RED DEER, Alta. – Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, in a rousing speech Friday to party members, lamented an Alberta he says has been driven to dysfunction and dystopia by Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government.
And he implored party members to drive a symbolic stake through the heart of the NDP’s carbon tax.
“There is nothing compassionate about a cold, removed, and centralized government more interested in paperwork than taking care of the needs of our neighbours, our friends, (and) our family,” Jean told more than 600 supporters on the opening night of the party’s annual general meeting.
“They’ve waged a war on business, taxed companies out of existence, and sent jobs out of province and out of country,” he said.
“When we look across the province and our communities we see crime skyrocketing and poverty increasing. We see a growing number of young people being trafficked into (the) sex trade against their will.
“We see dangerous drugs like fentanyl and other opioids killing Albertans and ripping families apart.
“And we continue to see the rights of criminals put above the rights of victims. We don’t have to put up with this!”
On Saturday, party members will vote on several resolutions, including a promise to repeal the carbon tax should the Wildrose gain power.
Jean, who has already denounced the levy, urged members to do just that.
“Some in their ivory towers would tell you that a carbon tax is good economic policy,” he said.
“It is disastrous. For Albertans looking for hope and looking for a break from a government focused on making life worse for families around their kitchen table, let’s mark this weekend as the start to ripping up the carbon tax.”
Notley’s government has promised to introduce legislation this fall to further an ambitious climate change plan that promises to radically refashion the energy-infused foundation of Alberta’s economy.
The province has already passed rules to bring in, starting Jan. 1, a broad-based carbon tax that will hike the cost on gas at the pumps and heating bills.
Middle-and-low income earners will get partial or full rebates.
New legislation this fall will prepare the way to end all coal-fired electricity generation by 2030, cap oilsands emissions, and spur development of alternative energy resources such as wind, solar, and hydro power.
The Wildrose convention is set against the backdrop of questions and manoeuvring involving the Progressive Conservative party.
The PCs are in the midst of a leadership race to replace former premier Jim Prentice. Voting takes place at a delegated convention in March.
One leadership candidate, former Calgary MP Jason Kenney, is running on a platform to dissolve the PCs and seek merger talks with the Wildrose in order to form a new conservative coalition.
Jean, in his speech, said his party has pitched exploratory meet and greets with the PCs in the past only to be rejected. Right now, he said, the PCs are in flux.
“That party still remains confused about its values, its principles and what it actually stands for. They dithered on opposing the carbon tax and still haven’t outright rejected it,” he said.
“Right now, their party is rife with uncertainty, division, and instability.”
He said for now the Wildrose will forge ahead.
“We cannot lose focus on making our party the true home to all like-minded, free-enterprise Albertans,” he said in a speech punctuated numerous times by cheers and applause.
The Wildrose, with 22 MLAs in the 87-seat legislature, is Alberta’s official Opposition.
The PCs, with nine members, are the third party.