United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney got a warm reception at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association convention Friday morning.
After a rousing campaign-style speech in which Kenney pledged to dump the carbon tax, slash red tape and reignite the economy about a third of the crowd of more than 1,000 delegates rose to their feet in a standing ovation amid the applause.
Kenney was the third to take the podium following Alberta Liberal Party Leader David Khan and Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel, whose speeches were greeted with applause.
Stoking Alberta’s economy — where per capita GDP is down seven per cent since 2014 — is critical for turning the province around, said Kenney, adding that if GDP growth could be maintained at three per cent per year Alberta’s budget could be balanced by 2022.
“I’m asking all of you to share a fixation on doing everything you can to help generate economic growth. That will be the centre of our platform next spring,” he said.
Kenney said he will reduce business taxes, eliminate the carbon tax and slash red tape.
B.C. got it right when it cut regulations by more than a third, he said.
“They continue to be one of the most competitive jurisdictions in North America.”
In Alberta, energy companies have waited a year for a well approval that would have been granted in less than a week in Texas.
“We have this constant accretion, accumulation of the regulatory burden. It is holding back Alberta’s economy and we need to work together to fix it,” he said to loud applause.
Kenney urged the crowd to lobby to stop Bill C-69, which will change the way major energy projects are reviewed.
Premier Rachel Notley also slammed the bill this week.
Kenney said Alberta’s energy industry has already lost $40 billion of oil and gas sector investment in the last three years and another $50 billion in prospective investment.
Alberta needs to fight back against the lies told about its energy industry, he said, pledging if he becomes premier to create a “war room” to combat misinformation.
Kenney said he is prepared to challenge the country’s transfer payment system to which the province has a net contribution of $20 billion.
The Alberta Liberal Party leader said in an interview following the speeches he is opposed to setting arbitrary regulation reduction targets.
“I don’t think we should be that simplistic about cutting regulations. but certainly we need to look at all the regulations and whether they are producing the outcomes we want.”
Khan pointed out Liberals opposed the carbon tax, not because they are against climate change measures but because it was unclear where the money would go and how it help combat climate change.
“It became just a slush fund,” he told reporters.
Khan said he knows Albertans are hurting and he wants to see the tax regime revamped.
“What is the best tax mix provincially to promote that economic growth while also paying for the services Albertans have wanted and deserved.”
In his speech, Khan pledged to reduce municipality’s’s recycling costs and give them veto power over oil and gas well applications within their boundaries. The party would also create a mechanism so municipalities could recoup 100 per cent of their carbon taxes and he would stop financial downloading to municipalities.
Alberta Party leader Mandel, who was mayor of Edmonton for nine years, said he understands the challenges municipalities are facing getting provincial funding and his party will look at changing funding formulas. Municipalities need money to keep their infrastructure up to date.
“For too long we have been focused on building instead of maintaining,” he said, saying his party would establish a regional economic infrastructure development fund.
The Alberta Party also supports regionalizing health care and investing more in policing. The party intends to release a rural crime strategy later this year.