By Angela Pitt, MLA
For more than two years, rural crime rates have been on the rise in Alberta, leaving thousands of victims across the province feeling vulnerable and unsafe in their own homes. And for more than two years, United Conservative MLAs have been sounding the alarm in the Alberta Legislature, in an effort to convince the NDP government to take action.
Here are the facts: as recently as last fall, this government claimed there was no problem and accused the official opposition of fear mongering and political grandstanding. Then, as the crisis grew worse, the NDP finally admitted that something needed to be done and announced $10 million in funding to address the issue. Better late than never, right?
In order to make this long-overdue announcement, the government had to ask the Legislature for additional funding over and above its 2017-18 budget. That’s right – the NDP couldn’t find a mere $10 million in its $55 billion budget to keep rural Albertans safe.
Instead, the Justice Minister approached the Legislative Assembly just over one month ago looking to add even more to the government’s $10 billion deficit for the year.
This funding, the NDP claims, will add 39 new RCMP officers to tackle the crisis but what the Justice Minister failed to mention is that the wait for these new officers could be upwards of two years due to a national RCMP shortage. When questioned repeatedly in the Legislature, the NDP couldn’t even provide an estimate as to when rural Albertans can expect to see these boots on the ground. Sounds more like another empty NDP promise than a credible solution to a very serious problem.
Now, it’s no secret that the United Conservatives oppose the NDP’s reckless fiscal mismanagement and wholeheartedly reject the idea that the provincial government must mortgage our future to pay for the NDP’s expensive agenda.. We also believe the NDP has botched the rural crime file from the get-go, which is why we flat-out refuse to hand this government a blank cheque or endorse its woefully inadequate plan.
If the NDP really thought fighting rural crime was a priority, it would have allocated this funding well before March 2018, rather than scramble at the last minute to solve a problem that has been years in the making only when it became clear that their mishandling of this issue was costing them politically.
To suggest that because United Conservatives disagree with this government’s fiscal approach generally, and its response to the rural crime crisis specifically, we don’t care about victims is not only ridiculous, it is objectively false. United Conservative MLAs have been attending town halls, meeting with victims, and advocating in the Legislature since this crisis began. The same cannot be said for the NDP.
When United Conservatives called for an emergency debate in the Legislature last November given the escalating crime rate, the NDP refused. They didn’t even want to have the debate.
This smear campaign is the NDP’s desperate attempt to distract you from its complete and total incompetence on every level. But we know these political games aren’t fooling anyone. Albertans are much smarter than that.
Instead of pointing the finger at the Opposition, whose job it is to hold the government accountable and propose credible alternatives, the NDP should be trying to explain why took more than two years for it to take escalating crime in rural communities seriously, and why they’ve allocated less than one per cent if its total budget to keeping rural Albertans safe.
Angela Pitt is the United Conservative Justice Critic