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Smith vows UCP will win Alberta general election and tackle the affordability crisis


Premier Danielle Smith told the United Conservative Party she would lead them to victory in Alberta's general election next year with an agenda focused on tackling the high cost of living and defending the province's jurisdiction.

Smith spoke Saturday at the party's annual general meeting, a day after revealing her cabinet ministers.

She pledged her government would be inspired by the leadership of former premier Ralph Klein, who served 14 years as leader of the Progressive Conservatives.

"Ralph never ruled over his caucus with an iron fist," Smith said. "He believed in empowering MLAs and ministers, and he also believed that MLAs and ministers shared the face of the party."

To reaffirm that, Smith said her caucus introduced a policy ensuring every MLA would be "meaningfully" engaged in creating and shaping government legislation.

"That's how Ralph ran things, and that's how I'm going to run things," she added.

After a caucus retreat in Sylvan Lake, Smith told members of the party that four priorities emerged:

  • tackling the inflation crisis created by the "NDP-Liberal coalition in Ottawa;"
  • promoting Alberta's prosperity amid global economic uncertainty;
  • improving the province's healthcare system on an "expedited timeline;" and
  • "defending Alberta's interests" from federal overreach.

"Justin Trudeau has taken on more federal debt during his time in office than all previous prime ministers combined," she said.

"As a government, we can't solve this inflation crisis on our own. But we can certainly keep our books balanced, and we can ensure that Albertans and their families are better able to manage through this storm," Smith added.

She promised "decisive action" would be coming in the next weeks and months to ensure seniors and vulnerable Albertans can afford daily living, lowering the cost of electricity, removing the provincial fuel tax and monitoring that gas stations lower the price of gas.

"Albertans are the owners of this massive energy resource. It's time to ensure that each of you benefits from that ownership," the premier said.

"Affordability is the primary challenge facing Albertans today and we will make sure that every decision we make from now on addresses this crisis."

The province is also "laser-focused" on improving emergency room wait times and ensuring all Albertans have "prompt access" to ambulance services when they need help.

She blamed the long wait times on the bureaucracy of Alberta Health Services, saying the "amazing frontline staff" have "far too many managers," who she claimed were mostly hired under the previous NDP government.

"They have had their chance to fix this bloated system and they have largely failed on almost all accounts," Smith said. "Failure is no longer an option."

According to Smith, the sovereignty act she proposed on the leadership campaign trail is already being drafted and will be ready by the time she wins her seat in the legislature.

"Alberta will no longer ask for permission from Ottawa to be prosperous and free," she added. "Those days are done."

"Our caucus is completely committed to building a strong and united Canada, but we shall not do that from a posture of weakness." 


Following Smith's speech, political scientist Lori Williams said that the large provincial surplus could sustain her pledges to cut the fuel tax and reduce electricity prices.

"Those are fairly doable," Williams said. "Some of the other promises (Smith made), I think, are going to be a lot more difficult."

Williams believes those difficult tasks include healthcare system reform and how the sovereignty act will be applied.

"It's just still not clear to anybody what that really means," the Mount Royal University political scientist added. "The reality is that the federal government enforces most of the laws that apply in Alberta."

"We saw Jason Kenney say he was going to change equalization in the country. He had a referendum to authorize him to do so, and nothing happened."

Referencing Klein's premiership is likely Smith's way of showing she will lead the UCP in a different style than how Kenney did, Williams said.

"Of course, she would like to associate herself with people who have very good political instincts and good connections with the grassroots as Ralph Klein did," Williams told CTV News.

"But her record so far is certainly falling far short of that. She'd like to improve that," Williams said. "I don't think references to Ralph Klein are going to do the trick.

"She's actually got to deliver on some of these commitments that she's made in a way that actually meets the demands of mainstream Albertans."


Also on Saturday, the Alberta NDP hosted their annual general meeting in Calgary, where leader Rachel Notley made her own bid that if elected, the party would focus on economic diversification and making life more affordable.

She promised an NDP-led government would freeze auto insurance rates, implement a rate cap on utility bills and use the full "authority" of the province to "get to the bottom" of surging grocery prices.

Notley said the current Official Opposition represents a "stable" and "responsible" government focused on Albertan's "real needs."

"Under the UCP, Alberta has the slowest wage growth in the country," she said. "And for most Albertans, prices are rising faster than they have ever seen in their lives."

"We will get prices under control for the things you don't have a choice about paying for," Notley added.

With files from CTV News Channel Top Stories

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