Redford outlines vision for Tories and province

Newly-minted Alberta premier Alison Redford detailed her outlook and plans for the Progressive Conservatives and the province during a recent Premier’s Dinner in Red Deer.

“We will not abandon the values that made this province great,” she told a crowd of about 600 gathered at the Capri Hotel. “Alberta was built on a set of conservative principles that have contributed to our success and made us who we are. We ignore them at the risk of losing ourselves.”

Redford said she’s relying on supporters to help the party “steer a steady course over the next year.”

She also spoke about the importance of families, and how government can better offer support in an increasingly complex society.

“We will improve Alberta’s public services so they can help families. Better schools are good place to start, and that was certainly an important part of the conversation this year.” Redford reminded the audience that she had reversed cuts to education to the tune of $100 million.

“I promised to do that during the campaign. Albertans responded, and we delivered,” she said. “Our children’s futures are too important to be the subject of a political football.”

She also said that supporting trades is not only good for the economy, it benefits families as well. “The trades provide steady work for good pay. We have to expand those opportunities for trades, and we will do that.”

Redford also spoke about health care, pointing out the Tories would improve access to the system using family care clinics. “Our plan includes putting publically funded clinics in every community where nurses and nurse practitioners will handle the bulk of primary care giving.

“Patients will see doctors when they need to. But Albertans are sensible. They know when they need to see a doctor, and they know when they need to get other services.

“We’re going to be smart and innovative, and design a system to allow Albertans to get the service not only that they want but that they deserve.”

She noted that the clinics would adopt a collaborative approach amongst medical professionals as well, “Tailoring services to surrounding populations.

“We’re going to make decisions at a local level that make sense to Albertans.”

Redford also pledged to increase affordable seniors’ housing and said her party would bolster support for seniors who live independently by increasing availability of homecare.

“The private sector is far better equipped to fill the shortage of seniors’ housing. My government will get out of their way and let them get to work.”

Redford said there will also be no “blank cheques” handed out to take care of any given area where funding is required.

“Administrators will know years in advance how much funding they will receive and they will have to budget accordingly in a transparent and clear and accountable manner. There can be no randomness. We have to make sure that everyone who is making decisions in spending taxpayers’ money are accountable and promise to spend it wisely.”

Meanwhile, Gary Mar, who Redford defeated in the race to become party leader, will be leading the province’s outreach efforts as Alberta’s representative to Asia.

Mar will begin his new post in Hong Kong once visa approvals are obtained.

“Gary is a proven relationship builder and he will foster a new era of cooperation between Alberta and Asia,” said Redford.

“I believe Alberta’s future economic success will be closely tied to our ability to expand into new and burgeoning markets.”

Mar’s priorities will include developing business, cultural and educational relations with Asia as well as providing advice on how to tap into the various opportunities in the region.

“We are very fortunate to have someone with Gary Mar’s abilities overseeing our work in Asia,” said Cal Dallas, Minister of Intergovernmental, International and Aboriginal Relations. “This appointment enhances Alberta’s overall profile and the successful work we are conducting around the world.”

The Asia region is Alberta’s second largest export market worth almost $8 billion in 2010, while China is one of Alberta’s fastest growing markets. Exports have increased by an average of approximately 20% per year since 2001.

Meanwhile, Mar said he’s “honored and humbled” that Redford appointed him to the position.

“Upon reflection, I see this as both an exciting and challenging opportunity and this is my way of serving Albertans,” said Mar. “I am honoured and humbled that Premier Redford has the confidence in me to lead our province’s efforts in opening up new markets in this region of the world.”