Alberta Premier Alison Redford says proposed legislation on a fixed date for provincial elections will be introduced in the legislature this fall.
Ms. Redford, who made the announcement on a Calgary TV show Thursday, said the bill will fulfill a commitment she made during the Progressive Conservative leadership campaign.
“I've said I want to come back to the house in the spring, introduce a budget and give a throne speech,” Ms. Redford said. “We need to set an agenda so that people know what they're choosing between in the next election.
“But we are going to be introducing this fall legislation with respect to fixed election dates, and that will give us even more certainty in terms of that.”
Kim Misik, a spokeswoman for the premier, said the goal is to have the bill debated and passed by the end of the current sitting.
Ms. Redford has promised to call a general election before next June.
A fixed election date was one of the promises Ms. Redford made during her successful campaign to become Tory leader and premier. Since being sworn in Oct. 7, she has taken concrete steps to keep promises or set a timetable to achieve them.
But her silence on a fixed election date prompted opposition critics to say she had had a change of heart. It was not included in policy goals she outlined last week in her first speech to the house as premier.
She also deflected opposition questions at that time on when any such legislation would come in, telling the house to “stay tuned.”
On the TV show, Ms. Redford said a fixed date was always front and centre for her administration.
“I got sworn in a month ago, and from our perspective we want to get the legislation right,” she said.
“We'll introduce it this session and see what the opposition has to say about it, but we're firmly committed to fixed election dates.”
The house resumes sitting for two weeks Nov. 21.
Government house leader Dave Hancock has not discussed what other legislation may be on the agenda.
However, Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk said Thursday that Bill 18, which is proposed legislation to overhaul the Education Act, has been pulled for further consultation. The plan is to reintroduce the bill in the spring sitting, he said.
The opposition says waffling half-answers and shifting policy positions have come to define the early days of Ms. Redford's government.
They say the key change has been Ms. Redford's campaign promise to hold an independent judge-led inquiry into allegations that some politicians let buddies jump the health-care queue and that doctors speaking out on poor patient care have been intimidated into silence or had hospital privileges revoked.
In the last two weeks, Ms. Redford's position on that has changed from a judge leading the inquiry to giving expanded powers to the arms-length Health Quality Council, back to a judge-led inquiry, then to a judge-led inquiry under the umbrella of a beefed-up council.
On Thursday, the opposition parties sent a joint letter to Ms. Redford demanding she stick to her original pledge
“On June 7, Alison Redford said that if she became premier she would hold the public inquiry the opposition has been calling for, that is, a full public inquiry under the existing Public Inquiries Act,” Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said in a news release.
“For the sake of public health care and her own credibility, she must keep that promise.”
“This is about accountability and doing what you say you're going to do,” added Wildrose party Leader Danielle Smith in her own release. “Ms. Redford promised Albertans a public inquiry so they can know the truth about what's going on in the health-care system.”
Health Minister Fred Horne said the government remains committed to an independent public inquiry.
It would come after a current review by the health council is completed and after legislation is passed that would give the council broader powers. He said the council would then be in a position to conduct the inquiry.
“We have a review in progress now by the Health Quality Council, so it's only right to allow them to complete that review and present their report and recommendations in February,” Mr. Horne said.
“Once we have that report, then we'll be in a position to talk about the specifics around an inquiry. But the process will be ... an independent body conducting the inquiry, a fully public process and the ability to subpoena witnesses,” he said.
“There's never any suggestion that it would be conducted behind closed doors.”
Mr. Sherman, who first brought up the health-care allegations last fall when he was still a Tory MLA, suggested it's a convoluted approach.
“Why reinvent the wheel with new legislation when a public inquiry held under the (Public Inquiries) Act will fulfil the needs of Albertans?” Mr. Sherman asked.
NDP Leader Brian Mason said the Tories are “just making it up as they go along.”
“I urge Premier Redford to ... use the tools she already has at her disposal to call a judicial inquiry without delay. It's time to cut the talk and get on with the action,” Mr. Mason said.
“There's no reason for combining the Health Quality Council and a judicial inquiry except to create an opportunity for evading the truth.”