Gateway Gazette

Wildrose Leader Heather Forsyth responds to Premier Jim Prentice’s television address last evening

 

Good evening.

I am grateful for this opportunity to respond to the Premier’s address on behalf of the Wildrose and all Albertans – free of charge.

Twenty years ago, a very different Premier addressed the province.

At that time, he said, Quote “Some people think taxes are the answer… The government of this province believes the money from extra taxes is better left in your pockets, so you can put it to work and generate more economic activity.

Raising taxes would be short-sighted. It would be unoriginal. It would hurt our ability to attract business and investment to our province… it won’t work. It hasn’t worked in any other province.
The fact is no society has ever taxed its way back to prosperity.” Unquote
We don’t think times have changed. Raising taxes is not the formula for success, especially when Albertans are looking for leadership to secure economic growth and protect jobs.
We are, and will always be the party determined to protect taxpayers and help grow the economy.
I suspect Albertans, after watching the Premier’s comments tonight, have left them reeling with more questions than answers.

Questions like:

  • Why is the Premier determined to break his own fixed election law, when Albertans have said clearly they want us to focus on priorities and not go to the polls
  • How much will the PCs ask you to pay in new taxes?
  • What meaningful ideas does the premier have to reduce the government’s bloated bureaucracy and layers of upper managers?
  • And what will the PCs do to protect our economy, and promote growth?

These are tough questions that deserve better answers than we heard from Mr. Prentice tonight.

The reality is, the Premier has been acting like chicken-little, failing to provide stability or a steady hand for the province, and he just spent $100,000 and gave us no clarity on the province’s fiscal plan.

He is threatening to call an election on the price of oil.

He talks about a 10 year plan, but his government repeatedly has failed to stay on track on 3 year plans, it might as well be a 100 year plan.

There was no contrition of the waste and abuse of tax dollars in the past.

He said you can expect higher taxes, no ifs and or buts – despite Albertans already paying the most in income and corporate taxes in Canada.

Let’s be clear: our tax system is the greatest benefit to lower and middle income families across Canada.
He said you can expect government spending cuts, but did not say what will be cut, or how much it will hurt front-line services.

And he said you can expect measures to protect the economy, but did not say how.

The details will be in this week’s Budget, he said.

It will be a “transformational” budget, but we’ve heard this same broken promise before.

We believe Albertans deserve so much better.

We sincerely hope this budget will not only meet Albertans’ expectations, but put the tools in place to grow our economy. We hope that the Premier will get it right.

But from what we have seen in his plan, it sounds like punishing tax hikes and spending reductions that will only target the front-lines, instead of the billions of dollars in PC fat.

Here are the facts:

The PC government of Alberta remains the most expensive provincial government in Canada.

It starts at the top, with one of the largest and most expensive premier’s offices in the country.

The Premier and his cabinet are the highest paid provincial government executives in Canada.

And it extends to the bureaucracy, where managers were awarded an 8 percent salary increase last summer.

Where 9,000 employees in one branch of government alone – Alberta Health Services – earn more than $100,000 a year.

Moreover, Canada’s most expensive provincial government remains one of the biggest spenders on corporate welfare handouts.

Carbon capture and storage – derided last year by the Premier as a “failed science project” – will get over $300 million in subsidies this year.

And total corporate welfare spending in 2015 will top a billion dollars – including an $8 million payout for the Kananaskis golf course.

Most troubling of all is the PC government’s continuing mismanagement of health care.

Despite per capita health spending that is 30 per cent above the national average, Alberta continues to be one of Canada’s worst performers on critical services like emergency room wait times and seniors long term care facilities.

In Education, we are falling behind on school construction and performance outcomes for our kids have declined steadily for a decade.

Over the last decade, PC government spending has exceeded inflation and population growth by almost $50 billion.

It is the single most compelling argument for a strong, principled, and conservative Wildrose Official Opposition.

Again: you do not tax your way to prosperity.

Albertans have clearly indicated they don’t want their pockets picked. They want the government to end the pay and perks for politicians and managers across government, and they want our front-line services protected.

Our plan is about restoring financial security, building confidence and leaving business free to create wealth and put people back to work.

This will require the courage to not raise taxes, to end this well documented PC legacy of wasteful spending, and bringing in meaningful, compassionate and balanced reforms to ensure our government is sustainable for future generations.

We believe Albertans deserve a new and better government, a government focused on keeping promises, like building schools on time.

Over the next few weeks, the Wildrose will be laying out our alternative plan to grow the economy and keep taxes low.

This is about leaving to the next generation the kind of Alberta that was left to us.

And on behalf of my party, our MLAs, and our team all across Alberta, I promise you we will continue to do just that.

I will leave Albertans with one final message. Don’t give this Premier a blank cheque, you do have a choice for an even better Alberta.

Thank you.

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