PRESSED SPOTLIGHT: 2019 ALBERTA PROVINCIAL ELECTION
2019 ALBERTA PROVINCIAL ELECTION
Published April 14th, 2019
~9 minute read
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If you haven’t heard by now, the province of Alberta is holding an election on April 16th to choose its next premier. Like every election in the history of elections, the parties and pundits are hyping it up as a once-in-a-generation kinda’ vote.
We can’t tell you whether that’s true, but we can supply you with the cold hard facts about the three major parties’* platforms. Our summary is by no means exhaustive, but we’ve zeroed in on the five most controversial components of this election.
*For the purposes of this primer, we have focused on parties that recent polls have predicted will receive over 5% of the vote.
By far one of the most controversial policies, the carbon tax has become a central issue in this election. While approximately 2/3 of Albertans oppose the carbon tax, the Canadian government has promised to implement a carbon tax nationwide, no matter what the provinces decide. Moreover, a University of Calgary study showed that Alberta’s carbon tax cost families less than $500 last year, and four out of 10 of those families received rebates exceeding the amount they paid. FYI, Canada’s climate is heating up at roughly twice the rate of the rest of the world, and the country’s goals to fix that might not be aggressive enough.
The NDP says: By getting ahead of the feds and implementing its own tax, the NDP has been able to tailor a tax to Alberta’s unique needs. In doing so, it created leverage, or a ‘social license’ for Alberta in future negotiations with the federal Liberals (think: new pipelines and funding for infrastructure projects). The carbon tax helps pay for provincial programs and incentivizes greener choices. Individuals earning less than $47,500/year and families earning less than $95,000/year will receive rebates that are expected to more than cover the cost of the carbon tax.
The UCP says: The carbon tax is a “tax grab” that the UCP will eliminate. The UCP plans to take the feds to court to prevent a carbon tax, similar to court challenges from Saskatchewan and Ontario. Rather than taxing households, the UCP’s plan would only target industrial facilities that emit more than 100,000 tonnes of carbon annually. The UCP will not order coal facilities to close, as the NDP has done, and will cancel support for renewable energy projects.
The Alberta Party says: The carbon tax should be eliminated for households, farms, businesses, municipal governments, and nonprofits. The only entity subject to a price on pollution will be heavy industrial emitters; it will also be applied to jet fuel, locomotive fuel, and fuel used in resource extraction.
Pipelines & Industry
Every major party in Alberta is pro-pipeline and pro-industry. They differ on how they plan to bring Alberta back from a deep recession, caused by low global oil prices.
The NDP says: What we’re doing right now is working. Notley’s platform includes continuing her crude-by-rail and oil-curtailment plan and to narrow the US-Alberta crude differential while continuing to cooperate with the feds to build the Trans Mountain pipeline ASAP. The NDP has pledged to use the goodwill fostered through the carbon tax to pressure the feds for changes to Bill C-69 and the elimination of Bill C-48, both of which are believed to negatively affect oil and gas development.
The UCP says: The Albertan oil and gas industry is under attack by the feds and Notley’s NDP. The UCP government would launch a challenge against Bill C-69, and would apply Notley’s “Turn off the Taps” law (which she never utilized) to cut off B.C.’s access to oil and gas. If elected, Kenney would create a ‘war room’ dedicated to full-time advocacy on behalf of the oil and gas industry, and cut corporate tax from 12% to 8% to encourage job creation. Kenney would appoint an entirely new Board of Directors to the Alberta Energy Regulator, and promises to reduce approval time in order to fast track energy projects. He would also hold a vote on equalization, a program that re-distributes money from provinces that have a lot money to provinces that have too little. However, provinces apparently have zero say over equalization.
The Alberta Party says: The future of Alberta’s oil and gas industry depends on innovation. Mandel would increase funding for the Alberta Innovates budget, and expand the Sturgeon Refinery, a major part of the Alberta Party’s economic platform, which will emphasize petrochemical development.
Education & Childcare
In Alberta, 70% of working-age females are currently in the workforce, meaning daycare has become a hot topic.
The NDP says: Notley’s education and childcare platform promises $25/day daycare, including for workers who need evening or weekend childcare. The plan would open up 13,000 more childcare spaces. Notley’s commitment to education will result in an additional $1.3 billion to build and upgrade 70 schools across the province, and will hire 1,000 new teachers. FYI, in 2015, the NDP promised all-day Kindergarten, but never came through. Notley will also defend her policy to prevent schools from notifying parents if their child joins a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA).
The UCP says: Let’s focus on ‘school choice’ – AKA, lifting the cap on charter schools in the province. Noting declining scores in math, the UCP will pause the NDP’s curriculum overhaul and ensure the new curriculum emphasizes financial literacy. Most controversially, Kenney’s platform will re-enact the policy on GSAs, allowing schools to tell parents if their child joins a GSA (i.e. outing children to their parents).
The Alberta Party says: It’s a priority. Mandel has promised to double the number of educational assistants in schools to help special needs students, and to create an agency to speed up testing for students with possible learning challenges. The Alberta Party will scrap fees for adults who want to take an English language learning program or get a high school upgrade. Re: childcare, the Alberta Party will subsidize a parent’s choice of childcare according to their income. Parents making less that $110,000 will pay between $0 and $30/day. Mandel has also promised a caregiver tax credit for parents who decide to stay home with their kids. Like the NDP, the Alberta Party will enforce rules preventing schools from notifying parents if their child joins a GSA.
The NDP says: Increase the health budget alongside population growth and examine “privatization experiments” to “prevent double-dipping and queue-jumping”. The NDP plans to expand healthcare for rural Albertans through online services and by increasing access to reproductive health services. It will implement pharmacare for seniors who have an income under $75,000. The NDP will open pilot storefront mental health services and expand mental health and addiction beds. To pay for these services, the NDP has proposed launching a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers. The party will continue supporting supervised safe injection sites.
The UCP says: Saving money will be a priority for the UCP, beginning with a review of Alberta Health Services. The party has promised not to cut funding for healthcare, and will focus on cutting wait times for surgery. Its plan to improve health services without spending more will include expanding “choice in healthcare,” opening up pilot projects for private healthcare and lab services, and allowing more spaces for nurse practitioners and midwives. The UCP will dedicate more hospital beds and funds to addiction and mental health treatment, but will pause on safe-injection sites.
The Alberta Party says: There’s a public health emergency around opioid addiction. The Alberta Party will increase funds for those addicted and promises to support supervised injection sites. The Alberta Party will order vaccinations for all children in public schools and provide free dental check-ups for children under 12.
Though not exactly a policy platform, the NDP and Alberta Party have made statements attacking Kenney’s record on social issues (Kenney is the leader of the UCP). Here’s what’s up:
Reproductive Rights: As a college student in the U.S., Kenney was heavily involved in pro-life advocacy. Notley’s team has been vocal in their concern about the amount of anti-abortion candidates the UCP has nominated. According to anti-abortion group RightNow, 42% of UCP candidates are anti-abortion. Kenney has acknowledged that abortion services are legal in the province, and said he does not intend to re-open the issue.
LGBTQ2+ Rights: Kenney has previously made statements opposing “gay adoption” and same-sex marriage. Opponents pointed out Kenney’s activism from the 80’s, where he attempted to reverse a law that granted hospital visitation rights to same-sex couples – at a time when the AIDS crisis was peaking. He now says he “regrets” his comments and advocacy, though he has not apologized. Kenney supporters frequently point to his work in developing a program to bring LGBTQ2+ asylum seekers into Canada. He also publicly supported the Conservative Party of Canada’s 2016 motion to incorporate same-sex marriage into its definition of marriage.
Multiculturalism: As a former federal Conservative Minister, Kenney is often credited for his work in expanding the party’s multicultural outreach. However, he has also been attacked for several policies made during that time, notably, the niqab ban and cutting health services to refugees (the niqab ban was found unconstitutional and Trudeau’s government restored health services to refugees).
How to vote
When you go to the polls on April 16th, remember that you’re not looking for the name of the party leader (i.e. Rachel Notley) on your ballot. Instead, you’re voting for an MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) for your riding. In Alberta, there are 87 seats up for grabs. The party that wins the most seats will become the governing party of Alberta, and its leader will become the Premier. Here’s a cheat sheet on how the Canadian Government works.
– Contributed by Claire Robbins
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