Prentice outlines vision, reflects on stint as premier so far

  • Nov. 19, 2014 4:15 p.m.

Premier Jim Prentice is assuring Albertans there is a far different means of doing business in this province these days under his watch.

Prentice was in the City last week for the annual leadership dinner, where he spoke to a crowd of 450 about his plans for keeping the province at the forefront economically, as well as his intention to side-step the impact past issues have had on the Tories over the past few years.

“There’s no place in Alberta like Red Deer – even in a province that prides itself on its ability to get things done, Red Deer is pretty hard to keep up to,” he said, noting such recent achievements as the City landing the coming Memorial Cup and the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

“This is a community that inspires us – when Red Deer shines, Alberta shines.”

Prentice was sworn in as Alberta’s 16th premier this past September.

From that point on, Prentice knew he had his work cut out for him to rebuild the party’s image. “Six months ago, people were predicting there weren’t going to be any sell-out dinners for the Progressive Conservative party,” he said. “When I think about it, six weeks ago people were saying the same thing.

“I put my ear to the ground and I’ll tell you what I heard over the course of the summer – the voice of Alberta. The voice of common sense and common decency that expects exactly that same conduct from the people they elect.

“Every single place I went in this province, people said the same thing. They said we want a whole lot less politics, and we want a whole lot more good government. Albertans were united in that expression over the course of the summer.”

Prentice said with the start of his term, the province was effectively under new management. “Don’t be under any illusions about this – this is a new Progressive Conservative government with new voices, new leadership and an entirely new way of doing things.” He said that’s also what people responded to in the recent Tory sweep of several by-elections as well.

Moving forward, Prentice also insisted his will be a more grounded and rooted government. “This means knocking on doors and reconnecting the government of Alberta with the priorities of Albertans. It means talking to people every chance I get.”

Over the past eight weeks, he said his government has already set a standard of being a ‘no-nonsense, common sense’ party with decisive action for core priorities which include education, health and taking care of senior citizens.

“It’s a government that is very focused on restoring trust in government, trust in politicians and trust, frankly, in the premier of this province.

“Also, no one should misunderstand what Albertans were saying in those by-elections – no one in this party should be anything other than humbled by what we heard. We have been given, as a party, a second chance. We’ve been given an opportunity to re-focus and to show that we are capable of moving this province forward.”

One Calgary woman told him that she was giving his party another chance in the by-election, but added, “‘Please don’t break our hearts’. That woman spoke for hundreds of thousands if not millions of people in this province. So we have begun to go down the right path, but there is much, much more work to be done.”

Prentice told the audience he’s been clear to his ministers that the party is to act on the priorities of Albertans, not the “priorities of bureaucracy.”

For those who don’t understand that, he suggested they spend time in places where they can dialogue with people. “Albertans are singular in what they are saying. Good government and good policy always begins with the people. Good government cannot ever have any other source than the wisdom of the people that live in this province. We will be a party that is grounded in the people of Alberta.”

Prentice also acknowledged local MLAs Mary Anne Jablonski and Cal Dallas as being key to the reversal of the previous decision to close Michener Centre.

He went on to say that ultimately, he aims to return his party to basic foundations – one of fundamental conservative fiscal prudence, “Which has underlined Alberta’s success as a province.

“Our province faces fiscal challenges with oil prices at $75 per barrel and our difficulties will be especially pronounced because despite the fact that oil prices will go up and go down, our population continues to only go up – at the fastest pace of anywhere in North America.”

Prentice said his party is also working to put an end to entitlement thinking.

“As premier, I will always be guided by the belief that it is called public service for a reason,” he added, pointing out that there will shortly be changes added to the province’s accountability framework. “It’s about values like frugality and decency, humility and common sense.”

Prentice said he also wants to further expand Alberta’s marketing strategy on an international scale. “Our future prosperity is tied to the demands of a growing and changing global economy.

“There is no bigger obstacle to our future and our prosperity and our economic security than our inability to get our products out to global markets. Lack of access has a price that is measured not in millions but in billions and billions of dollars. Without access to global markets, we will not realize global prices for Alberta’s energy products, agricultural products – we will all be poorer as a consequence.”

To that end, Prentice said that’s also why he’s worked to rebuild a good relationship with the B.C. government. “Our two provinces, with a combined GDP of over $500 billion, will be hard to ignore by anyone in the Asian Pacific basin.

“We will not be able to stand on the sidelines – we are in the energy business and we must be in the environment business and we must be a leader in both.”

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