UCP leadership candidates discuss plans to deal with Ottawa

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Most of Alberta’s UCP leadership candidates agree the province needs to assert itself against Ottawa, but disagree on how far they would push it.

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A Thursday evening panel featuring seven of the eight candidates who have said they want to become premier was hosted by the Free Alberta Strategy, which launched its proposals last September, including ideas that date back to the 2001 Firewall letter and to the Fair Deal panel of the UCP government. hit in 2019, such as the creation of a provincial police force and an Alberta pension plan.

The strategy calls for Alberta to declare itself a sovereign jurisdiction within Canada that can replace federal law if it is not in Alberta’s interest with an Alberta Sovereignty Act.

Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith has touted an aggressive stance she says would follow Quebec’s lead, promising to pass the sovereignty law in the legislature if elected premier this fall.

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However, former Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney, former Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz, UCP MP for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche Brian Jean and former Finance Minister Travis Toews say against.

“If you tell people to ignore the laws, it’s a slippery slope,” Jean said.

Toews reiterated that he fears this will create chaos and scare off investors.

UCP MP for Chestermere-Strathmore Leela Aheer focused on building relationships and collaboration, including with other like-minded provinces.

“If I had to consider my first bill, it wouldn’t be this one,” she said, adding that her immediate focus would instead be on helping vulnerable Albertans.

Independent Central Peace-Notley MP Todd Loewen didn’t reject the idea, but said the province needs to focus on what it has the power to do first, like collecting income taxes and setting its own pension plan.

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Many candidates pointed to victories under the UCP government, but said they would have liked to see more progress on the file.

Sawhney said the UCP government was keen to hold an equalization referendum last fall, but didn’t make much progress after that.

“Our government has made a lot of noise in federal relations, but we haven’t done much. It’s time to move on,” Sawhney said.

Schulz highlighted his track record, securing a $3.8 billion childcare deal with Ottawa.

“There’s still a lot of work to do, but I think a lot of positive work is going on,” she said.

Jean, who has vowed to push for constitutional negotiations on the equalization program, said Premier Jason Kenney’s government had made the equalization referendum a “fraud” by failing to live up to its mandate.

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Jean reiterated that the only way for Alberta to “get our fair share of money back” is to return to the table in constitutional negotiations and, like Schulz, rejected the idea of ​​levying provincial income tax as unnecessary bureaucracy.

Thursday’s panel came after Calgary Nose Hill Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, who was considering a candidacy, announced she would not be seeking UCP leadership, citing division and uncertainty within the party caucus.

“Many conversations I’ve had while exploring this opportunity confirm public reports that a clear divide exists,” Rempel Garner said in a blog post that also explained why she would be a strong candidate.

“That is, those who don’t want the old management team to retain power and those who are part of the old management team and want to maintain the status quo entirely. None of these positions is tenable. The public has no sympathy for that either.

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Earlier this week, Rempel Garner requested and was granted a waiver to stand in the leadership contest after her UCP membership expired and she failed to meet the requirement to be a member of the party for six months before the July deadline. Rempel Garner said Thursday that the caucus’ discussion of getting that exemption validated “the suspicions about what I would do with caucus if I became leader.”

NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley told a press conference Thursday that Rempel Garner’s statement shows Albertans that the UCP cannot be trusted to stay focused on the challenges facing Albertans face.

“Affordability, health care, fixing our education system, these are things they should be focusing on and his statement includes incredibly telling descriptions that this is not what Albertans are about. can count from UCP,” Notley said.

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