Okotokians got a first-hand look last week at the United Conservative Party’s priorities, which include repealing the carbon tax, and diversifying and restoring the economy.
Jason Kenney was in the Foothills to speak with residents and business owners. He intends to visit Albertans throughout the province to hear ideas on how to get the province back on track should the UCP be successful in the 2019 provincial election.
“I feel the current government… I just think they’ve got the wrong ideas – ideas that have damaged our economy, that prolonged a recession that we are still fielding in many ways,” Kenney said in a presentation to the Okotoks and District Chamber of Commerce members on Feb. 27.
He said Alberta has changed drastically in the past three years, with many small businesses failing due to policies put in place by the current NDP government.
“Massive tax increases on everything from incomes to businesses to property, to pay roll and of course the huge carbon tax, the largest tax increase in Alberta history, which is effectively a tax on everything,” said Kenney. “It’s making it more expensive to run a business, to heat a home, to fill up the gas tank, to buy groceries, to ship goods, to operate a farm, all of it is more expensive with no measurable environmental benefit.
“I say it’s all economic pain with no environmental gain.”
If the UCP wins the next election, Kenney said the party will call a summer session and initiate its first bill, to repeal the carbon tax.
It’s a similar move to other countries, he said. Australia did away with its carbon tax after three years because it hadn’t done anything for the environment but hurt the economy, he said. In addition, the French Socialists have removed plans to initiate a carbon levy and the United States refuses to look at carbon tax policies, said Kenney.
He said it’s odd for Canada to be taking a stand on the carbon tax. The country accounts for 1.4 per cent of total global greenhouse emissions, and Alberta makes up 0.4 per cent of that amount.
“We could shut down the Canadian economy tomorrow and it would not make one bit of difference in terms of the trajectory of world carbon emissions,” said Kenney.
He said carbon tax proponents have admitted levies won’t change behaviour sufficiently until they reach $250 per metric tonne. Alberta currently has a price of $30 per metric tonne, going to $50 next year, he said.
Punishing consumers does not help the environment at this rate, said Kenney. It merely hurts those who still have to heat their homes in the winter, buy groceries and get to work – especially those with low or fixed incomes, he said.
As for the federal carbon levy Alberta is expected to collect on behalf of the Government of Canada, he said if the UCP takes power they will seek to join Saskatchewan in its fight against the constitutionality of a federal carbon tax.
It’s all about getting the economy back on track, he said.
Investors have lost confidence in the Alberta market, and Kenney said it’s time to make the province more appealing to businesses.
“It’s not a global crisis, it’s about policy,” he said. “It’s about higher taxes, massive new regulations, and a lack of infrastructure – that is to say a lack of pipelines.”
He said the B.C. government should not be able to violate Alberta’s constitutional rights by blocking its oil, and the reaction hasn’t been sufficient. There has to be repercussions – up to and including cutting B.C. off completely, he said.
The good news is that Alberta has been diversifying its economy over the past few decades, said Kenney. Oil and gas now make up 25 per cent of the economy, as opposed to 35 per cent 20 years ago.
Kenney said if economic fundamentals get back on track and the tax situation is fixed, Alberta will look like it’s open for business again and diversification will continue.
Kenney said the UCP will be spending the next four months creating its platform, and the party is looking for input from Albertans to help define its vision for the province.
Any ideas are welcomed, as long as they are realistic and affordable, he said.
“At the end of the day I’m an optimist. We’ll overcome obstacles and I believe if we do these things there will be some difficult reforms we have to go through, but the result will be, I believe, the restoration of the Alberta advantage.”