Alberta premier scraps planned redesign of licence plates

Alberta’s plan to redesign its licence plate is on the scrap heap.

EDMONTON — Alberta’s plan to redesign its licence plate is on the scrap heap.

Premier Jim Prentice announced Thursday that Alberta will stay with its current version, which has red symbols on a white background above the slogan “Wild Rose Country.”

Prentice said he agrees with the views he heard from Albertans on the Progressive Conservative leadership campaign trail this summer.

“Albertans have spoken very clearly that the priorities that they have identified are health, education, taking care of seniors (and) infrastructure,” Prentice told a legislature news conference.

“Changing the design of Alberta’s licence plates is not amongst those priorities.”

In the summer, the province announced it was changing the plate and offered up three prototypes for Albertans to vote for online. However the plates, designed by the U.S. company 3M, were criticized as bland.

And the removal of the Wild Rose slogan was deemed a petty, political shot at the Opposition Wildrose party.

Thursday was the fourth consecutive day that Prentice — in his fourth day as premier — jettisoned baggage from former premier Alison Redford.

On Monday, Prentice announced a new cabinet that didn’t include key Redford lieutenants such as former finance minister Doug Horner and former health minister Fred Horne.

On Tuesday, he announced the sale of government airplanes that were found to have been abused for personal gain by Redford.

On Wednesday, he announced that Gary Mar, a former PC cabinet minister receiving more than half a million dollars a year in salary and benefits as a trade envoy in Hong Kong, would not have his contract renewed.

On Thursday, along with the licence plates, he announced that he would hit the reset button on the fall session of the legislature.

The session will now start Nov. 17 with a speech from the throne.

The decision means two controversial bills overhauling Alberta’s public-sector pensions will die on the order paper.

Prentice said the bills won’t be brought back. Instead, he has asked new Finance Minister Robin Campbell to revisit the best way to make public and private sector pension plans viable.

Unions and the opposition NDP fought the bills tooth and nail when they were introduced in the spring sitting.

The AUPE, Alberta’s largest public sector union with 200,000 active workers, said the bills opened the door to drastically reducing workers’ benefits through a contribution cap and by eliminating inflation-proofing provisions.

But the government said the changes were critical to addressing a $7.4-billion unfunded liability.

Prentice said the public concern he heard on the campaign trail was one of the factors that led to the decision to let the bills die.

“There were many occasions when people who have worked hard for Albertans as government employees would meet with me, they would be in tears often, about these bills,” he said.

“This affects people’s lives in a very dramatic way and it needs to be done carefully and meticulously.”

NDP Leader Brian Mason said letting the bills die is a victory, but warned the war is not over given that the next general election is only 18 months away.

“The problem, as we’ve seen with Conservative governments in the past, is that they say one thing before the election and they do something entirely different afterwards,” said Mason.

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