Alberta political leaders vying to lead the province kicked off their campaigns this week, largely focusing on oil and gas development and the economy.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley started the week planning to further commit to an energy diversification strategy, doubling incentives for petrochemical companies from $3.6 billion to $7 billion in royalty credits, loan guarantees and grants.
The commitment follows the Notley government’s previous energy-diversification plan, which she says has leveraged $13 billion in investment through $1 billion in incentives.
Notley said she expects the new commitment would spur $70 billion in investment and create 70,000 jobs by 2030 in the upgrading sector.
Further to the oil and gas file, United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney pledged he would launch a constitutional challenge should Bill C-69 come into law.
Many argue, including Notley, that the federal legislation as is would stymie national oil and gas projects, such as ones like the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.
Kenney also said he would support using what’s called turn-off-the-taps legislation, pledging to restrict oil and gas exports to B.C. if that province threatens the Alberta energy industry.
Kenney said he would stand up against what he calls foreign influences working to land-lock Alberta oil and undermine the energy sector.
He also re-committed to scrapping the carbon tax, calling it nothing more than a tax grab.
He said cancelling the carbon tax will be financed by a $1.1 billion reduction in climate spending, reduced corporate welfare and other spending.
The NDP has said cancelling the tax would put a number of projects funded by the carbon tax in jeopardy, though the UCP says it could find other ways to fund some of those projects.
Kenney’s past stance on LGBTQ issues brought to light:
The campaign also kicked off with the NDP launching what the UCP is characterizing as attack ads on Kenney.
Part of the NDP campaign strategy so far seems to be going after Kenney’s character, saying his previous stance on LGBTQ and women’s issues makes him unfit to be premier.
The ads show a young Kenney telling a crowd he helped overturn a law extending hospital visitation rights to gay couples during the 1980s AIDS epidemic in San Francisco.
Kenney has since said he regrets those remarks, adding his record in Parliament shows he supported domestic partner arrangements and benefits regardless of sexual orientation.
NDP pipeline record:
The UCP is bringing up the NDP’s record on past pipeline issues.
The party said Notley was against the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, citing her remarks to media during her 2015 campaign run.
Notley has since supported Keystone. Northern Gateway was later cancelled by the Liberal government, which suggested the project wasn’t supported by some local communities.
Kenney has repeatedly characterized that Notley and Trudeau are in an alliance with one another.
Both Notley and Kenney are pushing for the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, a project that has been delayed by the federal court.
On her first stop to Lethbridge, Notley announced an NDP government would bolster health-care funding for seniors, building 2,000 new long-term care beds.
The Notley government built 2,000 beds during the last four years, though most of them involved private providers.
The UCP charged the NDP has failed on care beds, particularly missing targets on long-term care beds.
Protecting Calgary from floods:
Notley has announced an NDP government would spend $1 billion from the carbon tax fund to build new upstream flood mitigation infrastructure on the Bow River, protecting Calgary from devastating floods, like the one in 2013.
The commitment comes as the NDP government works to build the Springbank Dam, a project that would divert floodwater from the city.
The new project would be consulted on before it officially goes ahead.
The UCP has said it wants flood mitigation infrastructure built for the Elbow River as soon as possible and will appoint an independent expert to determine why the dam hasn’t been constructed yet.
Smaller parties make education commitments:
Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel announced that if elected, the party would double the number of educational assistants in Alberta’s K-12 classrooms, providing $230 million in new funding.
It would work to reduce class sizes and increase annual funding for inclusive education to school boards from $460 million to $690 million.
The Alberta Liberal Party has said it would put caps on the number of students in each classroom, making budget changes for more supports to special-needs kids and inclusive classrooms.