UCP leader wants election called for first week of March
'Albertans ... don't want to wait until May or June,' Jason Kenney says on last day of fall session
United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney wants Premier Rachel Notley to call an election on Feb. 1, which would allow Albertans to go to the polls in the first week of March.
"This is a government that has lost massively the support of Albertans," Kenney said during a news conference Thursday on the last day of the fall legislature session.
"It would be, I think, a huge mistake for them to try to foist on Albertans as a lame-duck government a budget, when their entire fiscal plan is in tatters.
"Albertans desperately want a government that is focused on reigniting our economy and fighting for this province. They don't want to wait until May or June."
According to legislation, the election must be held in March, April or May of 2019.
With his UCP leading in the polls, Kenney appears eager to get an election underway as soon as possible.
But Notley remains coy about whether her government will hold a spring session or table a provincial budget.
Though Finance Minister Joe Ceci suggested last week he would table a spring budget, Notley wouldn't confirm which way she was leaning.
"There may or may not be a budget," she said prior to boarding a flight to Montreal on Thursday for a meeting between the premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
"There are two options and one of those two options will happen."
'I love this place'
However, some MLAs were acting as though Thursday was the last day of the last session before the election.
Government House Leader and Transportation Minister Brian Mason has decided to retire once this term wraps up. He became teary-eyed as he bid farewell to the legislature.
"It's been a wonderful 18 years in this place," he said as the assembly erupted in applause.
"I love this place and I'm going to miss it very much, and all of you."
Asked whether he was marking his last day in the legislature, Mason said he didn't know. He said everyone was hedging their bets just in case.
"I have no idea what the premier is going to decide," Mason said.
The five-week fall session started on Oct. 29. MLAs passed bills to give municipal election campaign donations more transparency, tie infrastructure funding for Edmonton and Calgary to rises and falls in provincial revenue and regulate mental health counsellors and private addiction treatment centres.
Other bills increased monthly payments to recipients of Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped benefits, and for the first time legislated guidelines for distributing assets when common-law couples split up.