Stephen Harper may have lost touch with Alberta values, Notley says

Stephen Harper may have lost touch with the political climate in Alberta, where an increasingly young, urban, cosmopolitan voter base is eager to embrace new ideas that match their 21st-century values, says Premier Rachel Notley.

'He’s getting a lot wrong, in terms of what he’s been saying (about) the record of this government'

Alberta premier speaking to Anna Maria Tremonti, on The Current, about environmental impact of Alberta's oil development 0:31

Stephen Harper may have lost touch with the political climate in Alberta, where an increasingly young, urban, cosmopolitan voter base is eager to embrace new ideas that match their 21st-century values, says Premier Rachel Notley.

In a wide-ranging interview Tuesday on CBC's The Current, Notley touched on climate change, but also on the change she senses in Alberta's political winds.

"He's getting a lot wrong, in terms of what he's been saying (about) the record of this government," Notley said. "It is not my intention at this point to engage in politics with one of the candidates for prime minister."

Notley said her election victory four months ago shows that Albertans have chosen a new path and want leaders with fresh solutions to long-standing problems.

"This sort of mantra of, you know, government is evil, and everyone should be doing things on their own, which was growing in popularity through the late-1980s, the 1990s and the early-2000s, I think that's shifting," Notley said. "The younger generation wants to be part of a community where people look out for each other. So, I think they appreciate seeing politicians who speak from that set of values."

The war of words between two Alberta political heavyweights has been going on since May, when the NDP swept aside the Alberta Progressive Conservative dynasty that had been in power for 44 years.

Notley literally grew up in Alberta's NDP party. Her father was party leader a generation before she took over the reins.

Harper grew up, politically, in Alberta's federal Reform movement, which he was involved with in the 1980s as the party's chief policy officer.

Harper called Notley's government "a disaster" in August. Last week, he fired another shot.

"There's a recession because oil prices have fallen by half," Harper said during a campaign stop in B.C. "And the recession has been made worse because the (Alberta) NDP government came in and followed up by raising taxes on everybody."

In her interview Tuesday, Notley said she hopes whoever wins the federal election Oct. 19 will rise above partisan politics.

"I hope that whoever ultimately becomes prime minister will demonstrate the leadership to respect the choices that Albertans made, in terms of how they wanted to go forward," she said. "And to work effectively with my government to promote the economic fortunes of this province."

Notley also defended a statement she made last week, when she called Alberta's handling of the environment an "embarrassing cousin no one wants to talk about."

"What I meant," Notley told CBC's Anna Maria Tremonti, "was the record of the previous Alberta government is embarrassing. For many years, the approach of the Alberta government was simply to put out press releases saying we're world class. I think there was a thought that if we just said it enough times, it would be true. But from a regulatory point of view, the Alberta government in the past did not do a very good job."

Notley said the voters who elected her want the province to improve its environmental record and its reputation on the world stage.

Alberta, she said, is the the only province without a renewable energy strategy or an energy efficiency strategy, two things she plans to change.

Her government recently appointed two expert panels, one to help develop a climate-change policy and one to review the province's royalty rates.

One of her predecessors in the premier's office, Conservative Ed Stelmach, tried to increase royalty rates in 2007, with a plan he said would raise an additional $1.4 billion a year.

Stelmach quickly backtracked when the oil industry, and many big-dollar Conservative donors, began to abandon his party for the upstart, right-wing Wildrose party.

Asked if there were lessons there for her government, Notley hinted that she won't back down under pressure from the oilpatch on royalty rates.

"We won't be making those decisions (about royalties) based on previous political relationships," she said. "I think Mr. Stelmach was more dependant on the political support of certain players within oil and gas than we are."


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