Bregg’s Bill coming to Parliament

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Rathgeber to table bill to shield bus drivers

This should be a rowdy spring session, says St. Albert’s member of Parliament, one that will include a bill meant to protect bus drivers from assault.

Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber heads back to the House of Commons Monday after his winter break. Political parties have kicked up their verbal sparring in recent weeks, raising predictions of a spring election.

Rathgeber says he doesn’t pay much attention to that talk. His focus is on the many justice bills now winding their way through committee. “We’ve got at least half a dozen bills in various stages of committee and the House on young offenders, child predators and ending house arrest,” he says, and those are his priorities.

He also planned to table Bregg’s Bill sometime in February. The bill is named after St. Albert resident Tom Bregg, who was severely beaten by a passenger in 2009 while driving a bus in Edmonton.

“When a mass transit operator is assaulted,” Rathgeber said, “it imperils the safety of all the passengers on that bus or LRT … you have many, many potential victims.”

His bill would ask judges to elevate a person’s sentence if that person assaulted a mass-transit driver.

Tax talk

The Liberals and Conservatives had a pre-election scuffle this week over corporate tax cuts.

The Conservatives plan to trim corporate tax rates to 15 per cent from 16.5 per cent by 2012, arguing the cut will create jobs and draw investment. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has vowed to reverse this and the previous cut, restoring the tax to its 2010 level of 18 per cent and using the resulting $6 billion in revenue on schools and education.

Analysts disagree over who’s in the right. Economist Jack Mintz of the University of Calgary published a paper last week saying the cuts would create about 100,000 jobs and draw $30.6 billion in investment over seven years. Jim Stanford, economist for the Canadian Auto Workers, disagreed and put out a paper that said the cuts would create a net loss of 46,000 jobs when compared to the effects of keeping the current tax rate and putting the extra cash into Employment Insurance.

This is an ideological dispute, says John Soroski, political science professor at Grant MacEwan University, one that could score the Conservatives political points. “Those are good grounds to be going into an election on,” he says. “The Conservatives are going to be able to emphasize, ‘Look, we’re the guys who cut your taxes.'”

Corporations are the life force of the economy, Rathgeber says, and these cuts would put more people back to work. “Mr. Ignatieff will complain that since businesses are going well, they don’t need further tax relief,” he says, but it’s that relief that’s caused business to go well.

Law and order

The Conservatives have about six law and order bills on the table this session, Soroski says, which may be an attempt to appeal to their core supporters.

Rathgeber says he has his eye on Bill S-6, which, if passed, would eliminate the “faint hope” clause that lets prisoners sentenced to life in prison with a parole eligibility of more than 15 years apply for early parole after serving 15 years in prison.

“A guy like [serial killer Clifford]Olson knows his faint hope application isn’t going to be successful,” he says, yet he applied for parole last year anyway. “He’s just needlessly putting the victim’s [family]through the pain of showing up at the hearing and testifying.”

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.