discussion told me that conscience rights are important and that the question is how to protect these freedoms thoughtfully,” he said.

“I will always continue to defend the fundamental freedoms of Canadians — conscience the first among these.”

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Other bills that will “die on the order paper” if the Kenney government’s request for prorogation is approved are the Election Recall Act, the Human Tissue and Organ Donation (Presumed Consent) Amendment Act and the Workers’ Compensation (Enforcement of Decisions) Amendment Act.

Watch below: Some Global News videos about Bill 207.