Greg Clark Addresses Alberta Party AGM
Posted on February 21, 2015 by Katherine Taylor
Who would have thought that since I last spoke to an Alberta Party convention—just a year and a half ago—that we would have gone through three premiers and that I would be the longest serving leader of a major Alberta political party. They call me the “new guy” and I’ve been here longer than all of them!
It’s great to be in Red Deer this weekend. I want to acknowledge that Red Deer is located on the border of traditional Treaty 6 and Treaty 7 lands, and I want to recognize the important work of local bands and band leaders here and across the province.
Friends, I am thrilled to be here with you this weekend. After the productive discussions with many of you, one thing is very clear; the Alberta Party is on the move.
I joined the Alberta Party because I am proud to be an Albertan. Alberta is an amazing place to call home. A place of opportunity, a place where hard work is rewarded, a place rich with natural resources and exceptional beauty.
But for the last few months all we have heard from Jim Prentice is doom and gloom. About how terrible things are, about the radical steps and massive cuts required to fix our government finances. And most of all, that we should be very afraid.
But let me tell you something…I’m not afraid. Are you?
In fact, I am incredibly optimistic about the future of our province.
In the 110 years since Alberta joined Confederation we have faced immense challenges. But each and every time we have met those challenges head on. And the result is a province we can be proud to call home, made up of people we are proud to call our neighbours.
Whether it has been drought, slumping oil prices, floods or wildfires; Albertans have met each and every challenge with optimism and determination. And we always come out the other side stronger. We are a province that doesn’t know the meaning of the word quit.
That Alberta spirit of determination and optimism is a core part of the Alberta Party. Doubters have told us that what we are trying to do can’t be done. That it’s an impossible task to build a new political party in a province with a 43 year political dynasty. Well, do you believe them?
Good. Because Albertans have always made the impossible possible. People more than a century ago were told it was an impossible task to establish farms and homesteads, or even to survive an Alberta winter; oilsands pioneers were told it was impossible to overcome the technical challenges to produce oilsands economically; medical researchers at the University of Alberta were told nothing could be done to improve the lives of people with Type 1 diabetes; doctors at the University of Calgary were told every stroke was a death sentence. They didn’t give up, they didn’t take no for an answer…and our province, our world, is a better place for it.
These Albertans and so many more like them overcame great odds because they chose to lead.
And now we hear about the very real challenges of climate change or market access or low oil prices and the impact all of these will have on Alberta.
These are not challenges or problems to be afraid of. These are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that only Albertans can solve.
But we will solve them only if we have a vision, and the bravery and skills to achieve that vision.
Now…who here thinks there is going to be an election called soon? Who thinks there SHOULD be an election called soon? Whether we like it or not, we are about to have an expensive, unnecessary election this spring. And the election is about one thing: ensuring Jim Prentice has an unchallenged and overwhelming majority. Then he gets to do what he wants.
Like he did when he overturned a decision of a supposedly independent committee of the Legislature and cut funding not only to the Child and Youth Advocate, but to the Auditor General as well. Just like when he initially cancelled the Calgary Cancer Centre then unilaterally decided it was better suited more than 45 minutes away from the University, the Children’s Hospital and the research hub that drives life-saving discoveries. Or when he ensured the defeat of Bill 202 in favour of Bill 10, one of the most divisive and hurtful pieces of Legislation in recent memory. Or when he arbitrarily said public sector workers should bear the brunt of massive and totally unnecessary cutbacks.
Jim Prentice is calling this election now, after gutting the official opposition, when two parties have interim leaders, a full year before his own party’s law says he should...simply to steal this election by denying Albertans a real choice.
But I’m going to tell you here and now. WE ARE NOT GOING TO LET THAT HAPPEN.
The Alberta Party is ready to challenge this government. We have nominated strong, smart, and impressive candidates across the province, and we will be announcing more high quality candidates in the next few weeks. We have an experienced, passionate campaign team in place, and we are ready to fight this election.
But we will not succeed by focusing only on the abuses of power and entitlement in the PC party. These are well known. This election will be about the Alberta Party’s vision for the future, a vision rooted not only in optimism, but in deep appreciation for the possibilities of this province.
Our plan will balance the books, diversify our economy, protect our environment and save for the future. Our plan will make sure we have the roads, schools, universities, health care, seniors care and infrastructure we need to make Alberta truly great. Our plan will ensure people, ALL people, regardless of cultural background, gender, sexual identification or income level, are treated with dignity and respect.
This plan is rooted in the six core values of the Alberta Party. Prosperity, Fiscal and Social Responsibility, Sustainability, Democracy and Quality of Life. These are the values our party was founded on, because they are the quintessential Albertan values.
How are we going to live up to these principles and values? Like the people who have made our communities and this province great, the Alberta Party chooses to lead.
Which I am proud to announce will be our theme for the 2015 general election.
In this election, we choose to lead the fundamental transformation away from using unpredictable resource revenues to fund core programs in health, education, human services and everything we value.
Unlike the PCs who cross their fingers and hope oil prices go up so they can fund kindergarten, the Alberta Party will make the hard decisions needed to ensure we use stable, predictable revenues to fund all core programs. In the coming days and weeks we will roll out our Economic Recovery Plan. This plan finds the right balance between stable revenues, ensuring every taxpayer dollar is spent efficiently, and responsible borrowing.
Albertans are fortunate. We have been given the gift of vast natural resources, but our current government has relied for too long on the bounty from these resources to fund core programs, and, simply put, have cut taxes too far.
You may not expect to hear that from an Alberta political leader. But it’s time to be honest about the situation we find ourselves in after 43 years of PC mismanagement, and it’s time to be bold.
It’s well known that Alberta has the lowest tax rates in Canada, but did you know Alberta pays $11B less in tax than the NEXT LOWEST province? Not $11B lower than the national average, or the highest taxed province, but $11B lower than #9 in the list of the 10 Canadian provinces.
This gap is unsustainable and has led to massive budget deficits when energy royalties drop, which they eventually always do. But even in the ‘good times’ Alberta struggles to keep up. And while there is a lot of criticism to go around for poor management of our public services and there are certainly budget efficiencies to be found, none of the blame, none of the blame, should go to our dedicated public servants; teachers, nurses, doctors, government employees who provide the critical services we all rely upon.
Each and every person working on the front lines of Alberta’s public services has made a fair deal with the government. None more so than teachers, who agreed to a 0% salary increase three years in a row.
Friends, a deal is a deal, and the Alberta Party will fight against a wage rollback for teachers, nurses and all Alberta public servants
An Alberta Party government will take a balanced approach to moving Alberta to a more stable economic footing. Both businesses and Albertans will contribute to the solution. The Alberta Party would move corporate taxes from being the very lowest in Canada to tied for lowest; we would eliminate the unfair flat tax that hurts middle and low income earners and implement a fairer progressive income tax, and we would make modest, permanent increases to what is currently the lowest gas tax in Canada. We would not implement a health care premium, or a sales tax, because both hurt those least able to pay.
These changes would generate between $3 and $4 Billion in recurring revenues, year in, year out. This would be used to build the schools we need, the long term care we need, the post-secondary spaces we need and, most importantly, it would ensure stable, predictable funding to our core services. An additional $325 million in one-time revenue will come from the aggressive collection of unpaid corporate taxes the Auditor General determined our government has chosen not to collect, and we would find $250 million in annual savings through cost efficiencies found through management improvements in the administration of our public services.
This will make up most or all of the budget shortfall this year, because I believe Jim Prentice isn’t telling the truth when he predicts a seven billion dollar deficit. He’s setting us up for massive cuts to public services rather than choosing to lead and making the hard decisions the Alberta Party is willing to make.
We believe in responsible borrowing to invest in critical infrastructure projects and to catch up on the massive maintenance backlog created by years of PC under-investment.
And when energy royalties recover, future surpluses would be reinvested into the Heritage Fund to ensure both current and future generations benefit from our resource wealth, unlike the PCs who haven’t contributed to the Heritage Fund since 1987.
To ensure we are never in this position again, the Alberta Party will choose to lead in diversifying Alberta’s economy to safeguard our economic wellbeing against an uncertain future. Unlike the PCs who have put our province in a position to be ‘all-in’ on oil and gas. And while I am fiercely proud of our energy industry and I believe we should continue the responsible development of our natural resources, Alberta has huge, untapped potential as the world transitions to a knowledge-based economy.
I believe we should support entrepreneurs and start-ups because I fundamentally believe in market-driven diversification. An Alberta Party government would implement a three-year tax holiday for new businesses and we would invest a minimum of $100 million in seed capital in an Alberta Enterprise Fund, an arms-length agency that would invest in companies whose focus goes beyond oil and gas. This will allow Alberta to build from our strengths in energy to encourage innovation in green technologies and renewable energy, apply our natural strength in agriculture to expand our agri-food industry, and ensure we give bio-tech and emerging information technologies companies the support they need to thrive.
In healthcare, the Alberta Party chooses to lead the transformation of our healthcare system from an acute ‘sickness care’ system, to a true healthcare system by ensuring all Albertans have easy access to preventative primary healthcare in their community. We will build continuing care and long-term care beds, but that’s only part of the solution. Most want to age in their own homes, closer to family, for as long as possible. The Alberta Party will ensure quality home care is available to all Albertans. We will choose to lead in mental health, creating a true provincial mental health strategy and unlike so many strategies we’ve seen from this government, we will follow through with the resources and time needed to implement the strategy. And unlike the PC’s who have allowed the creeping privatization of healthcare, the Alberta Party will fiercely defend public healthcare in Alberta.
In education, the Alberta Party chooses to lead by creating a system that will equip the next generation with the critical thinking skills they will need to succeed in a rapidly-changing world. Unlike our current education minister who, when he does actually speak, talks about a regressive “back to basics” approach that was outdated decades ago. The Alberta Party is committed to the full implementation of Inspiring Education and we will reduce the amount of taxpayer funding to private schools in favour of more support for public education.
We will make the investments necessary to eliminate school fees, which are currently the highest in Canada. And we will, without question, support all students—regardless of gender or sexual identity—and ensure they are able to form GSAs on school property without having to mount a court challenge.
Post-secondary education has already endured more than its fair share of cuts. The Alberta Party will invest in post-secondary education to ensure those who qualify have the opportunity to go to school without incurring crippling debt loads. We will move Alberta’s post-secondary participation rate up from being the very lowest in Canada. We will work with our universities—not against them—to ensure stable long-term funding so that they can do the hard work of educating the future leaders of Alberta, not spend their time planning fundraisers so they can keep their departments open.
Climate change, water and land use issues should not be seen as a barrier to be overcome by our energy industry and others, but as the single greatest opportunity we’ve seen in a generation. A government that chooses to lead would recognize that Alberta is in a unique position; if we choose to apply our expertise in engineering to reducing carbon emissions from large industrial processes, we will not only have succeeded at creating technologies and companies that will help diversify our economy, but the world will want to do business with Alberta. We choose to lead by accelerating the phase-out of coal-fired power, and by implementing a renewable energy strategy that would ensure much more of Alberta’s electricity is generated from renewable sources. Genuine, true leadership on the environment will create the conditions necessary for us to earn access to markets that will allow our energy industry to continue to thrive.
The Alberta Party chooses to lead in poverty reduction, by implementing a province-wide plan to lift every single one of the more than 100,000 children currently living in low income households out of poverty.
We choose to lead in creating new and better relationships with First Nations, with acknowledgement of past injustices, and a commitment for healing over the long term. We believe in genuine engagement that goes beyond only economic opportunities.
We choose to lead in creating a new relationship with municipalities that makes them true partners and recognizes their role in delivering many of the services, and building the infrastructure that make our communities good places to make a living, and great places to make a life.
We choose to lead by investing in Alberta’s creative industries because we recognize the social and economic value arts and culture brings to our province. We believe the arts can play a major role in diversifying our economy and improving our already great quality of life.
So, if you hear anyone say the Alberta Party doesn’t have strong policy, tell them what I just told you! This is our platform for the 2015 election and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you and with Albertans.
But this election will be about more than just great policy. It is about the very foundations of our democracy. We have a Premier who plays fast-and-loose with the rules to ensure he gets what he wants, and who treats our sacred democratic institutions as an inconvenience to be ignored. Alberta needs a government committed to democracy led by a party committed to democracy. Perhaps my favourite of all Alberta Party policies is our MLA guideline, that says the #1 job of an MLA is to represent their constituents, and which reaffirms our commitment to free votes in the Legislature. A foundational principle of the Alberta Party is to restore Alberta’s democracy. And in this election, we choose to lead and do exactly that.
So as you can see…in this campaign, and always, the Alberta Party will focus on the issues that matter to Albertans. We have a vision for Alberta, an optimistic vision that will ensure our province is economically prosperous and socially strong now, and long into the future.
And it is because of this vision that every day more and more people are choosing to join the Alberta Party. Including many of you.
The Alberta Party is open to everyone who shares our values and vision for Alberta. A lot like Alberta itself; many of us come from somewhere else. In the case of the Alberta Party most of our members were once supporters of other parties. I used to work for Lawrence Decore, our Executive Director used to be part of the Wildrose and Alberta Party members have previously been Liberals, PCs, NDs, Wildrosers, Greens or in many cases never involved in politics at all.
Some people find this confusing. I say we're the only party that truly reflects the diversity of our great province. Our party has rejected the politics of division that say people either have to be right or left.
And the Alberta Party is about more than just standing up to an overwhelming PC majority. Our broad appeal, connection to our community, visionary policy and great people means the Alberta Party is on track to give Albertans better government, sooner, rather than later. That isn’t something the NDP or any other opposition party can say.
Alberta doesn’t just need a better opposition, we need a better government.
The Alberta Party is a group of people united by a common vision for Alberta based on a strong set of shared values and goals for our province.
But to achieve this vision we need each and every person in this room, we need your friends, family, networks and communities. We need you to continue to be the ambassadors for our party. We need you to volunteer and to support our candidates. We need you to run as candidates. We need you to help raise the money we will need to fight this election.
Friends, our moment is here and our time is now.
2015 is the year we elect the first Alberta Party MLAs to the Alberta Legislature!
Like I said, it starts here.
Today, in this room, with all of you.
Today, we choose to lead!