Coffee, bannock and politics: UCP leader swings by

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Back in October when United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney stopped at the A&W in Slave Lake to meet and greet, the turnout was modest. Last week he did the same thing and the joint was jumping.

Better promotion, maybe? Or is it because a provincial election is that much closer?

“It could be as early as next week (the election call, that is),” Kenney told The Leader in an interview.

Kenney said he doesn’t expect Premier Rachel Notley to announce that soon, “but we have to be ready.”

Being ready means getting out on the road, and Kenney said that was the reason for swing through the area. The Lesser Slave Lake constituency is an important one to the party, he said, and the UCP plans on fighting hard for it. He called Lesser Slave Lake “a microcosm of the Alberta economy.”

Kenney supporters – and maybe just curious people – packed the place, taking time off work. On the other hand, some of them probably don’t have much work to do. Kenney said he’d talked to a woman whose husband – a pressure truck operator in the oilpatch – “only worked 40 hours last month.” He said he’d also talked to business owners that morning who are “really having a hard time making ends meet.”

What would a Kenney government do to improve the situation?

Get rid of the carbon tax is one thing, he said. Cut red tape for businesses.
Get Alberta working again. Balance the budget within the first term of office.

On that last point, asked if that can be done without hurting front-line services, Kenney said he thinks it can. He also made the point that running up huge deficits is a greater threat to such services.

“I think the NDP doesn’t really understand the danger of debt,” he said.

As for details about cuts, as well as economic stimulus measures, Kenney says those will be rolled out in the party’s election platform, coming fairly soon.

Kenney’s next stop after the A&W was for soup and bannock at the Friendship Centre. He said he would be “there to listen,” and offered some observations on Aboriginal affairs in general. Social programs are important, he said, but “the best social program is a good job.” Support for First Nations entrepreneurs would be a priority for a UCP government
“They want to be partners in resource development,” he said. “We want to facilitate that.”

Kenney acknowledged “a small minority (that) want to block it,” but his wish is to “give a voice to those who want to move from poverty to prosperity.”

Finally, asked what he thinks about ‘low-blow’ campaign tactics, Kenney said he has no use for that sort of stuff. He said he strongly discourages it in any of his followers.

“I will criticize NDP policy,” he said. “But I will not engage in personal nastiness.”

After the session at the Friendship Centre, Kenney was off to High Prairie for a meet-and-greet at the Smitty’s.

Kenney with coffee

United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney spent a couple of hours talking politics at the Main St. A&W in Slave Lake last Wednesday on a northern campaign swing. At one point he decided to serve coffee and spent quite a while walking around and talking with a pot in his hand, as shown. Kenney said an election could be called as early as this week, and the UCP has big plans for Lesser Slave Lake.

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