EDMONTON – Alberta’s NDP says Opposition Leader Jason Kenney needs to explain what regulations and labour rules he would cut if he were to win power.
Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says any cuts — and Kenney’s promise that he would push them through within weeks of a spring election victory — would unduly punish workers while threatening public health and safety.
“The mask has slipped with respect to what Jason Kenney wants to do to the people of this province,” Phillips, speaking for Premier Rachel Notley’s government, said Monday on a conference call.
“It is good that Jason Kenney is finally being honest, or beginning to be honest, with Albertans about what his plans are.
“He is not interested in any kind of consultation around what his plans might be, not interested in what people think.”
The United Conservatives are still consulting on the party’s policy platform ahead of the election, but Kenney dropped some hints in a speech last week to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
He told the audience he would repeal labour rules enacted under the NDP, which he said are hamstringing businesses by imposing higher costs.
He also said his party would want to cut bureaucratic red tape by one-third and is compiling a list of changes now so they could be enacted within days should the United Conservatives form government.
Kenney is also looking at changes to minimum wage and has cited the Australian model, where youth get paid less than adults.
Kenney has said the current $15-an-hour, across-the-board minimum wage hurts businesses and means job losses as employers try to balance the books.
He has said he would appoint a cabinet minister with the sole responsibility to reduce red tape.
Kenney told the chamber a United Conservative government would start with a special summer sitting of the legislature to bring in changes, rollbacks and new legislation.
“Speed creates its own momentum. It also makes it harder for the opponents of reform to obstruct it, and it allows the benefits of reform to be experienced by voters before the next election cycle,” Kenney told the audience.
He said public consultation is important, and the United Conservatives are doing it now, “so we don’t get bogged down doing that in 2019 should we form government.”
Kenney was not available for comment, but issued a statement Monday reiterating that voters will have all the information in front of them during the election campaign.
“We will make our plans clear in our platform, and Albertans will vote based on parties’ plans,” he wrote. “An election is the truest type of consultation.”
During its term, Notley’s government has brought in reforms that include new rules for farm workers, protected leaves and benefits for employees dealing with family crises, the right to refuse unsafe work and new rights for people making claims to the Workers’ Compensation Board.
Phillips said her department has already been streamlining rules to help energy projects go ahead and suggested that cutting regulations could go beyond the bottom line.
“Which water safety regulations are up for conversation?” she asked. “Why air quality (rules)? Which pollutants are going to be allowed to be freely burned in our airsheds from now on?”