PC leadership contender talks tough in Okotoks appearance
Politics: Jim Prentice "disappointed" with province's direction
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 06, 2014 01:33 pm
One of the lead contenders for the leadership of the scandal plagued Alberta Progressive Conservative Party wants to assure foothills residents he would do things differently if he becomes premier.
Former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice said he is disappointed with what he has seen in the provincial government and where Alberta is headed.
“I’m not satisfied with where this province is going, somewhere along the way we lost direction in this province,” he said.
Prentice spoke to a group of more than 40 party supporters and foothills residents at the Okotoks Elks Hall on July 29. The meeting was organized by the Sirroco Golf Club and follows a similar event held at the club a week earlier hosting fellow leadership contender Ric McIvor.
Prentice served as one of the highest-ranking members of Prime Minster Stephen Harper’s government during his tenure as a member of parliament from 2004 to 2010.
Prentice is one of three looking to replace former premier Alison Redford, who resigned earlier this year over travel expenses and suggestions of a culture of entitlement within the party.
He said he isn’t happy with what was going on and Albertans are looking for someone from outside the existing party system to clean it up.
“Obviously everyone is angry about what they see, I’m angry personally, that’s one of the reasons I’m running,” he said. “We need to do better than this as a party and as a province.”
Prentice said he would run a more transparent government. He said the Province should provide regular report cards to Albertans, but transparency also means ending any culture of entitlement that has taken root in the party.
When asked during the meeting how he would deal with the “old boys club” within the PC Party, Prentice answered plainly.
“It wouldn’t be there when I’m finished,” he said.
Prentice told the audience he would balance the provincial budget and pay off accumulated debt. He also said he would save 50 per cent of Alberta’s surpluses and the remaining half would go to debt reduction and infrastructure.
Prentice also said he would work to build Alberta’s economy and new pipelines to the west coast are critical. He said the province became too reliant on the U.S. for its oil exports and pipelines need to be built to the west coast to get the best price on the international markets for Alberta oil.
It may not be what some want to hear, but Prentice said a pipeline to the west coast won’t be built unless the provincial government negotiates a deal with the B.C. government and First Nations. He said the discussions start with the environment and end with the economy.
Prentice argued Alberta’s tremendous growth means the province has to continue to build infrastructure to keep up. For example, for every 100,000 people who come to Alberta, there are at least 15,000 school age children and the Province will need to build as many as 28 new schools.
He also said the Water For Life program needs to be continued and refunded to ensure growing communities have a secure supply of water. The program, which has been used as a source of funds to pay for water pipeline projects in the past, has seen its funding cut in recent years.
According to Prentice, the province needs strong regional plans that Albertans can accept.
He wouldn’t say whether or not he would legislate the Calgary Metropolitan Plan, which was created by the Calgary Regional Partnership. However, he said there needs to be a “more robust discussion” about what will happen with the document.
Prentice said it is important to ensuring the voices of small and rural communities are heard over Alberta’s two large urban centres. He said this starts with respecting their unique position in Alberta.
“It’s about making sure that we respect rural Alberta and we build a province that has excellence for all of us,” he said.
Prentice said he favours a public health system, but added it has become too bureaucratic. He said it doesn’t make sense to have one person, at the top of one organization (AHS) to run the province’s health care system. He said he would empower regional advisory committees that would report to the health minister.