Wildrose party leader Brian Jean was in town last week to share his opinions on recent budget announcements, infrastructure planning and what he believes Albertans truly need.
He was hosted by the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce during the Key Speaker Series, and addressed approximately 100 guests and dignitaries.
Jean had some strong opinions about issues of the current state of the province, including the carbon tax and announcements regarding the province’s debt.
“Right now, Albertans are being over-taxed and this carbon tax is now going to affect them greatly,” he said.
“It’s going to cost each and every typical Alberta family about $1,000 a year. With the debt payments we’re going to have with this debt, even with low interest borrowing that the government does, it works out to be about $58 billion at about $2 billion a year in interest payments. People are going to pay $2,000 a year to support that debt.”
“Those types of things are not sustainable and we believe that they should have looked at efficiencies within the public sector.”
He said his party recommended freezing the salaries of the public sector, a suggestion that was turned down by the NDP government.
“There’s over 200,000 people in the public sector, and we’ve recommended freezing those salaries. They don’t need a one per cent or three per cent increase – freeze them and take a hit like everybody else in Alberta,” he said firmly.
“People have lost 10, 20, 30 per cent of their wages – some even 100 per cent of their wages. About 100,000 people have lost 100 per cent of their wages over the last year.”
He spoke about the job losses suffered by Albertans and said he did not believe the NDP was taking the correct approach to job creation. Jean criticized the current and past Alberta governments for their lack of pipeline production and said pipelines are necessary to moving forward.
He added he believes the NDP government should be supporting growth in private sectors, saying that this would create more jobs than the public sector can create.
“Frankly, we have not seen a lot of investment by this government for standing up for Albertans’ rights, from pipelines right to the types of infrastructure development in the last 12 months,” he said.
Jean also spoke to the province’s decision to cut coal use, and said this will only harm Albertans.
“We need to continue to be the most innovative people in Canada as we have been. We need to look at new technology. Saskatchewan has clean coal technology that is very close to the same emissions as natural gas. There are other jurisdictions in the world that have clean coal technology that we should move towards,” he said.
“The NDP ideological thought process is that ‘coal is bad for you’ but it doesn’t mean we can’t solve the problem. We can solve it by putting in scrubbers – there’s at least 10 different methods that I’ve seen that indicate cleaner coal technology, and cleaner emissions.”
He said the province ought to utilize the abundance of coal and that it could be done while maintaining environmental integrity.
Above all, Jean repeated his plea for the creation of jobs in Alberta. He said this would best be accomplished through supporting private sector industries, and through changing regulations to support growth in those industries.
“What we need is jobs. Right now, I believe that as a government, we should look at opportunities to keep people employed. The service sector and oil and gas sectors for instance – there is an opportunity to lower royalty rates on certain projects that are either low productivity or low profitability, but continue to keep Albertans employed,” he said.
“That’s an opportunity, one of many, to keep jobs in Alberta. Most of those options go with suggesting that the private sector knows better than government in this area.
“I think a government can help in providing capital and providing management skills and expertise that some companies don’t have. That’s a great thing.”