By Tim Kalinowski on May 7, 2021.
Acting Alberta Party leader Jacquie Fenske spoke at the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs weekly YouTube livestream speaker series on Thursday to explain why the Alberta Party represented a strong alternative to both the UCP and the NDP.
To illustrate this point, Fenske spoke of a personal meeting she had with now Premier Jason Kenney when he was running for the leadership of the then Progressive Conservative Party. Fenske was a PC MLA at the time.
“He droned on about the importance of eliminating the deficit and paying down the debt,” she recalled. “Now, I agree these are laudable goals, but his enthusiasm for fiscal discipline ignored or avoided the effects it would have on Albertans.”
Fenske said she questioned him on his commitment on maintaining strong social supports for Albertans in need like elderly individuals, or those with disabilities.
“He said Alberta would have the best social supports in the country after the debt has been paid off,” Fenske recalled. “It didn’t sit too well with me, because how is that working out? In the most ideal of scenarios, we are at least 10 years away from a balanced budget. We have no clear idea when we will pay off our debt.”
Fenske went on to state she believed fiscal responsibility is important, but not at any cost or above all other considerations.
“The idea that Albertans must wait for government to clean up the mess government has made is absurd,” she stated, “and that is why I am a member of the Alberta Party. I still agree with Premier Kenney that we cannot continue to spend in such an unsustainable manner. The government spends far too much money and needs to cut back. Like how about $30 million for a war room that attacks cartoons and collects personal information? There is indeed frivolous spending in government. We always see waste where the money does not go to programs to Albertans to support their needs and dreams, but rather ideological pet projects.”
Fenske said in this respect both the UCP and NDP have a lot in common.
“The UCP isn’t the only party to spend wastefully,” she said.
“The NDP has had their kick at the can, and the province’s small business owners, many who I know personally, the farmers, several of whom are my neighbours, and taxpayers can’t afford that either.”
Fenske said another thing the UCP and NDP have in common is in their parties’ needs to obsessively control and centralize every aspect of government programming and policy.
“Boiled down to the bones, they both define their parties by their beliefs in what the role of government should be,” she stated. “The UCP believe that government is a problem to be solved, that the path to prosperity is paved with reduced spending, reduced revenue, public service and public program cuts. It is ironic, I think, that a man (Kenney) who has made his living solely from the public purse thinks it is the cause of all the world’s problems.
“The NDP believe that government is the solution, regardless of the problem. Albertans are a problem to be managed by big government.”
Fenske rejects the notion that hyper-partisan displays by both parties in the current legislature are truly representative of Albertans.
“Albertans are not polarized, angry partisans,” she said. “They are our neighbours, co-workers, who work together to make a better province. And that is what the Alberta Party stands for.”
In the question and answer session following her presentation, SACPA viewers asked Fenske about the UCP’s approach to COVID-19.
“Unfortunately, we can’t do a do-over at this point in time, but our response is we need to know what the goalposts are,” she said. “Albertans need to know what to expect from their government.”
She acknowledged the reality of increasing pandemic burnout among Albertans who just want to get off the COVID rollercoaster and move on with their lives.
“We started with a full tank of gas, and a year ago we did our best,” she said. “And we were ready to try to do this, but because the goalposts keep getting moved on us we are running out that gas in our tank to be able to make those adjustments. I see so many people who don’t have the mental capacity any longer to be able to make those pivots and adjustments. I know the burnout is there, and I am so tired of things going back and forth because those goalposts keep getting moved on us.”
Fenske also addressed questions on what her party would do, if elected, to balance the provincial budget. While her party identifies balancing the budget as a priority, Fenske said, it has not made any final platform decisions yet on how to accomplish that. Fenske said all options are on the table for discussion, including a potential provincial-federal harmonized sales tax (HST).
“That is on the table,” she confirmed. “We think it is not prudent not to put it there, and to have input from Albertans.”
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