Judging by what Official Opposition leader and UCP boss Jason Kenney said at a regional fundraiser, he and his party are more than ready to face the NDP government in the 2019 provincial election.
Kenney, speaking at a UCP fundraiser for UCP MLA Mark Smith at Marci’s Bar and Grill Mar. 24, said these look like very good times for his party.
The UCP leader said his party is the largest provincial party in the country and every poll suggests the UCP is also the most popular provincial party in Canada.
Kenney noted speaking in Devon was enjoyable as the area is a perfect cross-section of Alberta, with farming, oil patch, urban and rural all closely tied together.
Kenney said winning a by-election to nab a seat in the legislature, then the new session beginning, has been eye-opening. One of the most memorable things that’s happened is simply seeing the provincial motto engraved on a wall, “Fortis et Liber,” Latin for “Strong and Free.”
Kenney said, “That is the Alberta that is under attack.” He went on to explain that almost two years ago, while still a federal MP, he decided to leave Ottawa and get the ball rolling on the conservative unity movement in Alberta.
Kenney said he feels the previous Progressive Conservative government had a problem, and that problem was arrogance coupled with a sense of entitlement. He said the PCs did a lot of great work but their entitlement problem contributed to things like bad leadership choices. Kenney said the UCP knows it must stay humble.
Looking at the previous provincial election, Kenney noted that combined results for the two parties that now make up the UCP, Wildrose and PC, were over 65 per cent, an easy win for any constituency and illustrative of the benefits of unity. “We’re bigger together,” said Kenney. “The sum is greater than the parts.” The UCP leader stated the party wants to ensure every voter knows both they and their vote counts.
The Official Opposition leader also asked UCP supporters present to attend the upcoming AGM May 4 to 6, buy memberships, donate and consider volunteering not only in Drayton-Devon, but in other constituencies as well. “This thing will not succeed by accident,” said Kenney.
Kenney stated, under heavy criticism, some thought the NDP government might step back in their new budget. “I actually thought the NDP…they might actually try to change course a little bit,” said the UCP leader. Kenney stated he suspected the NDP might try to steal the UCP’s thunder, such as policy on the rural crime epidemic.
Kenney noted that in the legislature in November, 2017, the NDP government said there was no crime problem in Alberta.
Kenney disputed that, noting it seems the problem is getting worse. “Break and enters have become home invasions,” said Kenney.
The UCP leader also stated he’s been vocal on how the pipeline approval problem should be handled, stating Alberta should follow former Premier Lougheed’s lead and turn off the oil supply to British Columbia. Kenney said Premier Rachel Notley mocked that idea, but now is suggesting it as a strategy. “I’m actually flattered they’re stealing out ideas on that,” said Kenney.
Looking at the budget overall, Kenney said it doesn’t look good for Alberta. “It is a fiscal train wreck,” he said. Kenney noted when the NDP were elected in 2015 Alberta had a debt of $13 billion and have driven that up to $56 billion and it looks like the debt will continue to climb to over $90 billion. Kenney said interest payments alone are $2 billion and will climb to $4 billion.
Kenney said Alberta now pays more in interest payments than the budgets of 19 of 23 government departments.
He also stated the carbon tax was quietly hiked by about 67 per cent in this budget. The tax has gone from $30 a tonne to $50 a tonne, a huge increase. “There is zero rebate for the incremental carbon tax,” said Kenney referred to it as the biggest tax hike and biggest lie in Alberta political history.
The UCP leader stated when the NDP government was elected in 2015 they hiked business tax and, not surprisingly, business tax revenue is now down in Alberta, with 175,000 unemployed Albertans, the highest rate in the country except for the Maritimes.
He said he’s sick of hearing about the NDP’s compassion for Albertans as they throw money away on interest and make future generations pay dearly for decisions the NDP makes now.
The Official Opposition leader said he’s concerned about changes to the education curriculum by the NDP, because it’s being done behind closed doors. He said fads, ideologies and politics should not be part of education. “I already think we have too much politics in the classroom,” said Kenney.
He also scoffed at Premier Notley’s suggestion that if Albertans take the bus to work in rural Alberta, they now have the “social license.” Kenney responded, “I keep checking my mail and I don’t have my social license yet.”
Kenney said he’s also frustrated by other provinces blocking Alberta’s ability to move oil and gas products. “What’s happening in the federation right now is fundamentally unfair.” Kenney described federal government subsidies for private businesses in other provinces some of which are exempt from emissions laws and said Premier Notley needs to accept responsibility for the lack of leadership Alberta is suffering.
Question and answer
Kenney then answered questions from the guests. He was asked if NDP bills would be repealed by a new UCP government in 2019. “We will be repealing those bills within a few weeks of coming into office,” said Kenney, who mentioned things like the carbon tax.
Kenney said a new UCP government and the legislature will spend the summer of 2019 examining and repealing NDP bills, the first of which would be the carbon tax.
Other questions included defining conservatism, the influence of labour unions on the NDP government, tariffs on foreign oil, rural crime and former Alberta government appointees protesting Alberta pipeline projects.