Tonight is the only scheduled debate in Edmonton among the aspirants to the leadership of the United Conservative Party (UCP).
The candidates for the top job are: Jeff Callaway, Brian Jean, Jason Kenney and Doug Schweitzer.
Alberta’s energy sector is suffering the impacts of stagnant oil prices and a provincial government imposing a progressive agenda that is anathema to the province’s economic engine.
The federal government has also proven to be recalcitrant to the idea of helping Alberta’s energy industry. The Notley government’s blindness to our oil, gas and coal sectors is a significant factor in why the UCP is widely expected to form a majority government in 2019.
The Alberta NDP has spent the last two-and-a-half years implementing an anti-energy agenda. Therefore, Alberta’s energy sector will not be able to thrive again until Albertans elect a new premier.
Re-negotiating Alberta’s relationship with Ottawa will be critically important for the next premier of the province. With seven years experience as a federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney has the most relevant experience of all the UCP leadership aspirants.
While the principle of equalization is enshrined in the constitution, the actual formula by which the transfer is calculated is a matter of federal legislation, and one that is up for review in 2019. The mere threat of a constitutional renegotiation might be enough to earn Alberta some concessions.
The equalization program has been a long-time concern for Albertans. The goal of the equalization program is to ensure that provinces can provide equal levels of services to their citizens regardless of fiscal capacity.
The concerns with relatively equal levels of services rankle Albertans. The general concept of relatively equal levels of service will be an issue for the next premier to consider when the equalization program is reviewed. Kenney has already spoken about his willingness to stand up to Ottawa in the best interest of Albertans on both the equalization program and the energy sector:
“If the federal government pursues a tax on our energy industry — the carbon tax — if it doesn’t roll back the NEB’s outrageous expansion of its mandate, and if it refuses to fundamentally change the equalization formula in 2019 I would be prepared to hold a referendum.”
Those two issues are both vote winners in Alberta. Jason Kenney’s experience as a Federal cabinet minister gives him directly relevant experience in negotiating federal-provincial agreements. His thoughts on the matter illustrate his willingness to defend the rights of Albertans on issues that matter.
Hopefully, UCP members understand that Jason Kenney is the best choice to defend Alberta’s interests when negotiating with Ottawa.