Alberta legislature resumes Tuesday after 3-week pause due to surging COVID-19 cases

Click to play video: 'Alberta MLAs returning to legislature for spring session' Alberta MLAs returning to legislature for spring session
WATCH ABOVE: A lot has changed in Alberta since the legislature adjourned four weeks ago. Tom Vernon has more on what we can expect as the spring session resumes this week. – May 24, 2021

The Alberta legislature is set to resume session Tuesday following a three-week pause.

The last time MLAs were in the house for Question Period was more than a month ago. They adjourned on April 22, expecting to be back on May 3. However, the session was suspended amid surging cases of COVID-19.

Read more: Alberta legislature’s spring sitting pause extended another week amid 3rd wave of COVID-19

On May 4, Premier Jason Kenney announced stronger restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19. Patios were closed, personal service businesses like hair salons were shuttered and kids were shifted to online learning.

Students across the province will head back to class in person on Tuesday, apart from those enrolled in schools in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Because case counts haven’t dropped as quickly in this region as the rest of Alberta, students will learn online for another week. The target date for students in the RMWB to return to in-person learning is May 31.

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Read more: Alberta businesses brace for 3rd round of COVID-19 restrictions, closures

Since the legislative session was paused, there have been divisions within the UCP caucus. Session will resume with two new Independent MLAs after Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen were kicked out of the party for publicly criticizing the premier.

“This government’s got a lot of fires burning and it’s going to be difficult to bring them under control,” said Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University.

Click to play video: 'Why two Alberta UCP members were kicked out of caucus' Why two Alberta UCP members were kicked out of caucus
Why two Alberta UCP members were kicked out of caucus – May 14, 2021

Williams believes the premier is facing an uphill battle. Aside from criticism over the way he’s handled the pandemic and caucus discontent, his education minister was just resoundingly rejected by Alberta teachers in a vote of non-confidence.

Delegates at the Alberta Teachers’ Association annual assembly almost unanimously endorsed a motion of non-confidence in the education minister on Sunday, following months of animosity between teachers and the provincial government.

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Read more: Alberta Teachers’ Association pass non-confidence vote on education minister with 99% in favour

The ATA said Sunday’s short motion, which simply states that Alberta teachers have lost confidence in Adriana LaGrange, received 99 per cent support from delegates attending this weekend’s annual representative assembly.

In addition, the province’s public inquiry into anti-Alberta campaigns has been delayed for the fourth time.

“It’s a government under siege and it will be a real test of Jason Kenney’s leadership and his vision to see whether he can actually respond to this effectively,” Williams said.

Read more: Alberta MLAs Todd Loewen, Drew Barnes booted from UCP caucus after emergency meeting

Inside the house, the premier will face an Opposition NDP that didn’t want this long break to begin with. NDP deputy leader Sarah Hoffman said issues like supports for small businesses and paid sick leave for Albertans will top the NDP agenda.

“We want to stay focused on bringing forward bills and ideas that will make life better for people in this province, and paid sick leave is a big one,” Hoffman said.

The premier has hinted that the plan to ease restrictions in Alberta is coming. On Monday, while wishing people a happy Victoria Day, he tweeted that the government will have “exciting news this week about the great Alberta summer that lies ahead.”

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— With files from The Canadian Press.

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