UCP leader Kenney, on cuts, carbon, more

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Balancing the budget would be a priority for a United Conservative Party, if elected. So would cutting taxes so as to attract more investment.

That could be difficult, but UCP leader Jason Kenney certainly sounds confident.

The Lakeside Leader got a chance to interview Kenney last week when he visited Slave Lake for a party fundraiser and asked him about those and other issues.

What would you cut?

“We have the largest per-capita debt,” Kenney said. “It’s not really a choice; we have to deal with this.”

So…?

“I think we can find efficiencies without reducing front-line services. But the main thing is to grow the economy.”

How do you do that?

One way is by cutting taxes, and the carbon tax will be the first thing to go, Kenney says. Removing uncertainty so as to restore investor confidence is another. For example, Kenney points to caribou conservation efforts. They are creating uncertainty in the two major industries that operate in the forests where caribou live – that being forestry and oil and gas.

“We need to resolve that,” Kenney says.

How do you do that?

“We have to deal with the predator issue,” he says.

Getting back to the carbon tax, Kenney adds that it’s not that greenhouse gases don’t need to be reduced. They do, he says, “It’s just that the carbon tax doesn’t do that.”

The solution, Kenney continues, lies in technology.

“We’ll be putting out an alternative,” he says. “For example, a levy on major emitters, which would go into a tech fund.”

Look for details on that when the full party platform is rolled out next spring, Kenney says.

The platform will also have details, presumably, on where the UCP would reduce spending so as to achieve the goal of a balanced budget within two or three years.

“It does take some tough decisions,” Kenney says. “But it doesn’t have to be like it was in 1993 (the Ralph Klein era cuts). “It doesn’t need to be as deep as that.”

Another Kenney goal: cutting the ‘red tape burden,’ and create investor certainty.

Asked for a bit of his history, Kenney said after 10 years in the Stephen Harper federal cabinet, he quit in 2016 to come home “to do this.”

‘This’ included uniting he two right-wing parties and then running for the leadership. That accomplished, he’s gunning for the premiership of a majority UCP government in the next election.

“So far it’s going good” he says. “It’s still growing. There’s a lot of energy coming in.”

According to Paul George of the UCP LSL Constituency Association, the Oct. 6 fundraiser at the Slave Lake Inn was a great success, with about 200 people in attendance.

“There was a tremendous speech by Jason and it fired up people,” he says.

Most of the people running for the UCP nomination in Lesser Slave Lake were there. The list is seven long. It could get longer – or shorter – by the Oct. 25 deadline for submitting applications. Voting day is Nov. 24.

The latest news is that two-time Wildrose Party candidate Darryl Boisson has withdrawn from the race, and four new ones have stepped forward. They are Chris Williscroft, Pat Rehn, Juliette Noskey and John Middelkoop. They join Garrett Tomlinson, Jim Sparks and Brenda Derkoch.

UCP leader Jason Kenney and UCP President Erika Barootes pose with candidates for the Lesser Slave Lake UCP nomination at the constituency association fundraiser in Slave Lake on Oct. 6. Left to right are Barootes, Garrett Tomlinson, Chris Williscroft, Juliette Noskey, Kenney, Jim Sparks, John Middelkoop and Pat Rehn.

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