Tomorrow marks 11 months since the general election that saw the Progressive Conservatives relegated to the opposition benches – and 11 months of NDP government.
During that time, we have done a great deal of soul searching as a party and as a caucus.
We’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the circumstances that led to that election result, and on what we need to do to earn back the trust of Albertans.
I think it’s safe to say that our province has changed profoundly since May 5, 2015.
The sharp and prolonged drop in the price of oil has impacted Alberta in ways few could have predicted – sending shock waves through every sector of our economy and through hundreds of thousands of Alberta families.
And while the global forces that led to this new reality are outside of anyone’s control, we now have a government whose ideological worldview has informed policy decisions that have only made a bad situation worse.
We take our role as opposition to this government very seriously, which is why we’re here today to offer a constructive solution and a positive vision for the future of our province.
During these past 11 months, we’ve also spent a great deal of time talking with Albertans about what they want from their government.
Through the thousands of emails, phone calls, social media comments and in-person conversations, it’s become clear to us that while circumstances in Alberta have changed, Albertans’ values, by and large, have remained the same.
They want a government that takes care of both fiscal and social matters with equal care and attention.
They want a government that is thoughtful, pragmatic and forward-thinking.
They want a government that puts the interests of Albertans first.
They want a common-sense solution to the challenges we face and they want a say in the decisions their government makes.
These are Progressive Conservative values.
And what happened last May was a direct result of us not living up to those values – and to Albertans’ expectations.
With all of this in mind, the Progressive Conservative caucus is proud to launch ENGAGE – a public engagement initiative which seeks to harness the power of Alberta’s greatest strength: its people.
This document articulates our vision for Alberta and puts forward a series of policy ideas that we think could improve how government operates, delivers essential programs and services, and tackles issues ranging from economic diversification to health care delivery to supporting our most vulnerable citizens.
The purpose of ENGAGE is not to prescribe specific policy actions, but to spark a public conversation and to seek feedback from our most important stakeholders – Albertans.
What is ENGAGE?
We don’t pretend to have all the answers. And it’s clear that past Progressive Conservative governments have made mistakes along the way. But it’s important to remember that over the years, past governments have also done a lot of things right.
As we went about the process of building this document, we reflected honestly with what we did well in the past, and where we fell short.
And it’s with the benefit of hindsight, combined with experience, that we begin now to move forward.
Some of the ideas in these pages will look familiar to many as initiatives we championed while in government, while others are ideas that some might have wanted us to implement and for one reason or another we did not.
Some are brand new to us, reflecting ideas and suggestions we’ve received from Albertans over the past few months.
Our intention is to use this collection of policy ideas to spark a conversation with Albertans.
We want to know what they agree with, and what they do not.
We want to know what, in their opinion, is missing from our analysis.
We want to know how they would like government to respond to a particular issue or challenge.
Ultimately, our goal is to develop Progressive Conservative policies that truly reflect the values of modern-day Albertans.
Through this conversation, we will refine the document over time by incorporating the feedback we receive.
This is a living, breathing, and evolving document.
The $4 Billion Challenge
In addition to challenging Albertans to get involved in shaping our province’s future, we are also challenging the Alberta government to find $4 billion in cost savings over the next two years – without impacting front-line services. We call this The 4 Billion Dollar Challenge.
All too often, we see efforts to find savings and efficiencies equated with service reductions or cuts.
The Progressive Conservatives reject this premise.
We believe that it’s possible for this government to find these savings without sacrificing key programs and services that Albertans depend on.
We also believe that Alberta enjoys the most talented, knowledgeable and innovative public service in the country.
And that once empowered, they will be up to tackling The 4 Billion Dollar Challenge.
We’re also calling on the government to immediately implement the following actions in order to stabilize our finances:
- Establish a debt repayment plan.
- Create a savings plan that can withstand all economic conditions.
- Establish practices that require all operating expenses to be funded through revenue and not debt.
- Conduct an audit of all provincial assets and liquidate those that have become obsolete or underutilized.
How can Albertans ENGAGE?
So how can Albertans get involved?
Simply by heading to our caucus website. Abpcmla.ca/engage
There, they can view the document and provide feedback on different policy areas.
Albertans can also join the conversation on our Facebook page and via Twitter.
This summer, we will be conducting a series of open houses across the province where people can discuss these ideas with our MLAs in person.
More details on that phase of the initiative will be released in the coming months.
Folks, today is just the beginning.
The Progressive Conservatives want to be part of a positive and constructive conversation about Alberta’s future.
Make no mistake, there are serious issues facing this government.
A 10.4 billion dollar deficit, this year alone, mounting provincial debt and borrowing for operations, just to name a few.
But, this fiscal situation presents a unique opportunity to make systemic changes to the way government operates in an effort to improve efficiency and lower costs without gutting essential services, or the workforce that delivers them.
The Progressive Conservatives also have a unique opportunity to provide innovative, forward-looking solutions that are rooted in experience.
And with the added benefit of hindsight, Albertans can rest assured that we have learned a great deal from the past.
We look forward to teaming up with Albertans to refine the ideas presented by ENGAGE and more importantly, to opening up this conversation in an effort to develop meaningful public policy.