UCP candidates in Red Deer vow to repeal farm safety law

The four men running for the leadership of the United Conservative Party each say they will repeal the NDP's farm safety bill if they become premier of Alberta in 2019.

The Red Deer debate is focusing on three themes — leadership, agriculture and social issues.

United Conservative Party leadership candidates square off in Red Deer Tuesday. (CBC)

The four men running for the leadership of the United Conservative Party each say they will repeal the NDP's farm safety bill if they become premier of Alberta in 2019.

Brian Jean, Jason Kenney, Doug Schweitzer and Jeff Callaway vowed in the opening moments of the leadership debate in Red Deer Tuesday to repeal the law, commonly called Bill 6, as soon as taking office.

"Bill 6 was an unnecessary attack on Alberta farmers and I believe our Conservative government should repeal it within weeks of forming office," Kenney told the crowd.

The bill passed in December 2015 after weeks of protests from farmers and ranchers.

The NDP government later acknowledged they did a poor job explaining and consulting on the law, which subjected farms and ranches to occupational health and safety rules.

"The NDP consulted more on daylight savings time — daylight savings time —  than they consulted on Bill 6," Schweitzer said.

In addition to repealing Bill 6, Jean argued Alberta needs to remove other roadblocks for farmers and ranchers because they need to compete with jurisdictions around the world.

Jason Kenney, Doug Schweitzer, Brian Jean and Jeff Callaway. (CBC)

"We have to look around and listen to them," Jean said. "You know, like actually having a committee hearing and invite farmers and ranchers and those groups that represent them. What a surprise that would be."

While Callaway said the government should "go back to the drawing board," he said he didn't think a new law was needed at all.

"Frankly, I think we had a good system before."

Pipelines and carbon tax

In addition to questions about agriculture, moderator Rob Breakenridge asked candidates how the Alberta government could balance fiscal prudence with the need to provide services to less fortunate Albertans.

A question about the leadership style needed for Alberta to be heard on the national stage gave candidates the crowd-pleasing opportunity to bash the Liberal government in Ottawa.

Callaway said the next Alberta premier must to stand up to the prime minister over the "intrusion" of a national carbon tax.

"If I was to be premier, I would join Saskatchewan in that court battle [over the carbon tax] and take the federal government to task over that issue," he said.

Schweitzer said the government needs to fight hard but also work collaboratively with Ottawa on getting the Kinder-Morgan pipeline expansion built.

If B.C. continues to block the project, he said it should get booted from the New West Partnership, the trade agreement among the four western provinces.

Referendum on equalization payments

Kenney said Alberta needs a premier who can fight Justin Trudeau as hard as former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed fought Pierre Trudeau.

He said he would go to court to fight for the Energy East pipeline and to stop the federal carbon tax.

Both he and Jean said they would use a ruling by the Supreme Court to allow Alberta to have a referendum on changing the formula used to calculate equalization payments.

The candidates will face off in two more debates — one in Fort McMurray on Oct. 12 and another in Lethbridge on Oct.17 — before party members pick a leader.

The UCP was created in July after Wildrose and Progressive Conservative members agreed on a deal to merge the two parties.

Voting starts the morning of Oct. 26. The winner will be announced Oct. 28 at the  Metropolitan Centre in Calgary.

About the Author

Michelle Bellefontaine

Provincial affairs reporter

Michelle Bellefontaine covers the Alberta legislature in Edmonton. She has also worked as a reporter in the Maritimes and in northern Canada. You can reach her at michelle.bellefontaine @cbc.ca.