How the UCP (United Conservative Party) Will Change Alberta in the Next 4 Years
Now that the 2019 general election in Alberta is over, there are still many people who are not familiar with Alberta’s new government. Here’s a run-down on what the the United Conservative Party (UCP) is all about, and what that means for Alberta’s future. With Jason Kennedy in leadership, UCP’s platform is “Getting Alberta Back to Work”. On their website, they plan to do get Alberta back to work by:
Getting rid of the carbon tax
Creating good jobs
Get the pipelines built
“Fight Justin Trudeau and those who are holding us back”
In an article on the Edmonton Journal, Emma Graney and Clare Clancy breaks down what all the parties promised during their campaign. Here’s their break down on the UCP campaign:
Taxes: The most ingrained UCP policy is killing off the provincial carbon tax and doing away with the NDP’s climate leadership plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Kenney has reneged on a UCP-member approved stance to take Alberta back to a flat tax, but said a UCP government would cut corporate taxes to eight per cent from 12 per cent over the next four years. He has said repeatedly Alberta is in for a series of fiscal belt-tightening measures. If there’s insufficient movement on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion by fall 2021, Kenney has also promised a referendum on removing equalization from the constitution.
Environment: The UCP plans to nix the 100-megatonne oilsands emissions cap under the NDP climate leadership plan. The current large emitter tax would be replaced with a new Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) program. The first $100 million of TIER would fund new technologies to reduce carbon emissions and $20 million would go to the energy “war room.” The rest will fall into general revenue. He says he would kill off Energy Efficiency Alberta, which oversees projects solely funded by the carbon tax. What’s less certain is the future of Emissions Reduction Alberta, an arms-length agency established in 2007 and a recognized world-leader funding research technology with carbon tax dollars.
Kenney has also pledged to stop the statutory shutdown of coal. Federal regulations passed under Kenney’s former government in Ottawa in 2012 would shutter most of Alberta’s 18 coal-fired plants. The remaining six have to close by 2030 under a deadline set by Alberta’s NDP government.
Before the writ dropped, Kenney floated a plan to auction off around 100,000 acres of public land in Peace Country to the highest bidder (similar to a program under former premier Ed Stelmach), and potentially expand it across the province. He has since put the brakes on that proposal, and says a UCP government would consult with First Nations first. The UCP also has a 13-point conservation plan, including a $30 annual trail fee and 50 per cent increase to the Alberta Land Trust Grant Program.
Energy and regulations: A UCP government would set up a $30-million, taxpayer-funded “war room” to defend Alberta’s energy industry here and abroad, setting up satellite offices if need be. It would also appoint a minister of deregulation, tasked with decreasing regulations by one-third across all ministries, establish a $10-million litigation fund for pro-oil development First Nations, push for a series of resource corridors to help with energy project approvals, and launch a public inquiry into foreign-funded efforts to undermine Alberta’s energy industry.
Kenney has also highlighted plans to immediately file a constitutional challenge should Bill C-69 become federal law. He would also proclaim so-called turn off the taps legislation “within an hour” of the first cabinet meeting, readying Alberta to use it against B.C. if there is no substantial work on pipelines.
Education: Kenney vowed the UCP would replace Alberta’s School Act with the former Progressive Conservative government’s Education Act. It would eliminate changes the NDP introduced with Bill 24, which requires school principals to immediately grant student requests to form a gay-straight alliance and requires private schools to have publicly available policies to protect LGBTQ students.
The move would return the law to how it read in 2015 after the former PC government passed its Bill 10. Those changes compelled all school principals — public and private — to establish a gay-straight alliance or similar extracurricular club when a student requested one, and said students could choose a respectful club name.
The UCP has also pledged to pause the NDP’s K-12 curriculum review, saying it requires wider public consultation. Kenney emphasized a back-to-basics approach to education, pledging to remove “fads” from classrooms and return to “tried-and-true” approaches, like math algorithms and phonics. He promised an audit of $3.3 billion school boards have received to reduce class sizesduring the last 15 years.
Initially, Kenney said a UCP government would return the weight of Grade 12 diploma exams to 50 per cent of a student’s final mark, and bring back Grade 3 provincial achievement tests. However, after hearing concerned feedback from voters, the UCP said it would consult more broadly before making changes to those exams.
Kenney committed to lifting a provincial cap on the number of charter schools in the province. That limit is now set at 15, and there are 13 schools operating. He said he would enshrine funding for private schools into legislation.
Health care: Kenney is pushing for private options in Alberta’s health-care system, much like the system in B.C. and Quebec. He would also kill the planned superlab project in Edmonton, because he doesn’t think a government should be “rigid and ideological” when it comes to health care. He vows to lift the cap on midwifery services in Alberta, and touts a controversial Saskatchewan initiative for reducing surgical wait times. Kenney pegged $100 million over four years to create a mental health and addictions strategy. His platform also promises $20 million over four years in palliative care funding and $5 million per year to sexual assault centres.
Employment: A UCP government would freeze minimum wage increases, repeal rules related to statutory holiday pay and allow young workers to be paid less than their adult colleagues. It would also repeal Bill 6, the Farm Safety Act, and replace it with a Farm Freedom and Safety Act which would allow farmers to choose where they buy workplace insurance for their employees and exempt small farms with three or fewer employees from employment legislation.
Kenney also said a UCP government would quadruple the number of students placed with employers in paid apprenticeships and establish a $1-million trade scholarship fund for high school graduates. He also pledged to expand by $2.5 million provincial funding for Women Building Futures, a non-profit that empowers women to succeed in non-traditional careers, and give $28 million to both NAIT and SAIT to create collegiates in Edmonton and Calgary.
Crime: In a mammoth 16-point crime platform, Kenney promised to revisit the Crown prosecutor manual so prosecutors are required to “take into account the unique vulnerability of people in rural areas” before pressing charges in the case of self-defence. A UCP government would also implement the party’s rural crime strategy and create an Alberta parole board. It would also require the justice department to file annual reports detailing the number of crimes committed by people on bail, probation and under conditional sentences, and prosecutors to provide courts with offenders’ criminal records during bail hearings.
Kenney promised a UCP government would spend $10 million to hire 50 new Crown prosecutors and support staff, $5 million to expand drug treatment courts, give an additional $20 million to ALERT, and spend $2 million to expand electronic monitoring technology.
The UCP has also promised a million-dollar program to help cover security improvements at mosques, synagogues, churches and other community facilities that may be the target of hate-motivated crimes.
Infrastructure: The UCP would retain the NDP government’s capital plan from 2019-20 to 2022-23, and bring back public-private partnerships (like the P3 school-build scheme slammed in a Deloitte review under the former Progressive Conservative government). The UCP would also create a 20-year strategic capital plan for the province and pass an Alberta Infrastructure Act to provide transparency around capital project funding.
No consultation: What the UCP won’t do is consult with Albertans about its major plans. In October, Kenney told a Calgary Chamber of Commerce luncheon he didn’t want to get “bogged down” with public consultations. Instead, he’s planning “100 Days of Change” to roll back NDP policies. The UCP has already hired former public servants and a transition team to pen legislation so the party can avoid opposition and push through changes “within days” of forming government.
Ultimately, the UCP wants to make decisions based on common-sense compare to the “ideological” government of the old government (NDP). They claim that through having a common-sense government, they will bring positive change in workforce, businesses, and families.
If you were unfamiliar with how the new Alberta government will change the province, we hope that article gave you some insight on changes that you might be seeing in the coming years.