This week, we were pleased to hear more details on the child intervention panel that the government announced in December. We are proud of Interim Leader Ric McIver for first advocating for an all-party committee to address systemic issues in Alberta’s child intervention system. We know he will continue his excellent work on this file as he represents the Progressive Conservative caucus on the panel, whose first meeting is scheduled to take place early next month. To help us prepare, we are seeking input on what improvements you would like to see to the child intervention system and invite you to share your thoughts below. This feedback will be reflected as we work together with the new Minister of Children’s Services, experts and MLAs from all parties to improve the system and address the very serious issues that the tragic death of Serenity illustrated.
Post a comment here or fill out the form at the bottom of this post.
A lot has been said recently about the amount of profit Alberta’s Power Purchase Arrangement (PPA) holders have made since the electricity market was deregulated back in 2000.
Since announcing their intention to take these electricity companies to court over the legality of PPAs signed more than 15 years ago, the NDP government has been working overtime to paint these companies as greedy profit mongers, intent on swindling the Alberta public just to make a buck.
This couldn’t be further from the truth and I think it’s time to set the record straight.
First, let’s address the claim that PPA holders have collectively earned $10 billion in profits and are now attempting to download current and future losses onto taxpayers.
The truth is that while these companies have indeed earned a profit over the years, they have collectively invested double that amount in the development of a reliable and affordable electricity system in Alberta.
Since deregulation, the industry has invested approximately $20 billion into building the generation infrastructure needed to make sure that every time you go to turn on a light or charge your cellphone, the power is there.
This figure includes the $3 billion initially paid for PPAs at auction in 2000.
As a result of these investments, Alberta is the only jurisdiction in Canada that has no public utility debt.
By contrast, British Columbians owe $9.9 billion and Ontarians, a staggering $62.6 billion.
This has left Alberta with a significant amount of money to invest in other public priorities like schools, hospitals and roads.
Beyond these infrastructure investments, Enmax has been able to rebate approximately $900 million to the City of Calgary since 1998.
That’s the equivalent to $125 in property tax savings annually for Calgary homeowners.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that these companies have built a public utility system that has provided Albertans with an affordable, reliable electricity supply over the past 16 years — a cost that would have otherwise been shouldered by the taxpayer.
We should be celebrating these contributions, not vilifying those who made them.
The NDP has spun a narrative that deliberately smears the reputation of companies that have made huge investments in our province — investments that far exceed any profits that have been made off of PPAs since Alberta’s electricity market was deregulated.
The greatest irony of this entire debacle is that the government desperately needs these very companies to continue investing in the system by building natural gas and renewable electricity generation capacity to fill the gap left by their plan to phase out coal-fired generation by 2030.
The success of their Climate Leadership Plan will hinge on whether or not they are able to repair the damage done to these important relationships.
It’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to invest another dollar in Alberta after witnessing this government’s utter contempt for private industry.
Economic diversification – a popular phrase in Alberta these days as the low price of oil continues to wreak havoc on the provincial economy. The NDP government has stated time and again that one of its main objectives is to diversify Alberta’s economy, reducing our reliance on the oil and gas sector as the main source of economic output, jobs and government revenue. And while they are always quick to point the finger and blame past PC governments for not doing enough in this area, it’s clear that the NDP’s approach to improving diversification is having the exact opposite effect on our economy.
Let’s take, for example, the protectionist approach the NDP has taken to internal trade. Currently, the provinces are re-negotiating and updating the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), which aims to create and maintain an open domestic market in Canada. It has been reported that Alberta is demanding a procurement exemption that would give 20 per cent of Alberta contracts to Alberta companies.
At first glance, it appears that the government is simply ensuring that Alberta companies have access to Alberta jobs but, the unintended consequence is that other provinces will retaliate by restricting the number of contracts Alberta companies can bid on. The net effect is that Alberta-based businesses will actually be more limited in the contracts they have access to, preventing them from expanding their operations and growing their sector’s share of the provincial economy.
Another example is the recent cut of $22 million in medical research funding. Alberta has long enjoyed a reputation as a powerhouse in this field, attracting world-class researchers and developing cutting edge breakthroughs and technological advances. Public investment over the years has led to steady and continued growth in this sector, which is why it makes little sense for the NDP to make such a devastating cut. There’s no doubt that the sector’s share of the GDP will shrink as a result of this decision, not to mention the opportunities, talent and breakthroughs that will ultimately be lost to competing jurisdictions.
The NDP talks a big game when it comes to economic diversification and yet at every turn, they make policy decisions that hurt our economy and our ability to diversify. But we are not just here to criticize. In our ENGAGE initiative, the Progressive Conservative caucus has outlined a vision for job creation, during good times and bad, through meaningful policies that will re-establish Alberta as the most business-friendly jurisdiction in North America.
Albertans have lost their patience with this government. It’s long past time for them to stop delivering speeches, lectures and baseless rhetoric and to take real, meaningful action on job creation, economic diversity and fiscal responsibility. Your future and the future of our province depend on it and your voice needs to be heard. You can speak up by contacting me or one of my PC Caucus colleagues or by letting your MLA know how you feel today!
Today, First Ministers from across Canada met in Toronto to begin finalizing the renegotiated Agreement on Internal Trade. This agreement removes inter-provincial trade barriers and facilitates the movement of goods, services and people across provincial borders. Over the years, Albertans have reaped tremendous benefit from this agreement and others like the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) and the New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA). They have made it easier for Alberta-based businesses to expand into other parts of the country, harmonized regulations across jurisdictions and cut red tape. This has led to tremendous prosperity not only for Alberta, but for all of Canada. Prosperity that would not have been possible without this interjurisdictional cooperation and barrier reduction.
With these many benefits to internal trade between provinces, it was distressing to learn earlier this week that Alberta, under the leadership of Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous, was holding up the negotiations by seeking a procurement exemption that would give 20 percent of Alberta contracts to Alberta companies. On the surface, this may seem like a reasonable measure given the current state of the Alberta economy but like most NDP government policies, the unintended consequences will be devastating. For starters, what incentive would other provinces have to open their procurement up to Alberta-based companies if our government wasn’t prepared to do the same? The reciprocity that will come from this kind of protectionism will cost Alberta businesses billions and could prompt many to move their headquarters, tax dollars and jobs out of the province.
Beyond the implications for Alberta business, the NDP’s protectionism will directly impact our ability to get a pipeline to tidewater approved and built. Premier Rachel Notley has been vocal about the need for pipelines and the national benefit inherent in these projects. But, the national interest argument becomes much less compelling if we aren’t willing to offer our neighbours the same consideration in return. If the NDP takes Alberta down this protectionist path, no climate change policy or price on carbon will be enough to convince the rest of Confederation to put self-interest aside and support these vitally important projects. Given this monumental shift in trade policy, Notley’s position on pipelines has become incoherent. Is she for increased pipeline access or not? She may talk a good game, but her actions run completely contrary to Alberta’s economic interests.
Albertans should be deeply concerned about the direction this government is taking our province when it comes to trading relationships both within and outside our borders. It’s no secret that NDP ideology has an inherent mistrust of free trade and free enterprise and their negotiating tact proves this to be as true in practice as it is in theory.
We can hardly expect our partners to sit idly by while Alberta takes and gives nothing in return. What’s more, robust trading relationships are key to achieving much-needed economic diversification. If Minister Bilous is serious about increasing Alberta’s trade and diversifying our economy, he will immediately reverse his obstructionist position and begin encouraging the complete elimination of inter-provincial trade barriers.
Stampede is the time of the year where we are given the opportunity to showcase Alberta’s heritage, hospitality and generosity. Whether this is your first time going or you are there every year, we hope to see you at many of the events hosted and attended by our MLAs! Here are a few events where you can find our PC MLAs over the next two weeks:
The spring session of the Alberta Legislature wrapped up just over a week ago and our Progressive Conservative MLAs have a lot to be proud of. Over the course of the 13 week session, our 9-member caucus gave reasoned, common sense critiques of damaging NDP policies, which have led to record budget deficits and multiple credit downgrades. We introduced thoughtful amendments to Bill 20, the government’s carbon tax legislation, that would have limited damage to Alberta’s economy and were disappointed when all but one were rejected by the NDP majority. We brought forward practical legislation to help deal with Alberta’s growing fentanyl crisis, and worked collaboratively with government wherever possible.
We demonstrated to Albertans time and again that while the Wildrose may hold the title of Official Opposition, our complement of experienced legislators functioned as Alberta’s “Effective Opposition” this spring. Some highlights from the session include:
Throughout the session, the entire Progressive Conservative caucus was honoured to represent constituents and all Albertans, making sure their voices were heard by this government. We will continue this work throughout the summer and are hoping to meet face-to-face with as many Albertans as possible to talk about the future of our great province.
Yesterday, I had the honour of meeting with the Saskatchewan government to discuss an important issue all Canadians are facing. I met with Christine Tell, Minister for Corrections and Policing, to talk about collaborating in our fight against deadly opioid drugs, such as fentanyl and W-18.
Fentanyl is killing Albertans at an alarming rate. In 2015, 274 Albertans died due to fentanyl overdoses, which unfortunately leads the country. First quarter statistics for this year show that we are on the same track, with 69 fentanyl-related deaths between January and April.
That is why as responsible legislators, I thought we needed to take action. I was proud to put forward Bill 205: the Pharmacy and Drug (Pharmaceutical Control) Amendment Act, 2016. This bill will regulate the ownership of pill presses used to make illicit opioid drugs. Many of these devices can be purchased on the internet and can manufacture 10,000 to 18,000 pulls in a single hour. Under this new legislation, owning a pill press without the proper license could result in hefty fines.
Bill 205 received unanimous support from the Alberta Legislative Assembly on May 16 and will come into force on January 1, 2017. This legislation will help to save lives by giving law enforcement another tool to get these drugs off our streets.
But drugs and criminals don’t stop at provincial borders. The fentanyl crisis is a national issue that will take a national effort to address. Minister Tell and I had a productive meeting to talk about how we can work together to save the lives of Canadians. It was encouraging to see the Government of Saskatchewan recognize the importance of this problem and that immediate action is needed. I was honoured to represent all Albertans in offering my assistance if they were to implement their own legislation to regulate pill presses.
Sadly, it seems our own government in Alberta, along with the Official Opposition, are not as understanding of the dire situation Canada is currently facing. Our government has been slow to act on providing the needed supports to address long-term addiction recovery support and public awareness, and our Official Opposition is okay with simply studying the problem of fentanyl more. It’s unfortunate to see the Official Opposition criticize the efforts made to address this crisis, rather than supporting solutions. The Progressive Conservative caucus believes that there has been enough studies done. We know opioids kill and we know our province and our country is in crisis. Now is the time to take action.
Alberta is leading the way in the fight against these deadly drugs, and I’m proud to play a part in that. If our government won’t elevate this issue to national attention and meet with our neighbouring governments, then the Progressive Conservatives will gladly play the role of advocates. Over the coming days, I will meet with British Columbia’s Minister of Justice and Solicitor General and the federal government to have the same discussions, and how we can address this issue impacting the lives of some many Canadians.
Recent surveys by a number of pollsters have identified jobs and the economy as the biggest concerns amongst Albertans. Our economy is hurting and that means small business is struggling. Small businesses make up about 95 per cent of the economy in Alberta and a significant portion of our provincial GDP. As they say, small business is big business!
The Progressive Conservative caucus believes that climate change is real and that human activity does have an impact on it. But the NDP government continues to reinforce the rhetoric that it’s the economy vs. the environment. We know climate change and protecting our economy aren’t the black and white issues the NDP are painting it to be. And yes, we do have choices to make.
That is why this evening, the Progressive Conservative caucus will put forward an amendment to Bill 20 to ensure we address climate change without further damaging our economy, hurting our small businesses or reaching in to Albertans challenged wallets when they can least afford it. Our amendment will encourage the newly formed Energy Efficiency Alberta to create a program designed to help small businesses address increasing costs. This could be done by providing grants, loans and pilot programs that will lead to meaningful innovation, cost efficient energy savings and emission reductions while promoting entrepreneurship and competitiveness.
I look forward to voicing strong advocacy for the protection of small businesses interests in Alberta while defending against the unintended consequences of what might be job-killing, investment repelling legislation contained in Bill 20 in its current form. The PC caucus will continue to work collaboratively to defend the best interests of Albertans, to protect the Alberta Advantage and to ensure Bill 20 and this government act responsibly when it comes to the impact on Alberta families and the economy - while responsibly addressing our personal and industrial impact on climate change. I hope the NDP government is willing to work collaboratively with all legislators in accepting this constructive amendment in the spirit it was intended.
The lives and livelihoods of Albertans depend on this balanced approach NOW to ensure a return to prosperity in the future!