November 20, 2014

Alberta is the Only Province in Canada Without a Renewable Energy Policy

Albertans have already seen so many promises broken.

So we shouldn’t expect much more from Premier Jim Prentice, the newly elected leader of Alberta’s New Democrats told a Lethbridge audience Thursday.

Edmonton MLA Rachel Notley, selected three weeks ago to lead her party in the next election, recounted many campaign promises offered by previous premier Alison Redford and Conservative premiers before her.
They ranged from 140 new “community clinics across the province, she said, to full-day kindergarten and eradication of child poverty “within five years.”

But few if any of the promises have been honored, Notley told the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs. More and more Albertans are now relying on food banks, she said, though the number of families in dire need has fallen in other provinces.

Voters believing the Conservatives’ latest promises, she said, would be as naive as Charlie Brown was when Lucy – in the famous “Peanuts” cartoon strip – promised not to yank the football away.

“We’ve all been through this story before,” Notley said. “We don’t need Lucy at the helm of our government.”

Despite Conservative promises, she said, hundreds of thousands of Albertans still have emergency-only access to health care. And thanks to maintenance budget cuts imposed during Ralph Klein’s years as premier and funds withheld since then, upkeep at many of Alberta’s older schools like Galbraith is lagging $3 million or more behind.

Far from eliminating Alberta’s debt load, she said, all Klein did “was to push it onto the next generation.”

By contrast, Notley said, Premier Peter Lougheed was able to upgrade facilities and services by increasing the royalties collected from companies tapping into Alberta’s oil and gas reserves. After verifying what they’d been paying to the previous Social Credit government, she said Lougheed branded that “highway robbery” and gradually increased royalty rates as the energy industry grew.

In the aftermath of Premier Ed Stelmach’s attempt to review them, she said, Albertans are now getting an even lower rate of return than under the Socred government.

New Democrats are starting to work on their platform and policy for the next provincial election, she told a questioner. And part of it will focus on the province’s revenue shortfalls and its dependency on energy income.

Royalty rates should be increased to the level paid in other developed nations, she said, and the only-in-Alberta “flat tax” on personal income must be replaced by a conventional “progressive income tax,” one that doesn’t favor the highest earners.

She reminded her audience middle-income earners in Alberta – bringing home $70,000 a year, for example – are paying $1,400 more each year than their same-income neighbors in British Columbia.

New Democrats won’t call for a sales tax, she added, because they see so many other opportunities for the provincial government to cancel giveaways to the energy sector in particular – and to reform its tax structures.

Notley said New Democrats aren’t waiting for the Conservatives to write a new strategy encouraging renewable energy initiatives.

“They promised it in 2008,” but failed to deliver, she said. So her party is working on one now.

“We are the only province in the country without a renewable energy policy,” Notley said.

“We are so far behind. Somebody has to take a leadership role.”

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