In a decision that's already sparking controversy, Wildrose members -including leader Danielle Smith -overwhelmingly voted to disband the Alberta Human Rights Commission, but keep the overarching legislation in place and allow complaints to be dealt with by the courts.
Details are sparse, but it sounds like Ms. Smith is planning the same kind of reforms Brad Wall has tried to implement in Saskatchewan. The downsides to this are:
1) Limiting Access:
A tribunal is also a much more relaxed and less expensive setting than the formality and complexity of a courtroom. Rules of evidence are not as stringent. Claimants are not faced with the intimidation that comes with such trappings as lawyers and judges wearing robes. Given that human rights complainants very often come from marginalized, low-income communities, this informality goes far in boosting both comfort and confidence.
2) Raising costs to the province. In Saskatchewan:
"The only difference will be is that they [applicants] are going to be in front of a Court of Queen's Bench judge rather than a tribunal member. So everything else will be exactly the same as it was. So the people that are the applicants that are before the court ... will bear no cost, as they do under the existing system."
If the Wildrose Alliance scheme follows the Sask. model, the province will continue to pick up the bill for complainants. But the price of bringing a complaint to the court vs. a tribunal is quite a bit higher. Hence the cost of running Alberta's human rights apparatus will go up.
As for the political calculations behind this, the Human Rights Commissions/Tribunals has always been a bugaboo of Wildrosers. Back in 2008 they were endorsed by the Aryan Guard for their strong stand against the Canadian Human Rights Commission, an endorsement they quickly rejected. Later, sensing the political winds, they even decided they weren't against the hate-speech provisions in Alberta's human rights legislation. Under their latest scheme, you'd still be able to pursue hate-speech complaints--it would just cost the province more.
Who know how this is all supposed to be coherent?