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Nathan Cooper chosen as legislative Speaker -- so how about those early mornings?

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Nathan Cooper in campaign mode. Photo: Nathan Cooper/Facebook

Now that Nathan Cooper has been chosen as Speaker of the Alberta legislature, I wonder if the business of the assembly will be getting under way at a more civilized hour, say 10 a.m., suitable for bankers, gentlemen of leisure and elected Conservatives?

Cooper, United Conservative Party MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, was elected Tuesday by members of the legislature to act as the principal chair of legislative debate and, in effect, as chief executive of the legislative assembly.

There was no surprise to this. Cooper, one of the brighter lights in the UCP Caucus, wanted the job, his party won a comfortable majority on April 19, and his selection seemed like a done deal when he wasn't named to a cabinet post by Premier Jason Kenney.

Nevertheless, the NDP Opposition went through the motions of nominating Edmonton-Manning MLA Heather Sweet for the position. But with that bit of legislative kabuki theatre out of the way, Cooper was duly chosen and dragged to the Speaker's chair, as tradition decrees, by Premier Jason Kenney and Opposition leader Rachel Notley.

So now we can get back to really important questions like when MLAs will have to get up in the morning in order to be at work on time -- especially since the NDP Opposition enjoys a small advantage in this regard, the majority of them having been elected in Edmonton and therefore having a shorter commute until the UCPers can rent apartments in the capital city. There's now a rule about that.

Thanks in part to Cooper's advocacy in the embarrassing aftermath of the revelations about his former colleague Derek Fildebrandt's entrepreneurial activities, they won't be able to rent out their tax-subsidized Edmonton condominiums through Airbnb when they're out of town.

But it was back in 2015 when he was the Wildrose Party's house leader that Cooper got steamed up at the then-new NDP government's decision to have MLAs start working at the indecent hour of 9 a.m., instead of the more relaxed 10 a.m. associated with former Tory times in Alberta.

The Wildrose Party was so appalled at this outrage they even made an effort to filibuster the change. According to Cooper back then, asking MLAs to come to work a whole hour earlier, two days a week, was, "basically, a blatant disrespect for the Opposition."

Mind you, in his defence, he was just going along with the his leader of the day, Brian Jean, who seemed to take the whole matter far more seriously than anyone else in the house, including his own MLAs.

Still, in light of Kenney's pre-election vow that this would be the summer of repeal (summer of revenge, more like -- Ed.), one wonders if the miserably early 9 a.m. start might be required for a spell to push through all the legislation the new premier has in mind.

In addition to having been the previous Opposition party's house leader, Cooper was interim leader of the UCP in 2017 before Kenney won the leadership and eased Jean into the pages of history.

Before running for office in 2015, Cooper worked for the Wildrose caucus as chief of staff and director of legislative affairs.

And before that, he acted for a spell as spokesperson for a group called Canada Family Action, which criticized "homosexual radicals" for "intolerant and ignorant" opposition to so-called conversion therapies, the practice of trying to change an individual's sexual orientation through psychological or spiritual claptrap.

During Cooper's tenure, Canada Family Action also opposed Ontario's sex education program, since scuttled by Premier Doug Ford, accused the Harper Conservatives in Ottawa of being soft on child porn, and promoted the theory Hollywood was punishing Alberta for its conservative values by deciding to film the 2005 movie Brokeback Mountain in this province.

Cooper's predecessor in the Speaker's chair, New Democrat Bob Wanner, who chose not to seek re-election in April, will presumably now have the opportunity to choose an artist to portray him in oils to be displayed on the wall of the legislature's rotunda.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: Nathan Cooper/Facebook 

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