Packed spring session underway

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March 24, 2015 8:15 AM

MLA Richard Starke

Alberta’s 2015 spring session will see a focus on business services and issues involving environment, education and municipalities.

Richard Starke, MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster, said one of the pieces before the house is the Common Business Number Act, which provides for harmonization of all government services to business under a single common business number.

“In the past, there have been different registration numbers for all the different departments of government, both federally and provincially, that you’d deal with,” he said.

“From a provincial standpoint, it’s going to streamline things and make them a whole lot easier if business entities access government services under one common business number.”

On the environmental side of things, there is a concern regarding invasive species, particularly zebra and quagga mussels. Bill 13, an amendment to the Fisheries Act, will have increased measures to protect Alberta against these species that are already becoming a problem in other provinces and across North America in general.

“This Bill 13 is basically to put in additional measures including inspection of watercraft as they enter the province because we know that the zebra mussels are already endemic in Manitoba as well as in southern U.S., in Nevada and California,” Starke said. “We know that we have lots of Albertans travelling into those parts of Canada and the U.S. with their watercraft and it poses a very real risk to our lakes and rivers.”

Starke said these mussels pose a threat to the province’s irrigation systems and the estimated annual cost of repairing the damage would be an estimated $75 million if these species became established in the province.

Regarding education, the main issue in Alberta was dealt with in Bill 10, which had to do with the forming of gay-straight alliances in schools.

“(Education) Minister (Gordon) Dirks introduced a series of amendments that were broadly supported in the assembly and that was passed last Tuesday (March 10) and certainly for the most part has been widely accepted and widely supported.”

Another big topic in the province is the updating of the Municipal Government Act, which hasn’t had a full review in roughly two decades. With Alberta having grown substantially in that time, many feel

See “Spring session,” Page 9

it’s important to make changes to the act that reflect the new provincial landscape.

“The last full review was done about 20 years ago and it’s been in the process for some time,” Starke said.

“I know that there are a number of issues that have now been basically signed off and agreed to and so the decision made by the minster (Diana McQueen, minister of municipal affairs) was to get those changes made as an interim step and the completion of the amendments to the Municipal Government Act will probably take the better part of another year. It’s a very big piece of legislation.”

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