Climate change caused by humans but those who disagree welcome in UCP, says Kenney

UCP Leader Jason Kenney said his party does not have a "rigid, ideological orthodoxy that everybody has to sign up to" about climate change, although he feels action is needed to tackle the issue.

United Conservative Party leader also vows to hold a referendum on equalization payments

UCP Leader Jason Kenney was in Calgary Thursday to talk about climate change and equalization payments. (CBC)

The leader of Alberta's United Conservatives says he believes humans are causing climate change and action is needed to tackle it, but those who disagree still have a place in the party.

"There's a spectrum of views about this. This is not a party with some kind of rigid, ideological orthodoxy that everybody has to sign up to," Jason Kenney said after laying out his plan to fight for the energy sector.

"I think broadly the United Conservatives accept the scientific consensus around anthropogenic climate change."

Kenney said his party would present a "common sense" plan to control carbon emissions later in the election campaign.

He was in Calgary Thursday, using the backdrop of downtown office towers to talk about his economic plans.

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UCP renews vow to scrap carbon tax

He has said his first order of business, if elected premier April 16, will be to scrap the NDP's carbon tax. The governing party misled voters by making no mention of it in its 2015 platform, he added.

Speaking at a senior's centre in Lethbridge where she promised 2,000 new long-term care beds, which would cost $170 million, NDP Leader Rachel Notley lashed back at that contention. She said her party signalled all along that serious climate action was in the offing and the broad-based tax was one of an expert panel's recommendations months later.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley was in Lethbridge Thursday where she met with supporters and visited a seniors home, touting her party's creation of more than 2,100 long-term care and dementia beds since they formed government. She says she wants another term to double that legacy. (Helen Pike/CBC)

"This plan that we came up with was the right balance," she said.

Kenney, meanwhile, accused Notley of selling Alberta out to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by imposing a carbon tax, but getting no coastal pipelines in exchange.

Kenney said he would sue Ottawa if its overhaul to environmental reviews becomes law, block energy shipments to provinces that stand in the way of development and team up with other oil and gas-friendly provincial governments.

UCP promise equalization referendum 

A UCP government would also call a referendum on equalization if what he dubs the "no more pipelines" law hasn't been mothballed, and if there is still no progress on pipelines.

The matter would be put to voters on Oct. 18, 2021, — the same date as the next municipal elections in Alberta, he said.

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The federal equalization program is meant to even out fiscal disparities between so called "have" and "have-not" provinces. Despite its economic doldrums, Alberta remains a "have" province.

Kenney was a member of Parliament in the former federal Conservative government when the current system was put in place. If elected, he would have to take the referendum results back to Ottawa for debate.

But Kenney said Albertans pride themselves of being able to share their wealth.

"What we can no longer tolerate is governments and politicians in other parts of the country benefiting from Albertans' hard work and our resources while doing everything they can to block those resources."

He also vowed to turn off the taps to B.C. if the Trans Mountain pipeline is blocked.

Notley said earlier in the day that her government has fought from Day 1 to get pipelines like the Trans Mountain expansion and that the Trudeau government bought the project, saving it from likely death, at her urging.

Kenney slammed for video

The NDP released a 10-minute video showing decades-old footage of Kenney boasting about a campaign to overturn a law extending hospital visitation rights to gay couples during the 1980s AIDS epidemic in San Francisco. The video also showed recent interviews with people touched by the crisis reacting to Kenney.

Kenney has said in the past he regrets comments made in his earlier days about overturning a law extending hospital visitation rights to gay couples during the San Francisco AIDS epidemic.

When asked if he had a message for LGBTQ Albertans today, Kenney told reporters that under a UCP government everyone will be accepted. 

"It's true that back when these were matters of political contention, that I supported the traditional definition of marriage, as did virtually every political party and political leader in every country in the democratic West," he said.

"It's also true that ... the consensus on that question has changed dramatically and I accept that."

He says most voters would prefer the candidates keep to the issues, rather that personality attacks.

"I really don't think Albertans want a personality contest they want the economy to get back," said Kenney. "They want jobs back. They want a credible plan to get our economy working again and to get pipelines built. They don't want name calling."

Alberta Party, Liberals also make promises

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel said Thursday he would double the number of educational assistants in schools.

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He also took time to highlight racist graffitti sprayed on a candidate's campaign sign in northwest Calgary overnight. Calgary Edgemont Candidate Joanne Gui awoke to find racist scarwled across one of her signs. It prompted party leader Stephen Mandel to come to Calgary for his denouncement.

The Alberta Party is reacting to racist graffitti sprayed on a candidate's campaign sign in northwest Calgary overnight. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan says he would improve child welfare, education and justice for Indigenous people if his party were to win the April 16 election.

Khan says a Liberal government would create regional Indigenous child protection offices, run by Indigenous groups, to help keep children in their home communities.

He says there would be Indigenous-led revisions to the school curriculum and the creation of Indigenous language immersion programs.

The party would also require provincial courts to use Indigenous-based sentencing principles and amend legislation making juries more representative.

Khan also says he would work to get six new seats in the legislature specifically for elected Indigenous members.

Khan, a lawyer specializing in Indigenous rights and land-claims litigation, won the party's leadership in 2017.

With files from CBC News