On March 3, I celebrated eight years of representing Edmonton-Strathcona as their MLA. Little did I know back then that our small caucus of two would grow to become the government and have the opportunity to implement policies Alberta New Democrats have championed for years: sustainable environmental policy, safe and caring education, farm worker safety, fair corporate and income taxes, and public health care.
As you can imagine, our first ten months as government has been a whirlwind for our members. Not only did we digest stacks of briefing binders, we were intent on making policy that mattered to us and which I know matters to you. In a very short period of time we have moved forward on critical campaign promises: we banned corporate and union donations in elections, we increased the minimum wage and launched a Climate Leadership Plan that will make Alberta one of the world’s most progressive energy producers. (Look back at so many more achievements, read our Year in Review here.
Budget 2016 Town Hall
Our core values as New Democrats continue to motivate us as we govern at this time of low global oil prices. The impact on our economy is deeper and wider than we first anticipated and many of our neighbours and friends are rightfully concerned about their livelihoods. Albertans want a government that will stand up for them when they are most vulnerable and we are doing that. We have frozen post-secondary tuition for two years, funded teachers and nurses that the PCs were going to cut, and created the Alberta Child Benefit Plan for low-income families, which is a $340-million investment in new direct help to families who need it most. Further, over the next five years, we are investing $34 billion in desperately needed infrastructure – that’s $9 billion more than what the Wildrose opposition would have done.
Premier Rachel Notley and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon shake hands after signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) focused on promoting economic development and trade.
Our government is doing everything we responsibly can, as quickly as possible, to promote job creation and economic diversification. Alberta’s economy is over-dependent on a single commodity, at a single price and in a single market.
Our throne speech http://www.alberta.ca/throne-speech.cfm was delivered on March 8 and outlined our plan to both overcome these challenging issues now and create a more resilient economy for the future:
First, we will diversify our energy markets.
Second, we will pursue a coherent and effective economic development strategy at last.
Third, we will invest in a greener, more sustainable economy.
Fourth, we will pursue a responsible approach to public finance.
Fifth, we will pursue ongoing democratic reform to ensure public accountability in all of this work
2016 Speech from the Throne
The spring legislative session will go until June this year. Here are some highlights to watch for:
- We will expand access to workforce and skills training and retraining so that people facing unemployment can upgrade their skills.
- We will protect Albertans who are experiencing economic distress from being preyed upon by unscrupulous lenders through our Act to End Predatory Lending.
- We will work with leaders in Alberta’s $23- billion credit union system to modernize and strengthen the system.
- We will repeal Bill 22 and engage Indigenous communities on how the Crown should fulfill its consultation duties and support the capacity of Indigenous people.
- We will facilitate the return of sacred objects to the nations to whom they belong by consulting Indigenous people on a new Indigenous People’s Sacred Ceremonial Objects Repatriation Act.
- We will respect public sector workers’ bargaining rights while ensuring legislation protects Albertans’ access to public services by introducing An Act to Implement a Supreme Court Ruling Governing Essential Services. The proposed labour law will comply with recent rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada and Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench.
- We will modernize The Municipal Government Act, with a view to adopting a final version by the end of 2016.
Premier Rachel Notley and Aboriginal Relations Minister Kathleen Ganley met with Grand Chief of Treaty Six Tony Alexis and Chiefs of Treaty Six First Nations on October 7, 2015.
Be assured that your NDP government is standing up for Albertans hit by this downturn.
While we are making timely, worthy investments in infrastructure and promoting access to capital for job creators, the opposition would blow a hole of more than $1 billion in the budget by going back to the time when our province’s wealthiest people and most profitable corporations weren’t paying their share. While we pass legislation protecting Albertans experiencing economic distress and ensure stable public services, the opposition calls for tax subsidies for the top income bracket and cuts to the education and healthcare programs Albertans count on. They want it both ways: cut the deficit and give a huge tax subsidy to the top income bracket.
I believe we don’t need to put our short-term bottom line over the interests of long-term recovery. In these difficult times I remain motivated by what I know about Albertans. We want an economy that is widely diversified and resilient to energy price swings: an economy that captures the full value of our resources, holds the promise of prosperous futures for our children, and shares its benefits widely and fairly among all Albertans. Albertans want to build a society that supports people who need it, cares for the vulnerable, and opens doors for our children and our grandchildren.
Your government will continue to address the difficult choices that lie before us in keeping with our deeply held values. In tough times, we always pull together.
I also want to take the time to welcome Roari Richardson as our new Provincial Secretary, he started yesterday. Roari has vast experience working with National and Provincial Organizers, coordinating the outreach efforts of NDP MPs, and managing and supporting political engagement campaigns at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. He was a member of the Leader’s Advance team during Alberta’s 2008 provincial election and is thrilled to be back.
Roari follows Brian Stokes who worked for eight years for the party. Brian became Provincial Secretary in 2010 and was deputy director for our growth campaign in 2012 (a campaign on which we co-chaired the Election Planning Committee) leading into our party’s historic breakthrough in 2015. Over his time as Provincial Secretary, annual revenue grew from $728,000 to $3,248,000, and our MLA count rise from 2 to 4 to 54.
I want to thank Brian for his tireless work ethic and sharing his drive campaigning as well as the many mornings, evenings and nights that he spent working toward the growth of social democracy in Alberta.
Leader of Alberta’s NDP
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