Since our second WWW issue of Balance, which concentrated on the imminent passage of Alberta's Bill 214, was published some time ago, interested parties may wonder what, if anything, has occurred.
Readers will recall that the proposed piece of legislation, a Private Member's bill sponsored by opposition Liberal member Alice Hanson, had unanimously passed Second Reading in the Legislative Assembly on the 15th of May, 1996, and was therefore destined to be reviewed by a Committee of the Whole. Concerned individuals throughout the province reacted rather swiftly, protesting the proposed bill's draconian content and intent. The legislation was even the subject of a "Backgrounder" report in the Edmonton Sun's Sunday edition, where the journalist, Vicky MacLean, decried the proposal as bigoted and highly inimicable to males. Other parties proposed alternatives which would have made the bill fairer to all affected, while many people simply wanted the proposed legislation killed prior to Third Reading.
This was not quite the outcome. During debate prior to Third Reading, the final speaker to rise was Jocelyn Burgener, the Progressive Conservative MLA for the riding of Calgary Currie. During her speech, she spoke of the need for "broader consultation on all issues of domestic violence". Some believe that this was an obscure dig at the origins of the proposed bill, said to be a position paper on domestic violence by the Alberta Law Foundation which was radical feminist in its interpretation of the law and in its promotion of suggested reforms. Others think that it simply reflected the fact that the bill was unpopular enough to produce a steady stream of mail from concerned men and women province-wide who believed that their views on the issue of domestic violence were simply not being heeded.
The government used what one observer called "an obscure tactic to kill debate" prior to Third Reading, effectively putting an end to Bill 214 during the present sitting of the Legislature. The government has done this with other Private Member's Bills, most notably Julius Yankowsky's Family Dispute Resolution Act. However, those who rejoice over the end of Bill 214 should perhaps restrain their enthusiasm. Political observers believe that the bill will be revived by the ruling Conservatives as "one of their own" during the next Legislative session. Whether it will be properly re-worked to reflect the concerns expressed by contributors to Balance (as well as many others) regarding fairness, lack of bias, respect for basic civil/legal rights and so forth remains to be seen.
Garth Wood, Associate Editor
Balance on the Web
December 29, 1996