Facing the future
Premier Ed Stelmach fielded some pointed questions from students during a campaign stop at Notre Dame High School Wednesday afternoon.
One student asked him what his response was to media reports that he has no plan, an apparent reference to a union-backed television advertising campaign that has criticized the government in recent weeks with a series of attack ads.
Stelmach told about 1,000 students gathered in the school’s gymnasium that his government has been deeply involved in planning and for the first time ever each minister got mandate letters making clear what they are expected to accomplish.
The premier was also asked why the province sells so much crude oil, rather than refining it in Alberta.
Stelmach said the government is well aware of the need to boost upgrading capacity and is already working on long-term planning. The bitumen developed so far is worth $128 billion to all levels of government. But it is worth up to $300 billion if upgrading and other value-adding processes take place in Canada.
Questioned about education, Stelmach said he wants to make post-secondary education more affordable and to boost high school graduation to 90 per cent from around 70 per cent.
In his speech, he listed his priorities as building communities, greening Alberta and creating new opportunities.
Stelmach said the province plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2050. He added there will be some increase in emissions in the short term, but that is necessary to avoid putting the brakes on growth.
“We’re not going to limit your opportunities. We’re not going to lower the boom on your dreams.”
A group of Grade 10 students interviewed after the premier’s appearance were unimpressed with their firsthand look at political stumping.
“Honestly, I didn’t think he answered that great,” said Patrick Sweiger. “He danced around it.
“There were a few things he said that I thought were OK. I wasn’t sold on it.”
Spencer Swinston said overall he enjoyed the premier’s appearance, but gave him poor marks on his response to student questions.
“Some of the stuff was on topic,” he said, but added, “Every time we asked him a question he would just completely change the subject.”
“I thought he was a little blown away by a couple of those questions,” said Danielle Dwyer. “He didn’t have a response.”
Kiley Helmer also gave a bad review to the premier’s message. “What I just mainly took from it is we are the future. (But) what’s the point of coming here if you have no plans for the future.”
Following, the school event, the premier went to Bower Place Shopping Centre where he shook hands and spoke with local voters. He was joined by Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski, Red Deer South candidate Cal Dallas and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Luke Oullette.
The premier was expected to make an announcement this morning at a local day care before continuing his travels.
Central Alberta is also in the sights of Liberal Leader Kevin Taft. He is making an announcement in Ponoka at 1 p.m. and then heading to Red Deer Regional Airport for a 4 p.m. announcement. He is then making a speech at 5:30 p.m. in Red Deer at a campaign office at 200, 6700 76th St.
Contact Paul Cowley at email@example.com