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Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley shakes hands with workers during a campaign stop in Edmonton on March 20, 2019.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

NDP Leader Rachel Notley is promising to spend $1.4-billion to expand Alberta’s network of roads that handle large and oversized loads.

Ms. Notley says the current 6,500-kilometre network is recognized as one of the best in North America, but more needs to be done.

She says a re-elected NDP government would work to increase the network to cover 10,000 kilometres over the next six years.

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Ms. Notley says loads such as oil and gas equipment and prefabricated houses would move much faster, saving time and money.

It was one of two new NDP platform announcements in Fort McMurray today ahead of the April 16 election.

Ms. Notley is also committing to build a secondary highway out of the oil sands city to ease congestion and to give residents an alternative escape route in an emergency.

She says people will never forget how residents were forced to flee down Highway 63 through a tunnel of flames as a raging forest fire torched parts of the municipality in 2016.

The opposition United Conservatives have said they would explore user-pay initiatives, such as tolls, to help pay for new industrial infrastructure such as heavy-load roads.

The UCP has said it wouldn’t toll existing infrastructure.

The party has said with the provincial debt climbing to close to $60-billion, the government has to look at other financing options.

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Ms. Notley reiterated Wednesday that an NDP government will not pass the costs on to road users.

“We’re going to keep Alberta toll-free,” Ms. Notley said.

Alberta UCP leader would throw out justice triage policy, hire 50 prosecutors

Alberta United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney listens to the Speech from the Throne in Edmonton on March 18, 2019.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney says if he were premier he would throw out an NDP policy that directs Alberta’s Crown prosecutors to abandon some criminal cases to make sure more serious ones get to court.

Kenney says the policy flies in the face of justice and could be rectified with more resources and better planning.

“We will shred the triage memo,” Kenney said Wednesday at a campaign stop in Lac Ste. Anne County, west of Edmonton.

The Alberta election is April 16.

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Kenney said a UCP government would hire 50 more prosecutors and support staff and would use alternative measures such as more drug treatment courts to move people through the system.

“The NDP seems to be able to find money for all sorts of things to waste it on – low-flow shower heads and light bulbs – but they are telling prosecutors to drop criminal cases that are ‘less important’ because they can’t afford to deal with them,” said Kenney.

“It basically means letting criminals go scot-free.”

Two years ago, Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley gave triage guidelines to prosecutors because some serious cases were being tossed out for taking too long to get to trial.

Ganley’s memo urged prosecutors to consider plea deals or to abandon some minor charges or protracted white-collar crime prosecutions to make sure serious crimes didn’t fall through the cracks.

Ganley, running for re-election in Calgary, responded to Kenney in a statement. She noted that her office had to act quickly in 2017 because of a Supreme Court ruling known as the Jordan decision. It directed that cases be tossed out if they dragged on for more than 18 months in the lower courts and 30 months in superior courts.

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“Court backlogs have been building across Canada for decades,” wrote Ganley.

“The Jordan decision represented a marked change in the law. When someone is caught shoplifting nail polish, jail time is not always the best solution. The triage protocol goes a long way to ensuring our criminal justice system is focused on serious and violent matters.

Ganley said that Kenney and the UCP have voted against funding for dozens of Crown prosecutors, more provincial court judges and more RCMP officers.

“Since 2015, (NDP Leader) Rachel Notley has added more than 50 Crown prosecutors across Alberta, and in each instance, the Opposition has voted against it.”

Kenney’s announcement is part of a UCP package of reforms to address crime and clogged courts.

He promised $10 million for new prosecutors and $20 million over four years for the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams, a consortium of police agencies that fight organized crime and other serious cases.

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Kenney also said the United Conservatives would create an Alberta parole board for criminals serving provincial sentences of under two years.

“We’re tired of so many repeat offenders going through the revolving door of the justice system back out on the streets creating new victims.”

He said a UCP government would also lobby Ottawa to appoint more superior court judges and to change the Criminal Code to make crimes against rural residents an aggravating factor in sentencing.

He said that would address the reality that people living in rural area are more vulnerable because police are usually farther away.

Rally at legislature to support protecting privacy of students who join GSAs

A few hundred people rallied at the Alberta Legislature to protest a United Conservative election promise to remove privacy protection for students in gay-straight alliances.

UCP Leader Jason Kenney has said if he becomes premier his party would replace legislation that prevents educators from telling parents if their child participates in a GSA club.

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People at the rally carried rainbow flags and signs reading “gay straight alliances save lives” and “silence is violence.”

Afterwards, the group walked to Kenney’s Edmonton campaign headquarters.

On social media, NDP Leader Rachel Notley praised people who showed up for the rally, saying they make her proud to be an Albertan.

Alberta Liberal Leader would give municipalities veto over oil and gas drilling

Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan says he would give municipalities a veto over oil and gas drilling within their boundaries if his party were to win the April 16 election.

Alberta Liberal Party Leader David Khan.

He says that would allow local governments to plan for safe and sustainable growth and development.

Mr. Khan also says he would provide municipalities greater autonomy by amending the Municipal Government Act to formally recognize them as “a new order of government.”

New revenue-generating powers would go to Edmonton and Calgary, and those cities and their voters would be free to make decisions on taxes and spending.

A Liberal government would open talks with smaller municipalities to come up with similar powers.

Mr. Khan says he would also create an equitable cannabis revenue-sharing model.

“The NDP government has unfairly compensated cities on cannabis sales relative to the costs they are incurring for legalization,” he said in a release Wednesday.

Urban municipalities currently face unpredictable funding, downloading of costs and a lack of co-operation, he said.

“Our municipalities play an increasingly important role in the life of Albertans, but they are disrespected by higher orders of government.”

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