LETHBRIDGE, A.B. – Energy policy dominated the Alberta election campaign Wednesday as the New Democrats promised more oil and gas processing in the province and the United Conservatives hammered the provincial and federal governments on carbon taxes.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley began Day 2 of the campaign in Edmonton, where she announced plans to double incentives for petrochemical and upgrading projects over the next decade to $7 billion.
“If you want an Alberta that is serious about diversifying, serious about acting like an owner, serious about making sure we are less vulnerable to a single resource sold at a single price to a single buyer _ then I ask you to re-elect me as your premier,” she said at a fabrication and engineering shop where workers wearing hard hats stood behind her.
The plan _ an extension of incentives the government already offers _ aims to unlock $75 billion in investment, create 70,000 jobs and significantly increase the amount of petroleum processed in the province by 2030.
United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney _ speaking at an ironworks company in Lethbridge and also flanked by workers in hard hats _ said he’s not necessarily against the idea of royalty credits.
“But the best way to support … small businesses around here is to get the economic fundamentals right, cut the red tape, get investment confidence back in Alberta instead of picking a handful of winners and losers.”
Kenney reiterated his promise to repeal the NDP’s carbon tax as his government’s first order of business if elected premier on April 16. He said it would save Albertans $1.4 billion annually in “one fell swoop.”
He took aim at NDP suggestions that the carbon tax is revenue neutral and that it’s progressive because of rebates.
“What the NDP has done with their carbon tax cash grab is to punish people for living normal lives in this big, cold, northern, energy- intensive economy. It makes no sense.”
Kenney also said if Ottawa were to impose its own carbon tax on Alberta, his government would fight it in court as some other provinces have done.
Also Wednesday, incumbent Edmonton NDP MLA Sarah Hoffman announced a TV ad attacking Kenney’s record on LGBTQ rights, particularly his role in a campaign to overturn a law extending hospital visitation rights to gay couples during the 1980s AIDS epidemic in San Francisco. Decades-old audio of him discussing that campaign surfaced late last year and Kenney has since said he regrets those remarks.
When asked whether the negative campaigning might sour voters, Hoffman said: “I believe Jason Kenney’s unfit to be premier of Alberta and that Albertans deserve to know who the real Jason Kenney is.”
Also on Wednesday, Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel announced that a government led by him would provide vouchers and tax credits to help families with kids in daycare or after-school care.
Liberal Leader David Khan promised to reduce class sizes, cap their numbers and boost education funding.