When we launched our campaign back in late January 2018, my team and I promised to develop a grassroots policy agenda - driven by the people who live in our area.
Through the extensive constituency outreach we have done on over the past several months, my policy committee and I have hammered out a number specific policy positions and ideas. Generally speaking, our approach can be summed up in a few simple words:
Bigger private sector. Smaller government.
But for those of you who want more details, here is what we have come up with:
During my time in government, I have always operated under the conviction that financial responsibility must be our first and foremost commitment. Every government organization in our country should treat financial sustainability as it’s permanent number 1 priority. As long as governments ensure that we are in a long term financially viable position, we will always be able to continue finding ways to address all the other issues and challenges in our society. On the flip side, if we become distracted by other issues and lose sight of financial responsibility, everything else begins to erode as the debt piles up. In Canada and Alberta, we were all born into great wealth compared to the rest of the world, but there is no guarantee that our children and grandchildren will receive the same opportunity. If I am your MLA, I will do what I can to ensure that financial responsibility remains the top priority of the United Conservative Party.
Stand Up for Oil and Gas
As far as I am concerned, our energy industry is the best thing that ever happened to this province. It’s the backbone of our entire economy. When the energy industry is expanding, everyone in every other industry also benefits. We are sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of natural resources in Alberta, and we should do everything we can to send a message to the international market that Alberta does not want to “phase out” oil and gas. We must also stress that Alberta is already an international leader in environmental conservation and we do not need further environmental regulation. We need deregulation to make our industry more competitive.
Repeal the Carbon Tax
The creation of the multi-billion dollar carbon tax was the single largest tax increase in Alberta’s history. It is a wide-reaching tax that has harmful cost implications in nearly every aspect of Alberta’s economy. What’s more concerning is the tax itself is intended as a policy measure to phase out oil and gas - our number one industry. If I am your MLA, I will happily support repealing the Alberta NDP’s Carbon Tax, and then joining with Ontario and Saskatchewan to fight against the Federal Liberal’s Carbon Tax.
Balance the Budget
Continually spending more money each year than we bring in, is not an option for households or businesses. It should not be an option for the government. Every year that our government runs multi-billion dollar deficits means that we, and our future generations, are going to have to pay even more taxes for less services in the future. The big spending leftists always justify their debt by saying it is needed for important public and social services. However, they seem to overlook that it is an entirely unsustainable band-aid solution. Borrowing money for things like health care and education today, means that we will have less money available for things like health care and education in the future. I am under no illusions that balancing the budget will be easy, but the longer we wait to correct our path, the more painful it will be when it comes time to pay the piper. The perpetual borrowing must stop. However, I know that making massive and reckless cuts too quickly can cause a lot of unintended problems. That’s why I believe the United Conservative Party should commit to working towards a balanced budget over a 3 or 4 year period, and then hold the line on spending thereafter.
A significant component of our financial stress in Alberta is the amount of our federal taxes that go out to other provinces. Over the past few decades Alberta has effectively paid hundreds of billions of dollars to the so-called “have not” provinces. I don’t mind supporting other provinces, but only if they are willing to support our primary industries in return. I believe we should demand a renegotiation of the equalization formula in the Federal Government. If and when they deny us that renegotiation, we should hold an Alberta wide referendum on the matter - citing the Quebec constitutional challenge as our legal precedent. Even if the Supreme Court of Canada shuts us down, we will have been successful in raising awareness around the issue.
Encourage Small Business
The NDP have introduced several changes to small businesses that have really hurt a number of already struggling families and entrepreneurs. We all know that small businesses are at a distinct disadvantage when they are competing against large multinational corporations and we need to be doing everything we can to make Alberta’s businesses competitive. I want to see the UCP reverse some of the damaging policies created by the NDP such as the mandatory stat holiday pay for part time employees, and the massive minimum wage hikes. These policies have not only hurt local businesses, but they have also caused unemployment among youth and new Canadians.
In addition to supporting our primary industries, the government should also encourage economic diversification. Free market economists generally agree that the best thing the government can do for the economy is get out of the way. By that, I mean creating a regulatory environment and taxation level that is competitive with the rest of the world. That way, our businesses have the opportunity to out-profit and out-grow their international competitors. If we do that, I am confident that industries other than oil and gas, will continue to develop and expand here in Alberta. In fact, this process of free market diversification is empirically proven to have happened during Alberta’s best economic years.
Moving forward, I believe the Alberta government should have an official “Alberta Advantage Policy”, whereby we direct the government to always ensure that we have the most competitive tax environment in all of North America.
Free Market Electricity
While it’s often overlooked, the electricity market is one of the most vital industries in all our lives. We use electricity all day, every day. It is such an integrated part of our lifestyle that we often forget about the financial and economic importance of government policy surrounding electricity generation. Unfortunately, the NDP have created a very complicated and a very expensive mess of our electricity market. Power companies have been forced to shut down their clean coal power generation, and in its place they have been tasked with building redundant, duplicate electricity infrastructure. The true and final costs of these changes are still unknown, but one thing is clear, it is going to be costing taxpayers, consumers and businesses a LOT of money. While some of the changes in the coal power generation will be irreversible, I believe the Alberta government should embrace free market electricity moving forward. The Alberta government should give our electricity producers the freedom they need to produce reliable electricity in a competitive and cost effective manner.
Invest in the Alberta Heritage Fund
My long term vision and aspiration for Alberta’s government is to develop a permanent and binding plan that requires a defined percentage of our natural resource revenues to be invested in the Alberta Heritage Fund. History has shown us that these contributions must be required, and not left to the discretion of politicians. If we allow politicians to choose when to save, they will generally choose to never save.
This is not about building a rainy day fund, it is about building an investment fund that actually generates passive revenue. If we had a large investment generating revenue, we could use it to offset corporate and income taxes. That tax offset would give us a mechanism to guarantee the above mentioned “Alberta Advantage Policy” today and well into the future. That level of financial confidence would inspire a massive capital inflow from international investors, and Alberta’s prosperity would spiral upwards.
In our private lives, we all understand the power of putting money into RRSP’s, TFSA’s and other investment vehicles. By putting money into financial instruments, we can actually make money without much effort. Unfortunately no governments in Alberta or Canada have had the foresight and discipline to apply this sound common sense approach in our public finances.
It’s important to note that this public financing model is not without precedent. Sovereign Wealth Funds like the Alberta Heritage Funds (AHF) have been successfully developed in a number of other jurisdictions such as Alaska, Norway, China and Singapore. We have a well functioning fund here in Alberta, but it is not being funded by the provincial government. In the past 5 years, the AHF averaged an 11% annual return. It is an absolute shame that we are not giving the fund managers more money to work with. If we sit back while other countries invest and we do not, we are going to continue falling behind.
Commitment to Grassroots Policy
I spent a year working for Jason Kenney as we built the United Conservative movement from the ground up. I know that the key to his success in inspiring confidence was his unwavering commitment to grassroots politics. Jason Kenney built this entire party on a Grassroots Guarantee. A guarantee that regular everyday Albertans would be in charge of the policy vision of our party and future government.
In that spirit, I am committed to a Local Grassroots Guarantee. If I am elected to be our MLA, I am going to create a permanent public engagement and policy development process through an ongoing Local Policy Committee in the Constituency Association. At this time, constituents don’t have an effective mechanism to share their ideas and concerns. This Local Policy Committee will give people a real process to be heard.