Government House leader Jason Nixon did not deliberately mislead the assembly about last week’s earplugs incident in the Alberta Legislature, the Speaker ruled Tuesday.
On Monday, the NDP Official Opposition raised a point of privilege, alleging Nixon lied when he said no one used the earplugs distributed by Premier Jason Kenney during last week’s debate on Bill 9.
Nixon told the house during last Thursday’s question period that “nobody from the government plugged their ears during debate.” The NDP says that isn’t true as Nixon himself used the earplugs.
After taking 24 hours to consider the issue, Speaker Nathan Cooper referred to Nixon’s defence on Monday, where he said he was referring to members of cabinet when he said “nobody from government” plugged their ears, not the UCP caucus at large.
On Friday, Kenney said on national television that he gave earplugs to a backbench UCP MLA with tinnitus to block out the volume of a nearby NDP MLA.
Cooper told the house that allegations an MLA misled the house must meet a difficult test. In addition to the statement being misleading — the member must have known it was inaccurate and uttered it to deliberately mislead other members.
According to Beauchesne’s Parliamentary Rules and Forms, the Speaker has to accept what members say about themselves, Cooper said.
“I must accept as an explanation provided by the government house leader, as I must accept any explanation by any member of this assembly, for I am duty-bound,” Cooper told the legislature.
While members of the opposition NDP were “rightly” offended by the earplugs incident, Cooper said the issue didn’t merit a point of privilege.
“While it is the opposition’s right to raise concerns regarding incidents that occur within the chamber that may impact decorum, I want to emphasize that a question of privilege and in particular the assertion that a member has misled this assembly, is a very serious matter,” he said.
Cooper urged all members to work together to ensure order and decorum in the legislature.
Bill 9 delays public sector wage arbitration hearings until the end of October.
The government said it wants to hear from a panel looking into Alberta’s finances before discussing wages with 180,000 nurses, teachers and government workers.