Saturday , 16 October 2021

Hanson defends Bill 22 which shifts elections commissioner, moves teachers’ pensions

MLA David Hanson spoke about the Bill 22 controversy in the Legislature last week on Lakeland Connect’s Alberta Legislature.

The UCP government passed the bill in a matter of days which shuffled the position of the elections commissioner to the chief elections officer and effectively axed the contract of Lorne Gibson, the province’s electoral watchdog amidst an investigation of the 2017 UCP leadership race that’s led to over $200,000 fines for fundraising violations.

Also included in the bill was the shift of the teacher’s pensions from the Alberta Teacher’s Retirement Fund to the Alberta Investment Management Corporation, signalled in the provincial budget last month.

Hanson said the elections commissioner move is a cost-saving measure and in line with the federal government, but said it was speculation that the UCP were firing him.

He added that investigations into the UCP leadership will continue.

“People have a right to be concerned about. We’re trying to get a bunch of stuff done. It’s critical. We’re using our majority to get things push forward and I think in the best interest of Alberta.

“It’s not something that we’re doing. He’s going to be amalgamated with the chief electoral Officer like it is in Ottawa and in the province of Manitoba.

“If there’s something that warrants the RCMP coming in, they’ll be brought in and nothing really changing there. It’s just a matter of amalgamating the two offices. So nothing to see here, folks. I don’t think anyway,” he said.

Tensions escalated over the course of the week with Premier Jason Kenney away in Texas looking to recruit business to the province.

Opposition leader Rachel Notley was kicked out of the Legislature for accusing Jason Nixon of misleading the house.

Pension fund moving

“They’re under control right now by the Alberta Teachers Retirement Fund, the ATRF, so we’re moving that fund in under AIMCo’s umbrella to a total savings of $40 million per year,” said Hanson explaining his government’s decision. 

“The taxpayers of Alberta are kind of tasked with backstopping that fund. In our opinion, we should be protecting or doing the best job that we can to protect the taxpayers of Alberta. And that’s part of it. The ATRF board still will be in control of the fund, and the direction of the fund, where the savings come in.”

News reports are mixed about whether the move will have better returns for teachers.

Hanson said he’s heard from angry teachers.

“Albertans, voted pretty convincingly for us to get the house in order and what that’s what we’re trying to do. $40 million savings is nothing to sneeze at. What’s frustrating for me is I’ve received hundreds of emails from teachers, a lot of them form letters, and I don’t tend to respond to form letters, but I’ve tried to respond to some personal letters, and some of them are attacks on me personally. One of the teachers even said that my kids wouldn’t be proud of me, which is absolutely ridiculous,” he said.

“As a teacher if you gave your student an assignment to do a research project, and he came back and gave you a paper that was based on what he had heard about in the playground rather than going and actually doing some real research and finding out the facts, you would probably give them a zero.

“So I’d encourage teachers, please stop listening to what’s coming from the NDP, check into it yourself and hopefully when you realize that you’ve been hearing rhetoric and untruths and your retirement fund is safe and you’re not losing anything.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.