Premier Jim Prentice continued on Wednesday to put a new face on the Progressive Conservative government by announcing details of new legislation to “end the so-called culture of entitlement”.
When the legislature resumes on November 17, Prentice said he will work collaboratively with Alberta’s Ethics Commissioner and opposition parties to introduce an Accountability Act that will address the “disappointment, frustration, and anger” that Albertans have for decisions made under former premier Alison Redford.
“I have been clear on my commitment to end entitlements and restore public trust,” said Prentice.
“One of the first actions I will take when we return to the legislature will be to introduce legislation that strengthens our accountability to Albertans.”
Prentice says the act will push for mandatory conflict-of-interest disclosures for political staff and extend the cooling off period for elected officials, political staff and senior civil servants who leave government to a full year.
The act will eliminate sweetheart severance packages for political staff, said Prentice, adding severance “will only be paid when the employee is terminated without cause” and “no one will profit by leaving a job that they’ve held for just a short period of time.”
Prentice also intends to eliminate sole-source contracts and require all contracts be put through a competitive bid process, or in extreme circumstances such as states of emergency, “a selection will be made from a pre-qualified vendor list.” There will also be no “stacking” of multiple, smaller contracts that add up to a large contract, he said.
Prentice said he will enforce the distinction between registered lobbyists and government consultants and present Alberta’s finances in a clear, consolidated format that has the blessing of Alberta’s Auditor General.
The legislation will result in changes to the Lobbyists Act, the Conflicts of Interest Act, the Public Service Act, the Financial Administration Act and “ultimately to Treasury Board policies as well,” he said.
Prentice said he will evaluate the make up of the Tory-dominated all-party committee that selects legislative officers, adding that all existing government appointments will be reviewed, including arms-length agencies, boards and commissions.
Prentice said he will enforce the rules “with vigor.” Repercussions for ethical transgressions will be handled by the Ethics Commissioner while anyone who breaks the other rules could face termination.
Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason said the new rules are all things that opposition parties have called for previously.
“Mr. Prentice has spent his first two weeks catching up to the NDP and I think that he’s demonstrated a tremendous grasp of the obvious,” he said, adding the promise of collaboration could “disappear like a mirage in the desert.”
Mason said Prentice got his patronage appointments out of the way last week when he hired two former MPs who served with Prentice federally as Alberta representatives, including his campaign co-chair Jay Hill.
Wildrose Finance critic Rob Anderson said he finds it curious that Prentice’s first bill is “designed to keep Albertans safe from the PC government… If that doesn’t tell you the problems, I don’t know what does.”