“The Public Health Act, originally introduced in 1907, is one of Alberta’s oldest laws. That is why we created the Special Select Public Health Act Review Committee, with a mandate to review the act, including recent amendments, to determine if it can be improved in light of our experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. I want to thank the committee for its work, and look forward to receiving its final report, which will form the basis of a bill to modernize the act, which I intend to table in the Spring 2021 session.
“In spring of this year, Alberta’s government faced an unprecedented situation as COVID-19 was sweeping the world. The government worked through the Legislative Assembly of Alberta to ensure that vital public services would continue to operate during the pandemic, despite the many unknowns we faced as a province.
“At the time, there was a real concern that the legislative assembly would be unable to operate as normal. The government had to consider the possibility that the assembly would be unable to meet for a sustained period and the effect this could have on funding and legislation to support an effective pandemic response.
“The Public Health (Emergency Powers) Amendment Act, commonly referred to as Bill 10, was the result, further expanding emergency powers that have existed since 2002 through the Public Health Act. This decision was not made lightly, but out of a legitimate concern over the ability to effectively respond to the pandemic in extraordinary times.
“Thankfully the worst-case scenario did not materialize. The assembly was able to meet safely, and successfully engaged in critical debate and passed dozens of pieces of important legislation.
“Over the last number of months, it has become clear that with the right safety protocols in place and standing orders that allow for the assembly to work quickly in an emergency situation, the power to modify legislation by ministerial order is unnecessary.
“In consultation with the government members of the select special committee, I have decided that our forthcoming amendments to the Public Health Act will repeal the Public Health (Emergency Powers) Amendment Act. In fact, our amendments will go further by repealing the power of a minister to modify enactments, which was added to the Public Health Act in 2002, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. To be precise, our forthcoming bill will repeal all of Sections 52.1(2)-(3) and 52.21(2)-(5).
“Based on our experience over the past eight months, I am confident that the legislative assembly will be able to respond to potential future emergencies through the legislative process when necessary.”