NDP releases first Speech from the Throne

  • Jun. 17, 2015 5:49 p.m.

The New Democrat Party made their first Speech from the Throne on Monday.

Alberta’s new government opened the legislative session with action to renew democracy and restore stability to health, education and other vital public programs, NDP officials said.

The Speech from the Throne, read by Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell, announced Bill 1, An Act to Renew Democracy in Alberta, which will end corporate and union donations to political parties.

“Past governments were too dependent on funds from a narrow range of donors with deep pockets, and too far removed from the interests of ordinary people. We will tilt the playing field back in Albertans’ favour, so their interests will always come first with government,” said Premier Rachel Notley.

Bill 2 of the session will be An Act to Restore Fairness to Public Revenue. It will include an increase in corporate taxes for profitable firms, and the reintroduction of a progressive income tax for earners at the highest income levels.

“This Bill will ask those who have benefited most from the boom times in Alberta to now contribute a little more so that our schools and our healthcare can be spared from chaos and reckless cutbacks,” said Mitchell.

Corporate tax will be increased from 10% to 12% while small business taxes will remain the same at 3%. Progressive taxes will also be introduced to Albertans making more than $125,000 a year.

Under the new tax structure, Alberta will continue to have the lowest provincial taxes in Canada, added Mitchell.

“We’re asking those who benefited the most from the boom times in Alberta to contribute just a little bit more to help keep essential services strong. This was a commitment we made in our campaign, and it will ensure that Alberta can continue to invest in the public programs Albertans rely on every day,” said Notley.

An interim supply bill – Bill 3 – will be introduced to roll back health, education and human services cutbacks Albertans voted against in the recent election, and provide stability to key public services, including the public health and education systems, and supports for children, families and Alberta’s most vulnerable citizens.

“This bill will ensure that hospitals can continue to care for the sick, that schools have what they need to educate our children, and that the most vulnerable are protected,” said Notley.

A full budget will be introduced in the fall.

In addition, it was also announced Notley and Official Opposition Leader Brian Jean have jointly proposed a special legislative committee to review Alberta’s elections, whistleblower and conflict of interest legislation.

“Albertans expect the rules governing their elections to ensure that the political process is all about citizens, and not about special interests. They have the right to know that every citizen – including those in the public service – is free to speak out about issues in government. And they expect clear rules governing conflict of interest,” said Notley.

The committee will be comprised of nine government MLAs and eight opposition MLAs.

“Wildrose proposed a careful review of these issues as a key element of our agenda for this new Legislature. I’m pleased to join the premier in proposing this long-overdue review and renewal. We will have a lot more to propose and there will be many issues on which we disagree with this government. But, as I told the premier when we met last week, where we can work together we should, in the best interest of all Albertans. It is hard to imagine a more important issue than protecting and renewing our democracy,” said Jean.

A motion will be presented to establish the committee during the spring 2015 sitting of the Legislature, requesting a report within a year.

Following the speech, Jean said it contains positive measures but lacks key details to address the looming fiscal crisis facing Alberta during a time of economic uncertainty.

“We are encouraged by a commitment to work with the opposition to ban corporate and union donations. Wildrose has long believed political parties should not even appear to be under the influence of special interests,” he said. “But given the serious fiscal situation Alberta is facing, it’s disappointing that there was zero mention today of addressing wasteful government spending. With the most expensive government in Canada, Alberta cannot just tax its way back to prosperity.”

On Friday, Wildrose called for the full budget to be presented to Albertans no later than September, but there was no mention in the throne speech of even a firm timeline or date.

“The NDP should not expect a blank cheque to authorize billions of new spending without giving Albertans a clear picture of the province’s finances and a full picture of when the budget will be in place,” said Jean.

Other elements missing from the throne speech include almost no details on how to reform the delivery of healthcare and no mention at all of agriculture and other significant industries, he added.

“This throne speech was in many ways a promise to have a more detailed throne speech and budget later, and that is disappointing,” said Jean. “Albertans want clarity on the economic policies and priorities of this government. In our uncertain economic times Albertans want predictability and stability and unfortunately the throne speech did not provide this.”

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com

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