Alberta’s two main provincial party leaders shared the same stage Tuesday but not at the same time, delivering competing visions for the province’s largest city as they move into campaign mode before this spring’s election.
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek interviewed Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley then Premier Danielle Smith as part of Calgary Economic Development’s annual Report to the Community.
Gondek asked each leader questions that included how they would diversify the city’s economy, their vision for Calgary’s downtown, and how they would work with the federal government to ensure a steady source of municipal funding.
Notley touted tax credits, a reinvestment in post-secondary education and ways an NDP government would revitalize the city’s downtown.
“Post-secondary is a critical partner in business development,” she said to a round of applause.
Notley talked about a plan to create a downtown post-secondary footprint in Calgary and to deal with such issues as public safety, mental health and affordable housing.
She also got a round of applause when she promised to “get rid of this ridiculous Sovereignty Act” to provide greater investment certainty in the province. The bill was introduced by Smith as centrepiece legislation to pursue a more confrontational approach with the federal government on issues deemed to be an overreach in provincial areas of responsibility.
As Notley exited on one side of the stage, Smith walked up the other to sit down for the same set of questions from Gondek.
The United Conservative Party leader focused on her government’s film tax credit and corporate tax cuts, as well as a national campaign to attract more workers to Alberta.
“We have had six quarters of people moving into our province and I think that’s going to keep on going,” said Smith. “We just want to make sure we have stability, that people know they have a low-tax environment.”
When asked about the downtown, she focused on private investment.
“When you get the economics right and people see this is the place to be, they will come and do that kind of investment,” she said.
Smith got applause when she said the government was committed to helping get a new sports, arts and entertainment building for Calgary.
“That is going to be essential to finishing off development in the East Village,” she said.
She also highlighted a recent plan to hire more police officers to address safety in cities.
Smith did not take questions from reporters, while several other NDP politicians joined Notley when she spoke after the event. She pointed out the differences in philosophy between her party and the UCP.
“They are basically washing their hands of the issue around downtown revitalization and the issue of incenting more diversification and really actively promoting … the kind of economic plan that will set us up for many decades into the future,” Notley told reporters. “It’s a very hands-off approach.
“We need to be strategic and we need to work as partners in order to ensure Alberta attracts the kind of investment that we have the potential to.”
Notley acknowledged both provincial parties are starting to shift to campaign mode.
“We have a fixed election date,” she said. “It’s not uncommon for the focus to shift when that happens, so I am just going to continue talking to Albertans about the things that matter to them and what our plans are.”
The writ is scheduled to be dropped on May 1 for a May 29 polling day.