Mr. Clark: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. It is always an honour to respond to the Speech from the Throne. I’m a centrist, and I am very proud of that fact. It is the opposite of not believing in anything. In fact, it’s about believing in balance. That balance is not only possible but desirable. It’s what we should be striving for in this Assembly. It is about thinking long term. It’s about people. It’s about quality of life. It’s about planning. It’s about good fiscal management, and it’s about vision.
Unfortunately, this government has chosen only one side of the ledger. They’ve doubled down to target whomever they think their voters are. They’ve completely ignored the fact that doing so costs money and that money has to come from somewhere and that in tough times that somewhere means borrowed money and that borrowed money eventually needs to be paid back. Sadly, their plan seems to be the same as all governments before them: cross your fingers, and hope to goodness that the price of oil goes up.
On the other side of the equation we have an opposition party focused only on finance. They refuse to share any concrete or plausible plans to ensure that front-line services remain intact as they focus only on the deficit. We know the only logical outcomes of their plans are reduced access to public services, more children in every classroom, longer wait times for health care, and worse outcomes for vulnerable Albertans. If the opposition disagrees, please, by all means, prove me wrong. Show me your work. Show me how you would address Alberta’s fiscal challenges without devastating front-line public services. Until then I’m going to continue to call you out on the devastating impact that your ideology would have on our province.
There is a bigger and even more fundamental question. What is the point of government? Is it simply to get re-elected every four years, or should there be something more? Nothing – and I mean nothing – in this Speech from the Throne tells me that this government has a plan beyond 2019. What is missing is a vision. Sadly, based on the tone of the House these past few days, it’s clear that the election campaign has already begun. The government seems hell bent on flowing money targeted at their voting coalition with absolutely no regard for the long-term consequences or even the medium-term consequences. If this works and the government somehow gets re-elected, I guess they’ll deal with that problem when they get there, but if it doesn’t, the next government will have to deal with the fiscal mess they’ve created. Significant cuts to front-line public services seem to be the strategy. Then at that point, when the government finds themselves in opposition, perhaps they play a strategy for the next election beyond that, and we whipsaw back and forth between two extremes.
That’s not who we are as Albertans, and sadly it is not necessary. It doesn’t need to be as bad as this government has made it. There are choices. There are options. Not only is it possible to find balance, but if we’re going to succeed together as a province, it is absolutely necessary that we do so.
Instead of just complaining, here’s my solution. I want to create sustained and shared prosperity in this province. To do that, it means we need to create a business environment that attracts investment and stimulates economic growth, and that investment needs to come from both domestic and international sources. We need to reframe and rethink our tax system to minimize tax leakage to other provinces and encourage entrepreneurship. We need to focus on shovel-ready capital projects that get Albertans back to work today. We need to monitor and take advantage of global market opportunities and trends. We need to not be afraid of what’s going on in the rest of the world. We need to embrace that change, take advantage of it, and put Albertans back to work.
It also requires good fiscal management. We need a government that has a realistic plan to balance the budget. We need a government that has a plausible plan to actually start paying back debt. We need a government that commits to building up the heritage savings trust fund to become a renewable, viable, and valuable fiscal resource for this province.
We need to focus on poverty and harm reduction. We need to fund supports for the most vulnerable Albertans, think differently about prevention, and optimize service delivery. We need to transition from an acute-care to a long-term preventative model. We need to address systemic and root-cause issues behind addiction, homelessness, and poverty and implement stable, long-term mental health supports.
We need to create and maintain a high quality of life in this province, which means promoting and encouraging a vibrant Alberta arts and culture scene, supporting Alberta’s diverse cultural heritage. We need to ensure that our communities are safe and that we support multiculturalism, respect the LGBTQ community, and work every day towards reconciliation with indigenous peoples. We need to ensure advanced education remains high quality, affordable, and accessible. We need to provide housing and career supports as people transition to new careers.
We must pursue environmental sustainability. The Alberta Party caucus and the Alberta Party as a whole: our members believe in human-caused climate change. We believe in the science of climate change. We don’t see that as a threat to our province; we see that as the single greatest market opportunity of our lifetime. There’s no benefit to Alberta in pretending climate change doesn’t exist, in pretending it isn’t a problem that needs to be addressed. Alberta has innovative big thinkers who can help solve the problems of tomorrow, help create entrepreneurial, innovative companies, and help create products that will help diversify our economy while addressing climate change and do so in a way that supports and celebrates Alberta’s responsible energy industry.
I am a fiercely proud Albertan, and I am fiercely proud of our energy industry. We do not need to choose between the environment and the economy. We do not need to choose between environmental sustainability and success with Alberta’s energy industry. Those are the same thing.
We need to focus our academic institutions and industry on developing innovative technologies that reduce Alberta’s carbon footprint and create technologies we can sell to the rest of the world. We need a reasonable rebate program that only helps those who actually need help instead of only supporting NDP re-election efforts. We need to deal with a growing abandoned well problem through innovative ideas like geothermal greenhouse projects and put Albertans back to work by reclaiming abandoned and orphaned wells.
Most of all, though, we need to end this false polarization where one side says that only they can look out for people and the environment and another side says that only they can help and look out for money. I’m an Albertan. I care about both of those things. I care about good fiscal management, I care about my neighbours, and I care about the environment. That’s what Albertans believe in.
I stand here before you today optimistic about the future of our province because I’m optimistic about the capability of Albertans and what Albertans believe. I am proud to represent a party that believes that Alberta is the greatest place to live anywhere in the world because Albertans are the greatest people anywhere in the world. The Alberta Party is a party of Albertans by Albertans for Alberta.
Thank you, Madam Speaker.