By Naomi Knoch, SEARCH Apprentice Writer[TheChristians.com] It’s official – Albertans will head to the polls April 16th. Premier Rachel Notley, head of the New Democrat Party (NDP), called the election on Tuesday and said the decision facing voters hinges on who is most qualified to lead. “This issue goes directly to the choice before Albertans; this goes to the choice of who’s going to be premier and who’s fit to be premier of Alberta,” she told a crowd gathered at the Calgary National Music Centre.
VIDEO: [Calgary Herald] Alberta Premier Rachael Notley calls April 16 provincial election. [March 19, 2019]
United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney officially kicked off the 28-day campaign at an event in Leduc. The UCP’s platform focuses heavily on jobs, economy, and pipelines. “We would stop the NDP’s approach of apologizing and surrendering and we would start a new approach of fighting for Alberta.”
An Ipsos/Global News poll released Tuesday showed the UCP with a lead over the NDP. More than 53 per cent of Albertans polled stated they were “very certain” they would vote UCP, compared with 35 per cent backing the NDP.
Meanwhile, Alberta’s unemployment rates continue to rise, passing the two-year low of 6.2 per cent and moving on to 7.3 per cent as of February. Participation in the labour market is among the worst in an election since data was first recorded in 1976. Investment in Canada’s energy sector has dropped to a brutal 58 per cent this year and the growth forecast for Alberta shows the economy slowing to 1.3 per cent from 2.5 per cent in 2018.
Jobs and economy, along with education, taxes and pipeline construction are all issues struggling Albertans will take into account when they cast their ballots. Here are some the top promises made last week by political hopefuls aiming to form the next provincial government:
DOUBLE INCENTIVES FOR PERTROCHEMICAL/UPGRADING PROJECTS: Premier Rachael Notley headed into the second day of the campaign announcing that a re-elected government would double incentives for petrochemical and upgrading projects from $3.6 billion to $7 billion over the next decade. “We will supercharge this made-in-Alberta approach,” Notley said during a media event at a Cessco fabrication and engineering shop in Edmonton. Meanwhile, in a news release, the party promised to create 70,000 jobs by 2030. (Source: Edmonton Journal)
CARBON TAX AND BALANCED BUDGET: UCP leader Jason Kenney condemned the carbon tax as a “tax grab” that has “zero” effect on reducing emissions during a held a media availability in Lethbridge. When asked how long it would take UCP to balance the budget Kenney said a fully costed platform will come soon but it would be 2022-23. (Source: CJOC-FM)
CHILD CARE POLICY: Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel made a child care policy announcement in Edmonton saying his party would create a voucher system to improve access to day care. Unlike the NDP’s $25/day plan, there would be a means test based on family income, that would apply to all licensed spaces. Parents could use vouchers at private daycare and out-of-school care operators in addition to not-for-profit centres. The voucher system would cost about $1 billion a year, but it will pay for itself when people have child care and can return to work, earn more wages and pay more income tax, Mandel said. (Source: CBC News)
UCP INDUSTRY STRATEGY: UCP Leader Jason Kenney says if elected, his government wouldn’t take any flak from groups that have launched a “campaign of defamation” and applied a double standard to Alberta’s energy and resource sector. Addressing the Bow Valley Builders and Developers Association at a luncheon in Canmore, (March 14) Kenney outlined the need to move from a tactical posture to an assertive one in both the province and the energy industry. “We all know the economic consequences of being landlocked, but we need to drill down and look at what’s really happening, because I think while governments, and frankly the energy industry, have in some respects been playing checkers, the opponents of our prosperity have been playing chess and are several moves ahead of us.” (Source: Rocky Mountain Outlook)
INCREASE PROTESTERS BUBBLE ZONE: Parents and students complained after a small group of protesters held graphic anti-abortion signs outside Queen Elizabeth High school in Calgary. Provincial law prohibits protesters from coming within 50 yards of an abortion clinic, but Alberta Party candidate Angela Kokott thinks children should be protected from such images and the safe bubble should be expanded. John Carpay with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms says though shocking, the signs fall under freedom of expression and could not be defined as hate speech or illegal activity according to the criminal code. (Source: PMN Canada)
ABORTION: Will Jason Kenney legislate on abortion? The NDP certainly think so, claiming that Kenney has spent his entire career trying to “restrict access to abortion and roll back women’s rights.” Kenney on the other hand, says that over his 20 years in parliament, he’s never given a speech on abortion, let alone made a motion or presented a bill. A UCP spokesperson said both parties are aware that Albertans have differing views on this subject, and that the UCP plans to focus on “jobs and the economy, not divisive social issues.” (Source: Global News)
IS BRIAN JEAN RETURNING?: There are plenty of rumours flying on whether or not Brian Jean is returning to politics this 2019 election season. According to Calgary City Councillor Joe Magliocca, the former MLA and Wildrose Leader hopes to step back in as leader of the Freedom Conservative Party. So far Jean has neither confirmed nor denied the claim. The idea of Jean making a comeback has garnered very little support but a considerable amount of backlash, with many politicians taking to social media in shock and opposition. Steven Harper tweeted that “Personal ambition and fighting old battles must take a backseat to the best interests of the province.” (Source: CBC News)
NEW NDP HEALTH BILL: Health care is expected to be a key dividing issue in the upcoming campaign. UCP wants to explore more private delivery options, while Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman is in the process of introducing legislation to strengthen the public health system. Hoffman says she’s been considering changes for a while and is not trying to drive a wedge between the two parties. However, Kenney views the NDP’s plan as a political prop, to frighten voters into believing his party poses a threat to publicly-funded health care, saying, “They love trying to scare patients and seniors.” (Source: Global News)
ANTI-KENNEY WEBSITES: Two more NDP authorized websites were recently launched in an attempt to dig up dirt on Kenney: meetjasonkenney.ca and backwardmachine.ca The NDP say their aim is to share truths about Kenney, so Albertans can make informed decisions. The intro on one site reads: “The scandal-ridden, ruthless agenda of Jason Kenny and the UCP.” Kenney, however, doesn’t seem overly concerned: “I guess I’m flattered.” He said he considers it a last ditch effort on the NDP’s part to distract from the economy and job issues. “If they want to go to the gutter, they’ll get dirty. But we’ll stay focused on positive issues.” (Source: Edmonton Journal)
CORPORATE TAX CUTS: Jason Kenney continues to stand in support of what he’s calling a “job-creation tax cut.” He says a jolt is needed to spur the economy forward. “We have to get the attention of investors across Canada and the world that we’re open for business,” says Kenney. NDP are calling the plan a historic giveaway, that Notley claims will “blow a hole” in any budget balancing efforts. (Source: Medicine Hat News)
UCP TO KILL BILL 6: At a Ramsey area farm on March 12th, Jason Kenney announced his party aims to repeal Bill 6. The legislation that was implemented after two years of consultation, requires all farmers with paid employees to have WCB coverage. Kenney says he has not met with a single farmer who supports Bill 6, and considers it a product of an NDP agenda that undermines Alberta’s agriculture and agri-food industry. (Source: Western Producer)
OIL AND GAS: Alberta’s energy future looks fairly bleak right now, despite the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicting world-wide increase in demand for oil by 7.3 per cent over the next five years. Three-quarters of that demand will be met with oil from the U.S. IEA stated it sees very little investment going into further development of new oil production in Alberta. Put together, federal and provincial actions have scared away at least $100 billion in investment. Meanwhile, Alberta is projected to have the slowest growth rate of any province in 2019. Every barrel the province doesn’t sell, simply gets made up for by a barrel from somewhere else. (Source: Edmonton Sun)
BALANCING THE BUDGET: NDP Finance Minister Joe Ceci announced an Alberta deficit of $6.9 billion for the 2018-2019 fiscal year – down from the $8.8 billion in his financial blueprint last March. Current debt is pegged at $56.8 billion, with a projected rise to a staggering $95 billion by 2024. This doesn’t look good, especially compared to the Progressive Conservative’s $1.1 billion surplus in 2015. The UCP are saying Ceci’s update affirms the province is racking up crushing debt-loads by a party that has promised – and failed – to meet self-imposed deadlines to balance the books. In contrast, Ceci considers the update good news. “We’re on track to balance the budget by 2023 and we’ll continue to have the best balance sheet in the country.” Alberta Party finance critic Greg Clark said the path to balancing the budget by 2023-2024 is unrealistic because non-renewable resource revenues would need to more than double to $12.3 billion by 2024. (Source: Global News)
NDP PLAN TO REDUCE GREENHOUSE GASES: Environment Minister Shannon Phillips announced Alberta will spend $100 billion in new green transportation projects. The province is funding 16 new initiatives and says it will create 114 jobs, as well as taking the equivalent of 530,000 cars off the road in terms of GHG. Phillips spoke in Edmonton on March 12th, where plans are underway to test market a more equitable charging system to transfer buses from diesel over to electric. “Alberta is better positioned than ever before to help our homegrown industries reduce emissions and become more competitive in a lower-carbon future,” stated Phillips. (Source: Global News)
PIPELINES: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says her government will spend $3.7 billion to lease about 4,400 new rail cars to move up to 120,000 barrels per day by 2020, with shipments starting as early as July this year. With the work on the Trans Mountain pipeline delayed and other pipelines abandoned, the oil industry has been forced to ship to refineries and ports by train. According to the National Energy Board, trains are shipping record amounts of crude oil by rail, with amounts more than doubling between December 2017 and 2018. (Source: The Star)
UCP TO AXE EDMONTON SUPERLAB: The Notley government plans to put testing services in Edmonton under one agency, Alberta Public Laboratories, launching a new superlab that would cost $590 million. DynaLife currently handles all medical testing in Edmonton, but the NDP plan to buy the company out for $50 million when their contract ends in 2022. Jason Kenney calls the new NDP lab project a bureaucratic “boondoggle.” He adds that it’s absolutely “out of the question”, and that the NDP are trying to shift workers from the private to the public sector because of a “deep ideological bias towards government monopoly delivery of services.” (Source: Global News)