Premier hopeful says leaders need to be accountable

Politics: Thomas Lukaszik wants to build rural communities

By: Don Patterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014 12:13 pm

Alberta PC leadership hopeful Thomas Lukaszuk speaks during a public appearance in Edmonton in July.
Alberta PC leadership hopeful Thomas Lukaszuk speaks during a public appearance in Edmonton in July.

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For an Edmonton MLA looking to become Alberta’s next premier, the buck stops right at the top.

After recent revelations about former premier Alison Redford’s travel expenses and use of government airplanes, Alberta Progressive Conservative party leadership candidate Thomas Lukaszuk said regaining the trust of Albertans starts with having an accountable leader.

“The way to do it is to conduct yourself in an honourable way and deliver on whatever promises you made,” he said.

The Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA is facing Calgary MLA Ric McIver and former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice in the race to become the party’s leader. The first round of the leadership vote will be held on Sept. 6. If no one receives a majority of votes in the first round, a runoff vote will be held on Sept. 20.

Lukaszuk said the PC party needs to clear the air, or questions will always linger about whether there are any more skeletons in the closet. If he becomes premier, Lukaszuk said he would fully disclose all travel expenses for the premier and cabinet. He said he would ask Alberta’s auditor general to build on his recent report on the premier’s expenses and take on this additional work.

“I think the only person who can give us good advice now is the independent auditor general, because he started that work already,” he said.

Lukaszuk would forward any evidence of anything illegal to law enforcement, and he would seek any restitution necessary.

Going forward, he would close any spending loopholes and create an independent officer whose job would be to monitor and oversee the premier and cabinet.

“Who signs off on the premier’s expenses? No one,” he said.

“We need that legislative office.”

Lukaszuk said the provincial budget needs to be made clearer so Albertans will be able to understand it.

He said he would maintain a balanced operating budget each year, but he’d support borrowing to help pay for infrastructure.

According to Lukaszuk, the Province has fallen woefully behind with its infrastructure needs and significant investments are needed.

“Even though our operating budget will be balanced, we do have on the books – in a way that hasn’t really yet been shown properly – a horrendous infrastructure deficit,” he said.

He said the Province can’t pay for infrastructure with cash up front and there’s no way the government can build for the future without borrowing.

“There’s very little pride in bragging about the fact you’re putting money into a savings account when you’re not changing the roof on your house and the faucets are leaking,” he said.

The Province’s operating budget will end up limiting how much it borrows for infrastructure, Lukaszuk added.

“The operating budget is the cap,” he said. “You won’t build more schools than you can afford to staff. If I have to go into deficit to pay teachers’ salaries, then that means I built too many schools.”

As Alberta grows, he said its municipalities need to be able to work together.

The problem, he said, is provincial funding formulas don’t encourage municipal co-operation. He said there needs to be incentives to building partnerships and revisions to the provincial Municipal Government Act should encourage regional co-operation.

“We need to look at our MSI (municipal sustainability initiative) and our funding formulas to make sure that they reward collaboration,” he said.

Lukaszuk said it could help to solve some of the problems that have lead to friction between municipalities, such as water supply in the Calgary region.

“I know in Calgary and region control of water and water licences is a tool and a variable that often prevents a better collaborative relationship between municipalities,” he said.

In the future, he said Alberta will be a leading global food producer and he wants to see more agricultural and food products processed in Alberta to retain more value in the province.

In order to accomplish this, Lukaszuk said the Province needs to support the growth of smaller, rural communities, that are the centre of the province’s agriculture economy grow.

“I want to create opportunities for young people to stay in rural Alberta and newcomers to come to rural Alberta, because I firmly believe that a large part of the future of our economic growth actually lies in rural Alberta, based on value added agriculture,” he said.

Lukaszuk said the solution to the worker shortage is immigration reform to bring permanent residents to fill labour shortages, not bringing people to Canada for short periods only to send them home later.

He said Alberta needs to negotiate an agreement with Ottawa, similar to what is in place for Quebec, to guide immigration to Alberta to address employment needs.

“It’s obvious we don’t need temporary foreign workers, we need permanent foreign workers,” said Lukaszuk.


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