Alberta’s struggling energy sector took centre stage on the second day of the province’s election campaign as the New Democrats and United Conservatives announced opposing plans to end a prolonged downturn.
Jason Kenney, the United Conservative Leader, vowed to cancel the province’s carbon tax in his first act as premier and launch a constitutional challenge of Ottawa’s climate policies, adding to lawsuits already filed by the governments of Saskatchewan and Ontario. He said cancelling the tax would save Albertans more than $1.4-billion annually and help businesses recover from five years of economic woes.
Alberta’s carbon tax, introduced after Rachel Notley’s New Democrats won power in 2015 and set it at $30 a tonne, is at the centre of the province’s climate change plan, along with a 100-megatonne limit on emissions from the oil sands.
“The NDP carbon tax is killing jobs,” said Mr. Kenney, speaking to workers in hard hats at an iron works company. “By May 30 of this year, the Alberta carbon tax will be history. People ask me all the time: Jason, can you really do that? My answer is: Just watch us.”
Under federal legislation, Ottawa would impose a carbon tax if Mr. Kenney were to scrap the province’s. He made the announcement in Lethbridge, which was swept by the New Democrats in 2015 and is home to Shannon Phillips, who served as the high-profile environment minister over the past four years.
Ms. Notley has set her sights on building more petrochemical and upgrading projects in Alberta with plans to double an existing incentive program to $7-billion over the next decade. She said the proposal would lead to $75-billion in private-sector investment and could create 70,000 jobs as more oil and gas is processed in the province.
During Ms. Notley’s time in office, she approved more than $2-billion in incentives to open new facilities that produce plastics, fabrics, fuels and fertilizers. The government said late last year that the upgrading program had generated more than $20-billion in private investment so far.
“If you want an Alberta that is serious about diversifying, serious about acting like an owner, serious about making sure we are less vulnerable to a single resource sold at a single price to a single buyer, then I ask you to re-elect me as your premier,” Ms. Notley said in Edmonton at an engineering shop.
She compared her economic diversification efforts to those of Peter Lougheed, Alberta’s first Progressive Conservative premier and a figure who is still lauded across the province.
She also contrasted her plan to Mr. Kenney’s wider economic policy, which includes trimming regulations and cutting the corporate tax rate by a third. “He’s selling snake oil – he doesn’t have a plan to help you. He’ll just make Alberta and Albertans more vulnerable to boom-and-bust cycles," she said.
The NDP also released a TV ad Wednesday that takes aim at Mr. Kenney’s record on LGBTQ rights, featuring a speech in which he took credit for his leading role in a campaign that overturned hospital visitation rights in San Francisco – where he was a university student at the time – for same-sex couples during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. In the decades since, Mr. Kenney has said he regrets some of the statements he made at the time.
The Leader of the Alberta Party, former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel, announced Wednesday that he would provide vouchers and tax credits to help families pay for daycare and after-school programs if he is elected. He also promised to expand affordable child care beyond the 7,300 spaces created by the NDP at $25 a day.
Liberal Leader David Khan promised to increase education funding and reduce class sizes.