There are three candidates in the race to become the new leader of the Alberta Party, Kara Levis, Rick Fraser and Stephen Mandel, all former Conservatives.
Speaking in Red Deer on January 20, they represent a large cross-section of Albertans who believe divisive, polarizing politics does more harm than good.
The Alberta Party believes government’s role is to facilitate economic investment by reducing red tape and encouraging entrepreneurship.
The leadership candidates spoke to fiscal responsibility, but unlike the United Conservative Party (UCP), they believe there is more to fiscal responsibility than simple austerity.
Business-focused politicians, such as the three running for the Alberta Party, understand the importance of infrastructure investment to facilitate future growth.
The late premier, Ralph Klein, who is still revered as one of the best, fell unsuspecting into the long-term consequences of austerity. He balanced the budgets, eliminated the cash deficit, but left Alberta with a $9 billion infrastructure deficit.
Ask past municipal leaders and they will tell you about falling down bridges, poorly maintained schools and hospitals, underfunded municipality services, and inadequate construction of new schools, hospitals, transportation corridors, sporting facilities and seniors’ homes during Klein’s tenure.
The $10 billion deficit today highlights that the one-dimensional policy of austerity is no better than uncontrollable government debt, both hinder future growth.
Like successful businesses, governments need that sweet spot between debt and equity to successfully advance sustainable economic growth and prosperity.
The Alberta Party in many regards is returning to the pragmatic governance principles followed by the original architect of Alberta’s riches, Peter Lougheed.
They know strategic investments in research and technology (as we once did to develop the oil sands) and policies to protect and enhance our environment are critical moving forward.
In addition to the austerity obsession, many conservatives remain only partially committed to the UPC because of a concern about its populist tendencies.
Populist parties spend an inordinate amount of time promoting angst between peoples and regions to sustain power.
The principles of the Alberta Party, and the words of Levis, Fraser and Mandel offer just the opposite. Democracy is inclusive of all people not just the governing party’s base.
Social responsibility includes excellent and innovative public education, public health, infrastructure and a compassionate helping hand for those less fortunate.
Quality of life and strong communities, rural and urban, are important and should be enhanced with government support for recreation, sports, arts and culture.
The UPC had the opportunity to become the Party of Peter Lougheed if they had selected Brian Jean as their leader, but the selection of Jason Kenney has left many concerned about the politics of division.
Take Kenney’s latest demonizing and ignorant statement. “The problem is people on the left think saying Merry Christmas is hateful. These voices of crazed political correctness will not govern what is allowed.”
This statement is so wrong on so many levels, but for Kenney it’s par for the course, vilifying others to play to the base.
The three leadership candidates for the Alberta Party, in stark contrast, believe that Albertans are stronger united than divided and refuse to embolden bad behavior.
The Alberta Party, under new leadership, may be just the answer for the majority of right-leaning, non-party affiliated Albertans who want neither a populist nor a left-wing government going forward.
by B.P. Schimke