'Stop campaigning with our tax dollars': Kenney urges NDP government to call election now
Window for issuing election writ opened Friday
On the first day an Alberta election can legally be called, UCP Leader Jason Kenney held a rally in Calgary urging the NDP to call the provincial election now and "stop campaigning with our tax dollars."
"Launch the election today," Kenney said from the Westin Hotel in downtown Calgary, accusing Rachel Notley's NDP of making daily announcements of "unbudgeted" spending commitments.
"Since coming to power, the NDP has wasted tens of millions of tax dollars on ad campaigns designed to promote the NDP, rather than inform the public about critical government services," Kenney said.
"They spent over $9 million, for example, on ads telling Albertans why they should support the NDP's carbon tax, the same carbon tax they hid from Albertans in the last election. But guess what, it didn't work. Two-thirds of Albertans still oppose the job-killing NDP carbon tax.
"Now they're spending millions more on their so-called Made in Alberta ads, which are an unvarnished NDP pre-election campaign with zero value for taxpayers."
Under the province's fixed-date election legislation, the next provincial election must be held sometime between March 1 and May 31, 2019. Once the writ has dropped, the election campaign periods in Alberta last 28 days — which made Feb. 1 the first day that writs could be issued.
'Right now, we are the government'
The NDP shot back in an afternoon press conference.
"The premier will decide when the election gets called," said Deron Bilous, MLA for Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview. "I know Mr. Kenney may think he's already the premier, but Albertans will decide that in the spring election."
Legislation limits third-party advertisers to $150,000 in spending during the election advertising period, which runs from Dec. 1 in the year before a general election until polling day.
"We didn't do any announcements during the byelections," Bilous said. "But you know, right now we are the government, and we are continuing to govern until election day.
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Kenney said the NDP campaigned in 2015 on getting big money out of Alberta politics but hasn't followed through.
"Instead, their campaign is being run with the biggest money, government money, that belongs to taxpayers, not the NDP."
If elected, Kenney said, he would pass an "End Partisan Government Advertising Act."
"It will empower the auditor general to prohibit, at any time, government advertisements that are deemed to be partisan, and it will ban all non-essential government advertising leading up to an election, starting Dec. 1, before an election year," he said.
Kenney also announced that if elected to power, the UCP would review "all contracts signed by the NDP government from [Feb. 1] to election day."
"A government that is openly campaigning during the legal campaign period should only sign contracts that are strictly necessary," he said. "We will not allow the NDP to get away with signing sweetheart deals with their friends in the dying days of this government."
Bilous took offence at the "sweetheart deals" reference, pointing to big projects like the Green Line LRT and the new cancer centre for Calgary.
"I mean, critical infrastructure that will help save lives is a sweetheart deal, yet giving away a $700-million tax cut to the wealthiest one per cent — think that's a little rich."
Nearly 180,000 Albertans out of work
Since being elected in 2015, the NDP government has done "great damage" to the provincial economy, Kenney said.
"Since they came to office, nearly 180,000 Albertans are out of work," he said.
"We've seen the net loss of 58,00 private sector jobs. Our monthly payrolls province-wide are down by a billion dollars. Tens of billions of dollars of investment have fled Alberta."
Bilous painted a different picture, predicting a greater loss of investment capital if Kenney becomes premier.
Companies that are interested in investing in Alberta's energy sector would disappear, because they've said to us, 'we require the government to level the playing field.' There is a role for government, and simply returning to a flat tax is not going to attract that kind of investment."
He added that Kenney's promise of cancelling the carbon tax would have dire consequences.
"Mr. Kenney is is announcing that, first of all, he would repeal the price on carbon," Bilous said. "Well there goes the Calgary Green Line. There goes the Edmonton LRT."
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With files from CBC Edmonton