If elected, the United Conservative Party is promising to rely on market forces to produce a small surplus after four years and reduce emissions without taxing carbon or subsidizing renewable energy.
The party revealed its platform Saturday in Calgary. It was filled with details on how it would intend to run Alberta’s government, if it wins enough seats in the April 16 provincial election.
UCP Leader Jason Kenney held a rally before his platform announcement at Spruce Meadows equestrian park in south Calgary. He then spoke to reporters, laying out his 117 page plan.
You can watch that announcement live on CBC Calgary’s Facebook page. Share your thoughts on the party’s promises in the comments.The platform is centred around reducing the deficit by the end of four years, partly by freezing spending and partly by reducing taxes, in hopes of sparking industry growth.
“We’re going to have to maintain some discipline to start paying down debt,” Kenney told reporters.
At the end of the NDP government’s third-quarter fiscal update last month, it suggested the province was on track to finish the fiscal year with a $6.9-billion deficit.
No railcars, superlab
Among the cuts proposed include reversing the NDP’s plan to spend $3.7 billion on leasing railcars and the construction of the $640-million superlab in Edmonton.
“What we’ll be doing here is taking low-priority and wasteful spending, reducing that and retargeting it to high-priority spending. That makes fiscal sense,” Kenney said.
The UCP hired a firm, Stokes Economics, to prepare its proposed budget and an economic forecast for the province, which was slightly different than that of the government. The same firm was used by the Saskatchewan Party to develop its 2007 election platform.
Business investment, oil and gas
In a letter detailing its findings, the firm said a UCP-run Alberta would rely on economic growth being driven by “business investment growth and a recovery in the oil and gas sector.”
The plan maintains operational spending at existing levels and reviews spending on an annual basis to “eliminate waste, duplication and non-essential spending,” the platform says.
The party would also eliminate several revenue sources, with the goal of reducing the burden to companies and thus, it believes, sparking economic growth.
The party would cut the carbon tax, withdraw from the federal Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund and implement the Job Creation Tax Cut, which would drop the corporate tax rate from 12 per cent to eight per cent.
This, the UCP says, would result in slight revenue growth over four years, pulling the government’s deficit up from a Stokes-projected $7.38 billion deficit in 2019/20 to an estimated $714 million surplus in 2022/23.
Should the UCP be elected, the party promises to scrap the Alberta Climate Leadership Plan.
The United Conservatives noted in its platform that the world was “grappling with the tension” between needing a carbon-based energy industry and the “consensus that its emissions are directly contributing to climate change.”
To address this, the UCP proposed a strategy that would see carbon emissions reduced at a lower rate than what has been promised by the NDP.
By 2030, the party said it would see an annual reduction of 43 megatonnes of carbon emissions without a carbon tax.
The NDP have said with its measures, the province is on track to see an annual 50 megatonne reduction by that time. They’ve done this through capping oilsands emissions, reducing methane emissions and cutting coal-generated electricity.
A big change will be how large emitters will be taxed on emissions. The UCP intends to continue to set targets for large industrial facilities, where the companies would have to meet emissions performance targets for emissions above 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. They’d have to reduce those emissions each year by 10 per cent, adding an additional one percentage point to that cap each year.
The first $100 million, plus 50 per cent of the remaining revenues, would be paid into a fund to pay to develop clean technologies. The rest would go into general revenue for the province.
Under the NDP, those revenue from large emitters went 100 per cent into a fund for green initiatives.
The UCP says it considers financial support to develop renewable technology or kickstart such companies as “subsidies,” and says that industry should compete in the energy market should it wish to succeed. The Alberta renewable energy program would stop funding initiatives after round three.
It has made no decision on what would happen to agencies, such as Energy Efficiency Alberta and Emissions Reduction Alberta.
Kenney also said he intends to spend $30 million over each of four years to run a “war room” to take on “fake news and share the truth” about Alberta’s energy industry. The funding will go towards advertising primarily.
Advanced polls open April 9. Election day is a week later.
Rally ahead of announcement
Hundreds gathered to listen to Kenney speak at a rally Saturday before the full platform was released. The crowd held signs and chanted “Jobs, economy, and pipelines.”
Kenney said he would reduce red tape on the economy, and stand with natural gas producers.
“Enough of apologizing for what we do,” Kenney said.
NDP reacts ahead of own platform announcement
The UCP’s main opponent, the Alberta NDP, has said it will announce its platform Sunday in Edmonton.
The party, headed by Rachel Notley, has campaigned so far on its track record of four years in government, its plan to improve the climate, jobs and the economy, and promising that education funding will keep pace with enrolment.
Sarah Hoffman, NDP candidate for Edmonton-Glenora responded to the UCP’s platform Saturday.
“Jason Kenney wants Albertans to believe he can ride to the rescue with billions in tax breaks for corporations and the economy will magically diversify itself,” Hoffman said in a media release.
She said Kenney’s plan for corporate tax cuts helps those who need it least.
Speaking to reporters Saturday, Hoffman said the UCP’s plan to eliminate the carbon tax would lead to a made-in-Ottawa plan.
“We’ve been able to take the money that people are investing here in Alberta, and put it back into the local economy through economic diversification, renewables, energy retrofits,” she said.
“These are all things that would be out of our control if we fail to follow through on Alberta’s Climate Leadership plan.”