Wildrose Shadow Minister of Economic Diversification and Trade Prasad Panda stopped in Red Deer last week to engage with local businesses on his Economic Diversification Tour.
Panda visited the Red Deer Regional Airport, Access Prosperity and toured the NOVA Chemicals site after conferring with members of the local Chamber of Commerce, all to assess potential growth and development in the area.
He said he has talked with many Albertans along his tour and has heard many comments of those concerned with the state of the province.
“Most of the people that we’re talking to across the province are unemployed. In Red Deer, I hear the unemployment rate reached 10 per cent which is alarming,” Panda said. “I stayed in Red Deer for an evening to talk to people and most of what I heard is that people are concerned about the state of the economy here. They’re worried about ever increasing taxes – whether that be personal taxes, income tax, business taxes, the incoming carbon tax or bill taxes.
“People are losing jobs and the economy isn’t doing that great. They’re worried about the direction NDP is taking Alberta.”
Panda went on to add that with his experience in the energy sector – over 20 years – he knows the economy will eventually bounce back and hopes that Albertans use this time to think of new, creative ways to diversify the economy.
“I understand that our economy is cyclical. I’m optimistic it will come back, but when that happens I think we need to be ready. The comfort I can bring to Albertans is by encouraging them to be positive and use the skills they have to prepare for when the economy comes back,” he said.
He said that democracy will have to run its course for the term of the NDP leadership, but that Wildrose members are actively out in the community seeking input from Albertans on their policies to potentially bring forth at a later time.
“We’re not criticizing the government for the sake of criticizing – we’re proposing alternate solutions. At the same time, it allows the public to give input on our policies. We’re a member-driven party so we encourage our members to contribute to our policy development,” Panda said.
“We’re proposing alternate solutions to the government. An example of that was our 12 point Jobs Plan, which we showed to the public and they loved it. We also brought a 10 point plan on Budget Sustainability Savings – without firing frontline workers or closing schools or hospitals – unlike the NDP who are fear mongering in those aspects. We proposed $2 billion in savings and the government chose not to adopt those suggestions.”
He said there are opportunities in Alberta, especially in Central Alberta, for businesses to expand and invest in the region.
“When I met with the Chamber of Commerce in Red Deer, they told me they are looking to add value products in the agriculture sector because we have water and good irrigation systems in place. They said they’re also looking at opportunities to bring more foreign investors to set up their businesses and shops here.”
He added the Wildrose Party is, “Fighting for market access” in terms of opening up the NDP government to changing their stances on oil sands production limits, pipeline development and re-thinking their carbon strategy.
“We can’t afford to leave our oil in the ground and people can count on Wildrose to hold the government accountable every day. We will fight for jobs and improving the economy in Alberta,” he said.
Sylvan Lake Wildrose MLA Don McIntyre was also on hand, adding the Wildrose Party is looking into new, diverse methods of carbon reduction in an effort to utilize the natural resources abundant in the province.
“Alberta is a resource economy. We use natural resources, renewable and non-renewable. To attack any segment of that -especially when the economy is down like this – in inexcusable. We should be supporting those industry jobs, not trying to kill them. I’ve had many discussions with people involved in carbon capturing storage, and I think that’s something we need to explore rather than vilifying and getting rid of coal use,” he said.