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Greg Clark's Alberta Together Speech

Posted on June 24, 2017 by Robbie Kreger-Smith

There are a few occasions in life when the circumstances are right to sit back and think about stuff.

This is one of those times.

You are all here because you are thoughtfully considering the path forward.

You know what you believe in.

You believe in responsible and accountable government spending.

You also believe in compassionate government for those who need a hand up in life, even if it costs a few bucks.

I suspect all of you are the kind of people who believe that our friends and neighbours have the right to chart their own destiny, and no matter who they were born to be, or who they choose to be, they have the right to be treated with dignity, respect and equality.

And you are all here because you believe passionately in making the decisions that guide our province, not standing on the sidelines. 

The challenge is, some of you aren’t entirely sure what path lays before us.

For most of you, I bet that feels a bit odd.

Many of you have had a party allegiance for a long time. A lot of you bleed blue, or red, or maybe even orange or green.

And yet, today, that long time allegiance feels like it needs a review.

I believe that polarization is dangerous to the body politic. And yet polarization is too often where politics seems to be going today. 

Hilary versus Donald. Brexit versus Remain. Teresa May versus Jeremy Corbyn.

In each of these contests, the results were very close – within a point or two, essentially a split down the middle.

While that leaves half of the population elated, it leaves the other half in dismay. Disappointment at the loss, yes, but more critically, dismayed that the forces so opposed to their values will now be in charge.

I believe it leaves a population deeply divided and discouraged. It leads to some of the alarmingly intemperate language and opinions that pass for public discourse these days.

And it leaves moderate people deeply concerned that they are being led from a fringe to a place they don’t want to go.

But then consider France. What ended the polarization in France, what stopped Marine LePen, was a man who entered politics in 2012 and a party that was founded just over a year ago.

France opted for Emmanuel Macron’s more centrist vision. Voters rejected the old choices, and they rejected extremes. They rejected the far right. They rejected the far left. They voted for new, and fresh, and different. 

Left and right are no longer labels that make sense to today’s electorate. It’s a way to tag people, and then dispose of them.

And that’s not what we want to be about.

There’s another phenomena. Millennials. By 2019, millennials will be the largest single voting bloc in Canada, and in Alberta. They will displace Baby Boomers as the defining voice of the electorate.

But if you have older kids, you know millennials don’t even understand why we are arguing about LGBTQ rights. They don’t understand why we are questioning climate change, rather than getting on with making a better plan. 

And yes, they vote.

In the UK election, it is estimated that about 72% of voters aged 18 to 25 voted. And 71% of those voted Labour. Observers credit them with blocking Theresa May from getting her majority government.

We ignore those voters at our peril. Yet Jason Kenney this week said that young people don’t have enough life experience to know that they ought to be voting conservative .

He says that Bill 1 in a Kenney government will be repealing the Climate Change Plan. Whether you think this is the right plan or not, you won’t win millennial votes without an effective alternative plan.

And the Wildrose continue to alienate millennials with one bozo eruption after another about LGBTQ rights, or racism, or misogyny or all of the other ways in which people different from themselves are just a little bit lower down the ladder.

But the NDP is also not the answer either. Millennials – and I believe the vast majority of Alberta voters – care deeply about the huge debt that is being run up. And who is going to pay it.

Albertans care about the dozens of instances where the NDP government is trying to solve problems with undue haste by throwing money at issues that actually require more thoughtful solutions.

And Albertans are worried about the costs being piled onto small businesses and individuals in the form of rising fees, taxes, and costs of doing business or just plain living.

So on one hand, profligate spending and huge debt. On the other hand, policies and attitudes that look backward rather than forward.

Polarization in Alberta is on the horizon.

Unless we stop it.

I think most of you are here because you don’t fit on either fringe.

I also believe most Alberta voters don’t belong on either fringe.

We need to give them another choice.

Albertans want to be engaged in politics. They want to participate in choosing their leaders, and have the right to criticize us too.

But they want to support leaders and parties who share their values.

So what are we going to do about it?

I am here to make the argument that we must consolidate our forces. We will not win by running separate empires and splitting the middle of the road vote between us.

I strongly believe that we must offer Albertans a single choice in the centre.

I am also here to argue that the best way to do that is through a party that already exists. We have less than two years before the next election. That is just enough time for a party that already exists.

But it is virtually impossible for a party that would start without a name, a constitution, the basic infrastructure, even a bank account.

That still leaves more than one option, and some of you in this room will be members and long time supporters of the Liberal Party. I mean no disrespect to you and your commitment when I make the argument for the Alberta Party.

Alberta is a place that people come to and are welcomed; and the Alberta Party is also a place that people come to and are welcomed, from other political parties, or no political party.

That gives us a sense of possibility. Of what we can achieve together, free of the baggage of history. Free to chart a new course together. Free to offer Alberta voters what they are craving.

We can build something from the ground up, on a foundation that is already in place. The concrete has been poured, but the house can still be designed by the architects in this room. 

The Alberta Party is a fresh beginning.

We are optimists. We are here because we do believe there’s a path forward.

The Alberta Party has some ideas for Alberta that I’d like to share with you. In response to the NDP financial plan, we propose this:

Constrain spending by 1% per year

Freeze public sector salaries

Continue responsible investment of capital dollars

Make the carbon tax revenue neutral by cutting personal, small business and corporate tax while retaining rebates for lower income Albertans

Those are responsible, sensible ideas I think most Albertans can embrace.

These ideas are built on strong fiscal discipline, and work toward getting Alberta off the resources revenue roller coaster: a roller coaster where the price of a barrel of oil dictates how big our kids’ class size is or how long the wait time is in Emergency.

We need to fund front line services with a responsible plan that works in the long term, not just the short term. 

Let me make one more point about policy.

The world of tomorrow will be built on knowledge based economies. The prizes will go to the jurisdictions that can attract and support the smartest minds in the world.

And in a world where technology means you can work just about anywhere you want to, what would bring those smart minds to Alberta? 

It won’t be our winter weather.

But we have – and can continue to build – the best quality of life anywhere in the world.

We can have a clean environment, and can make it even better. We can have high quality education and health care, and can make it even better. We have well supported research universities and technology incubators and they can be better too.

But other jurisdictions have those things too.

The difference will be quality of life. People will look for a place that is safe, where they can walk to the corner store with confidence. They want recreation options for themselves and their kids. They want art and music and sports.

We need balanced budgets, AND we need a world-class quality of life.

My friends, we can do both.

The people in this room are smart and thoughtful. We have life experiences that can inform smart, sensible policy solutions.

It is time to think differently. To ask difficult questions and not be afraid of the answers.

To propose bold, effective solutions.

We won’t reject smart ideas because they don’t fit into 140-character tweets. Albertans are ready for something more than hashtag politics.

And they are ready for a political option that isn’t about its own turf warfare. That isn’t just about gaining or keeping power.

I believe Albertans are ready for an option that genuinely cares about Alberta’s future, and offers an honest, open, vision, delivered by spokespeople who genuinely care.

The people in this room are a formidable political force. You are smart, motivated and caring.

I propose to you that your considerable talents are not best spent on rebuilding a new foundation, pouring a new concrete base.

Instead let’s immediately turn your talents into solving the challenges that Alberta faces, and discussing those ideas with Albertans as we move toward a provincial election in 2019.

We don’t have much time.

Frankly, we need to start making decisions today. You have taken several weeks, even a few months, to mourn the loss of parties that used to hold your allegiance. But we cannot linger much longer.

If you still need time to think, then take that time. But for those of you who are ready to get started on something new, something optimistic and pragmatic, then now is the time.

We have less than two years before the next election.

We need to build our party coffers. I think there are people willing to fund a movement in the centre, but we need to collect those cheques and put them in the bank.

We need 87 active constituency associations.

Getting that framework in place will lead to the next important milestone: we need 87 candidates who look like Alberta – strong women and men, indigenous people, and people who reflect Alberta’s cultural diversity. 87 really smart, bold, innovative and hardworking people to put their names forward as candidates.

People ready to spend a year knocking on doors and talking with Albertans.

Those people will come forward when we have money, organization and inspiring policies.

So I am asking you: let’s focus talent and resources where they can do the most good – building a new party on an existing foundation. Starting today to talk to Albertans about a modern, moderate vision for the future.

People sometimes ask if I’m worried about my party being taken over. I’m not worried. Because once you join, it’s not my party. It is our party.

We are the Alberta Party, and we want to build a better province.

Together that’s just what we will do.

Thank you.

 


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