CALGARY – Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney is demanding Premier Rachel Notley call a provincial election immediately and stop what he says is campaigning on the public dime.
Kenney said recent government announcements and multimillion-dollar government ad campaigns for the carbon tax are nothing more than partisan promotions for Notley’s NDP.
“Enough is enough,” Kenney said with some of his United Conservative candidates standing behind him in Calgary. “Stop clinging to power. Albertans want change. Not an endless taxpayer-funded campaign.”
Friday was the first day Notley could have, by law, begun a 28-day campaign. She must send voters to the polls no later than the end of May.
Kenney said if his party were to win government, it would make changes to allow the auditor general to prohibit government ads deemed to be partisan.
He said the UCP would also extend a ban on non-essential government advertising to include not only the campaign period, but also the months leading up to it.
“We will put a stop to this abuse of democracy and this waste of tax dollars,” he said.
Earlier this month, Notley announced in Calgary that construction work on the new cancer centre remains on time and on budget for an opening in 2023.
“About 1,500 jobs will be created building this facility,” she said.
At the same time, the party-wing of the NDP used the event to send out a news release warning that the UCP would not fund staff for the centre given a promise to rein in spending. Kenney said he would fund it.
Also Friday, Kenney promised a UCP government would review all contracts signed by Notley’s government from now until election day to make sure they are financially reasonable and in the public interest.
“We will not allow the NDP to get away with signing sweetheart deals with their friends in the dying days of this government,” he said.
Asked what action he would take on such deals, he said: “There would be a number of legal options. I’m not going to specify what they all are now.
“It would depend on the nature of the contract, the severity of its violation of the public interest (and) the amount of tax dollars involved.”
NDP Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous rejected Kenney’s accusations, saying Kenney is more focused on returning Alberta to a flat tax on personal income should be become premier.
“What is a sweetheart deal is a $700-million tax cut to the richest one per cent,” Bilous told reporters in Edmonton.
UCP rank and file voted last year to add a flat tax to their policy platform, but Kenney has not said whether he will go along with that.
Both parties are expected to focus in the campaign on who is best suited to leverage Alberta’s resources to recalibrate an economy knocked sideways in recent years by low oil prices.
Kenney has said that Notley’s multibillion-dollar budget deficits, ballooning debt and extra fees such as the carbon tax are knee-capping a struggling economy.
He has promised that he would slash regulations and reduce business taxes to promote growth and balance the budget in four years. He has also promised that he would implement a spending freeze and make cuts that wouldn’t affect frontline services.
Notley has said Kenney’s promise to freeze spending means deep and lasting cuts to health and education given that more children go to school each fall and health costs go up.