Its been an arduous road since the 2015 provincial election’s conservative vote schism, which, of the roughly 1.5 million votes cast, saw over half go to conservative parties but gave us an NDP government. Since then souls were searched, ego’s tested and careers wagered; all under a banner of uniting a group with more in common than not, and in defeat of a party crazy enough to weigh intangibles like ‘social licence’ over fundamentals like Alberta’s bleeding red balance sheet. But alas, he we are, reunited under a common banner, a common party legal structure, but without a leader or a concrete policy platform. Indeed, much work is still to be done, and if it has a chance of being successful, needs the input, consensus and support from all conservative party members.
The time is upon conservatives from Alberta’s many cities and towns, to those bent on liberty, to those seeking authority to have their say on the representation of these ideals, and to those seeking input upon the new leadership and policy of a new United Conservative Party. The remainder of this article is dedicated to providing a brief overview of the platforms (or lack thereof) for of the various candidates. I will begin in order by which the candidates announced their candidacy: Doug Schweitzer, Brian Jean, and Jason Kenney.
Doug Schweitzer’s platform includes the repeal of the carbon tax, however the lifting of the oil sands emissions cap was notably absent. Corporate and income taxes are to be reduced, halving the small business rate, reducing the corporate rate by 16% and setting income tax at 9% under six figures incomes and 10% above. The Calgary based lawyer has promoted a 9/6/3 plan, whose goal is to reduce government expenses by $500 million by lowering wages by 9% for politicians and political staff, 6% for public sector employees earning over $120,000, and 3% for those under that amount. Additionally a four year plan was proposed to institute spending controls, tax relief and investment in needed infrastructure. To reduce red tape, Schweitzer proposes a 2 for 1 regulation rule, by which two are destroyed for every one created. Women’s and gay rights are important to Schweitzer, as he seeks to use the legislative power of the state to close the gender wage gap and increase female representation on executive boards. He also supports the sale of 40% of ATB.
Brian Jean’s platform includes repealing both the carbon tax and the oil-sands cap. Fiscally, bureaucracy costs will be reduced through a hiring and salary freeze, cutting managerial positions and encouraging early retirements. Business taxes are to go from 12% now to 11% in 2019 and then to 10% in 2020. The former Wildrose leader is committed to an immediate $2.6 billion cut, and to achieve a balanced budget within three years. Red tape will be cut by roughly 30%. Libertarian and democratic principles are rife through his candidate platform as Jean intends to hold referendums on both equalization payments and the use of photo radar, protect freedom of speech on university campuses and enable the use of citizens initiatives.
Jason Kenney has thus far refused to provide a specific platform. His rhetoric however, is based on restoring fiscal sanity and job creation and is labeled as his part of his grassroots policy guarantee. His guarantee is committed to organizing policy workshops, encouraging local constituency associations, allowing members to comment and rank solutions online, creating a UCP convention to form a policy declaration and to appoint a platform committed to consult with members, MLA and Albertans to refine the principles. Of note, Mr. Kenney’s plan appears to be developing as I write, as an online survey system to gather consensus is taking root on his website. Hopefully, Kenney will be transparent and committed to the convictions set by his method.
While it was a monumental achievement to reunite the fractured sects of the conservative movement in Alberta, such an occurrence was merely a step of many in the effort to bring conservatism back to Alberta. Whether Schweitzer, with his progressive and hard-biting policy stake, Jean, with his libertarian gumption or Kenney, with his populist fervor ends up championing the Alberta conservative movement, fiscal responsibility and hopefully a renewed sense of trust and accountability most likely is coming back to Alberta politics.