Danielle In QP, November 27: Premier’s Participation in Oral Question Period

Ms Smith: Mr. Speaker, question period is a time-honoured tradition across parliamentary democracies. The government answers questions posed by the opposition, and usually the Leader of the Opposition questions the leader of government, the Premier, about matters of policy and other accountability issues, but here the Premier rarely answers the questions that are put to her. More often it’s left to the Deputy Premier to run interference, blather on, or resort to name-calling. When will the Premier raise the bar on transparency and accountability and directly answer the questions?

Mr. Lukaszuk: Mr. Speaker, I’m heartbroken that the Leader of the Opposition is not enamoured with me, but I’ll have to live with that.

While the Premier has been meeting with political leaders of this country, with Premiers of other provinces, while the Premier was developing good relations with the newly elected Premier of Quebec and looking to sending our commodities to and via Quebec and strengthening our industry, while she’s meeting with world-wide investors in infrastructure, the Leader of the Opposition has been dredging up receipts and has been printing posters. I suggest to you that our Premier is serving the province very well.

Ms Smith: Mr. Speaker, since the election the Premier has answered less than a third of the questions that have been posed to her. One of her peers, Premier Darrell Dexter of Nova Scotia, was in question period for 100 per cent of the sitting days in the fall session. Robert Ghiz in PEI is there 90 per cent of the time. Will the government agree to set aside a certain number of sitting days where the Premier will answer all of the questions put to her?

Mr. Lukaszuk: Mr. Speaker, I don’t know whether our Premier has answered fewer questions than other Premiers may have answered in other Legislatures, but I can tell you that our Premier has spent the entire summer serving Albertans, meeting with communities, meeting with political leaders. She was not examining political systems in the United States; rather, she was developing a plan for this province that reflects our commitments during the election. She is focusing on education, on health care, on building seniors’ homes – I’m sure the seniors in the gallery will be interested – and developing markets for our products and pipelines throughout the country, which is not something that we can say about the Leader of the Opposition.

Ms Smith: Mr. Speaker, in the United Kingdom the British Prime Minister respectfully answers at least 30 solid minutes of questions each week in Prime Minister’s Questions. Here it feels like the Premier hasn’t answered 30 minutes of questions for the entire session. Will she make a commitment to answer the questions posed to her by Alberta MLAs rather than making speeches in vote-rich Ontario?

Mr. Lukaszuk: Mr. Speaker, I know that the Leader of the Opposition has spent extensive time studying American systems. Now she’s studying British systems. Our Premier is committed to Alberta, and she has full confidence in all of the cabinet members that you see on the front bench to be able to very capably answer any question that the leader may have on any particular portfolio, which is unlike the Leader of the Opposition, who doesn’t allow her members to speak during and after campaigns.

Speaker’s Ruling

Referring to the Absence of Members

The Speaker: Hon. members, I just remind you that the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, page 126 and page 614, line 7, clearly makes reference to the fact that it is inappropriate to refer to the absence or presence of any members of the Assembly. Please bear this in mind going forward so that we don’t have to rule any good questions out of order.

Mr. Anderson: A point of clarification.

The Speaker: A point of clarification. We’ll deal with it later. In the meantime let me recognize the leader of the Wildrose opposition.

Ms Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. If you have a look at my questions, you’ll see that they were very carefully crafted not to make any reference to the abse