UCP leader finally dropping the mask on his true beliefs, NDP minister says

The mask has finally dropped on what Jason Kenney will do if he becomes premier next year, leaving Albertans with a "stark choice" in next year's election, Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says.

Kenney plans to make rapid changes if he becomes premier: 'Speed creates its own momentum'

UCP Leader Jason Kenney has said the party's platform will be revealed early next year in time for the spring election. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

The mask has finally dropped on what Jason Kenney will do if he becomes premier next year, leaving Albertans with a "stark choice" in next year's election, Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says.

Phillips was responding Monday to comments Kenney made at a Calgary Chamber of Commerce event last week.

"It is good that Jason Kenney is finally being honest, or beginning to be honest with Albertans about what his plans are," she said. 

"Finally the mask has slipped with respect to what Jason Kenney wants to do to the people of this province."

The United Conservative Party leader has been reluctant to reveal his party's policy until work is completed by the UCP's campaign platform committee early next year.

But he revealed some of his thinking in Calgary last Tuesday, including the need to force changes through quickly so opponents don't have the chance to mobilize against them.

In a question and answer session, Kenney hearkened back to the early days of Ralph Klein's Progressive Conservative government in the 1990s.

Kenney said Klein and members of his government were inspired by a meeting with Sir Roger Douglas, a former finance minister in New Zealand.

Douglas overhauled his country's public sector through massive job cuts and the creation of state-owned enterprises to deliver government services with a focus on efficiency and profit.

"He said the first and most important lesson is that you move quickly," Kenney said. "You move with speed because speed creates its own momentum.

"It also makes it harder for the opponents of reform to obstruct it."

Kenney said he wants to call a summer session of the legislature if he becomes premier after next spring's election so he can take "immediate cabinet action."

He said governments get caught up in "endless process" which includes engaging in consultation.

"We want to do as much of our consultation on the big issues now as possible so we don't get bogged down doing that in 2019 should we form government," he added. 

Labour law rollback?

Kenney used his appearance to introduce new ideas and repeat others he's raised before. 

The UCP leader wants to introduce an age-graduated minimum wage and appoint a minister who would be in charge of cutting regulations by one-third.  He plans to cut the carbon tax as his first act if he becomes premier next year. 

Kenney wants to introduce a fiscal commission to advise him on how to return Alberta to balanced budgets without raising taxes.

Phillips called Kenney's idea of creating a fiscal commission a "fiscal cop-out." She said Kenney has been unable to provide evidence that he could balance the budget a year sooner than promised by Premier Rachel Notley. ​

"This is all part of a stark choice that Albertans face," Phillips said. "At least we are now getting to know Jason Kenney and Albertans are being introduced to Jason Kenney's ideas."

Kenney told his Calgary audience that he wants to repeal the NDP government's labour legislation that was passed last year. However, he didn't provide specifics.

'Not working for ordinary Albertans'

"He does not want to talk to Albertans about doing things like firing pregnant women," Phillips said. "He does not want to talk to Albertans about restoring an employer's ability to fire someone who needs to take time off to care for a child with cancer.

"Of course he does not want to get bogged down in those conversations because Jason Kenney is not working for ordinary Albertans."

The Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act contains updates to Alberta's labour and employment codes which hadn't been changed in 30 years.

They allow people to take unpaid leave to deal with personal illness and injury or the critical illness of a child without the threat of losing their job. 

The legislation eliminated the need for a secret ballot on union certification if at least 65 per cent of employees are verified members.

A UCP spokesperson said Kenney has talked in the past about restoring the secret ballot for all votes. She said a UCP government wouldn't want to repeal the "common sense" aspects of the legislation.