What’s going on with Bill 207, Alberta’s conscience rights bill?
*UPDATE (added Dec. 5): On Monday, December 2, while MLA Dan Williams was speaking on Bill 207, a tragic incident occurred outside the Assembly, which then adjourned. Consequently, Bill 207 was delayed. It will likely be revisited in February 2020, once the legislature resumes.
Last week, an Alberta legislative committee voted against Bill 207. So, is Bill 207 dead? Not quite.
Ordinarily, a bill gets debated in the Assembly at second reading. Then, if it passes the “second reading vote”, it goes to an appropriate committee for closer study, where amendments are often made before it returns to the Assembly for the final debate and vote.
Bill 207 has not even gone to second reading yet. It passed first reading and then went to this new Standing Committee on Private Members Bills, which was recently set up to screen such bills for the Assembly.
Last week, the Standing Committee on Private Members Bills voted eight to two against sending the bill to the Assembly for second reading vote. Four UCP and four NDP MLAs voted against. Two UCP MLAs, Michaela Glasgo and Joseph Schow, supported the bill. We thank them for standing up for freedom of conscience.
This Committee’s vote certainly weighs against the bill, but the final call still belongs to the whole Assembly. For Bill 207 to succeed, its supporters would need to convince a majority of MLAs to go against the Committee’s recommendation.
On Monday, December 2, the Alberta Assembly will consider the bill again. So, what should we do? ARPA encourages you to contact your MLA by email and phone to ask them to support the bill. For background, you can read ARPA’s summary of the bill and its response to criticism of the bill.
So, what should we expect?
It is possible that someone will make a motion to adjourn debate on the bill next Monday. The result would be that the bill would be put on pause, at least until February. If the Assembly were to end its current session and start a new session, then Bill 207 would “die on the order paper.” That would mean a similar bill could be introduced in the next session. This would be starting over, but would be preferable to losing an Assembly vote on Bill 207.
So, in case Bill 207 goes to a vote on Monday, please send your MLA a message today or tomorrow. You can also follow up with a call on Monday morning.
But if Bill 207 does not go to a vote next week, or even if it gets voted down, do not be discouraged. Your support has been and will be noticed, and there are other measures the UCP government can take in the future to protect conscience rights.