CALGARY – Alberta conservative leadership candidate Jason Kenney says a period of austerity would be required if he is elected premier two years from now to undo damage caused by the NDP government.
Kenney, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister who is running for leader of the fledgling United Conservative Party, said it will take time to fix the financial mess left by Premier Rachel Notley’s government.
“For us to balance the budget we’re going to have to … restart our economy with pro-growth policies including the elimination of the carbon tax and doing everything we can to make Alberta open for business again,” Kenney said Wednesday in Calgary.
“And we will have to go through a period of sustained fiscal restraint. That doesn’t mean cutting 20 per cent of our budget, but it does mean learning from how B.C. and other provinces deliver the same services so much more efficiently.”
Kenney says British Columbia has a larger population and more newcomers that need help resettling, but the province spends 20 per cent less per capita than Alberta.
Kenney also fired back at Notley for comments she made at the opening of an Edmonton school earlier this month. Notley told students the United Conservative Party wants to cut funding for schools instead of ensuring students get a modern education.
Kenney said Notley shouldn’t be campaigning in front of schoolchildren.
“She told us that any fiscal restraint means hacking and slashing and threatening schools and hospitals,” he said. “Albertans are way too smart to buy the fear and smear campaign from this government.”
Alberta has been struggling for years with a prolonged trough in oil prices, draining billions of dollars from its bottom line and putting thousands of people out of work.
In its last fiscal update, the government said it would dip into its reserve fund and look for more in-house savings to keep its $10.5-billion deficit from sliding further into the red.
Kenney was endorsed Wednesday by former interim Progressive Conservative leader Ric McIver and former Wildrose member Jason Nixon.
Nixon, who was involved in discussions to unite the two right-wing parites, said Kenney was concerned with making a party focused on the membership and people of Alberta. That set him apart from former Wildrose leader Brian Jean who is also running to lead the new party.
“One leader was more concerned with trying to make the process easier for their leadership race and that leader was Brian Jean,” Nixon said. “I think that shows a tremendous difference between Jason and Brian.”
United Conservative Party members vote for a leader Oct. 28.
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