Former Alberta New Democrat Party leader and current Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood MLA Brian Mason hosted a meet and greet at Bo’s Bar and Grill Monday afternoon following the party’s pre-budget hearing at the Black Knight Inn that morning.
The ‘Pints and Politics’ event saw Mason fielding questions from those in attendance and gave individuals a chance to meet and speak with the former party leader, who has been succeeded by Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley as party leader.
Mason explained both events were a way for the NDP to hear what Red Deerian’s concerns were with the upcoming Progressive Conservative budget.
“We want people to tell us what they think the budget should look like and what they’d like to see in it, and what they are afraid might happen, as well as what services they feel need to be protected or expanded,” explained Mason.
“We know the government could put Alberta’s finances in a place where we aren’t constantly on the oil and gas royalty revenues roller coaster – all of a sudden the price of oil goes down and we have to ask people to take wage cuts, layoffs, and see cuts to health care and education.”
Mason said what he would like to see the government do in the upcoming budget in order to adjust to this ‘repeating cycle’ is adjust the tax breaks put in place decades ago to protect high income Albertans and corporations.
“We had lots of royalty money then, so they gave tax cuts to people who didn’t need it – really wealthy individuals and corporations- they brought in the flat tax which hit middle and low income families really hard but let wealthy people off the hook,” said Mason.
“This alone costs the Alberta government around $2 billion a year. Now that we don’t have as much royalty money coming in they can’t afford to pay the teachers, nurses, custodians, and our police what they deserve.”
With talk of Premier Jim Prentice and the PC party on the verge of calling a snap election within the next three months and the cost of oil remaining unstable, the budget is an increasingly important issue, one which Mason and the NDP party hope to be as prepared for as possible, he said.
“One thing Prentice has said is that corporate income tax will not be increased, so he is already favouring one sector of society. This means that it will be the rest of us who have to pay the price,” said Mason.
“It will be an important budget but at this point we don’t even know if the budget the government brings forward is even the one they will put in place if they win the next election, because you can’t trust the PC’s.”
With an impending election just around the corner, Notley is currently the only leader out of the PC, Liberal, and Wildrose parties who was officially elected and not put in place as an interim leader, which Mason said will be a huge benefit to the party.
“We have a good solid organization so we will undoubtedly be ready unlike the other opposition parties who are really in disarray right now,” said Mason.
“It would be very hard to go to the public and ask them for their support when you can’t even tell them who the party leader is going to be in three months.”