Speaker Robert Wanner, right, held an orientation session at the Alberta legislature for all new MLAs-designate on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 in Edmonton.
Larry Wong / Postmedia
Rookie incoming MLAs arrived at the Alberta legislature Wednesday to learn the ropes, getting advice on everything from how to engage in respectful debate to watching what they post on social media.“Use social media at your peril,” Speaker Robert Wanner told the newly-elected politicians as they sat in the main legislature debate chamber.“If your grandmother would not like to read your comments on the front page of the newspaper the next day, then I suggest you pause before you push send,” he said.Wanner’s message to the MLAs included the importance of co-operation, following a campaign period defined by attacks and intense competition. There are 47 new MLAs in the legislature, including 44 for the majority UCP government.“Remember that each of us are average Albertans with a responsibility here to the people we serve and to each other,” Wanner told reporters after his speech.He noted that despite being Speaker for four years, he still feels like an apprentice. “There’s so much to learn.”He also joked during the orientation speech.“Without diligence there is the potential for significant weight fluctuation,” he said. He told new members that the stress of the job will make it challenging to eat often or healthily, and noted they will miss hockey games, graduations and time with their families.The UCP holds a 63-seat majority to the 24-member NDP opposition. It’s the first two-party legislature in Alberta since 1993.
New MLAs-designate to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta stand during an orientation session held in the Chamber at the Alberta legislature in Edmonton on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.
Larry Wong /
Wanner emphasized that despite a highly charged partisan environment, friendships form across the aisle. He told members that a bottle of good scotch helps with that.Returning UCP MLA Nathan Cooper (Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills) said democracy is “how we do combat in a peaceful manner.”“I still certainly have friends on the other side of the house,” he said. “We are really here to fight about ideas.”Cooper considering running for SpeakerCooper, who was on hand to help new colleagues, said the mood was equal parts nervousness and excitement.He also hinted he’ll consider running for Speaker, an elected position within the legislative assembly.“But there’s a lot of work that has to go before the Speaker election,” he said. “If I was asked to serve by my colleagues, I would be honoured to do so.”Incoming NDP MLA Janis Irwin (Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood) is one of three new faces among opposition MLAs after her party suffered a crushing loss on April 16. But with numerous former cabinet ministers winning seats, the NDP is shaping up to be a formidable opposition.Irwin said she doesn’t take it lightly that she’s the only openly LGBTQ member of the legislature.“It’s a huge responsibility,” she said. “I also know I will be surrounded by … strong allies in the NDP with me.”Incoming UCP MLA Doug Schweitzer (Calgary-Elbow) said Wednesday felt like “the first day of school.” Members attended orientation with their spouses and partners, and were still learning each other’s names.“The lights are much brighter than I was expecting,” he said of being inside the chamber.Premier-designate Jason Kenney and his cabinet will be sworn in on April 30. He plans to kick off a legislative session in the third week of May.With files from The Canadian Presscclancy@postmedia.comtwitter.com/clareclancy