Smith vs. Notley: Here are the leaders' promises to the municipalities ahead of the May election
Municipal leaders from across the province heard a lot of promises during the Alberta Municipalities Association Leaders’ Caucus on Friday.
Premier Danielle Smith and NDP Leader Rachel Notley both shared their party's vision for the province ahead of the spring election.
“We get such great feedback from these kinds of events so that we can hear what is on your minds, hear what’s working, hear what’s not,” Smith said.
Smith spoke about the 2023 provincial budget, highlighting how she believes it will address challenges in health care, education and improve infrastructure.
“But we’re not just spending more in critical areas, our budget is balanced,” she said. “We have a surplus, we’re paying down debt, we’re growing the Heritage Savings Trust Fund and we’re putting up guard rails to keep it that way.”
The premier answered a few questions after her speech regarding social issues and what kind of relationship she envisions a UCP government having with municipalities in the future.
“I want us to be partners,” she replied. “I feel like one of the big frustrations I have with Ottawa is that they over-tax us and take more than they need and then they trickle money back with a lot of conditions attached. And then we don’t end up seeing the same amount of money returning to our province and yet we do the same thing to a lot of our municipalities,” she said.
Smith promised to look at the “mis-match” of revenue that comes from municipalities versus what is returned by the province.
The premier’s main contender heading into the spring election, Notley, also spoke about issues facing the province.
“After four years of dealing with a health-care crisis and an affordability crisis – and frankly a government in crisis – I think it’s fair to say that Albertans deserve better,” Notley said.
She outlined the NDP’s plan for health care, education and jobs.
The NDP has “a credible well-thought out plan to create 47,000 new jobs and to draw $20 billion in private investment in emerging sectors like new technology, value added agriculture, petrochemicals and much more in communities all across the province,” Notley told the audience.
The promises kept coming. Notley told municipal leaders if her government is elected in May, Alberta's Family and Community Support Services program would see a funding boost of 50 per cent by June.
“If there was ever a time it needed a boost, quite frankly it’s right now,” she said.
“Not only has the previous government played around with your municipal funding pretty considerably over the last four years, they also walked away from some pretty important provincial responsibilities and some that are pretty important to me.”
Notley pledged that her government would increase the number of homes covered through rental assistance by 11,000 and build 8,500 more affordable housing units across the province.
“I will bring resources to the table, more access, more units, more wrap-around support because the fact is this is a provincial responsibility and we can’t afford to have the province sitting on the sidelines any longer,” said Notley.
She also addressed ideas that have been put forward by “the other guys,” like replacing the RCMP with a provincial police force and pulling out of the Canada Pension Plan.
"I don’t think Albertans should have to wait until after the election to find out if their premier’s planning to shake down their retirement savings just to stick it to Ottawa. The fact is you can’t be leading the province and be this unpredictable,” she said.
SOME QUESTIONS UNANSWERED
The president of Alberta Municipalities and mayor of St. Albert was pleased to hear both leaders speak about plans to improve the health-care system and EMS. But Cathy Heron said there were things important to municipalities the leaders didn’t hear.
“We want a commitment on policing. Rachel Notley has been very clear that she will not bring in an Alberta Provincial Police Force whereas the UCP have been kind of quiet on that in the last couple weeks,” she said.
She was also disappointed neither party committed to increasing infrastructure funding, one of the main things the municipalities association plans to advocate for in the coming weeks.
“They did invest a lot of money in this recent budget on infrastructure projects that are not municipal, health care and schools – that’s all good we applaud that. But at the same time we need to build rec centres, we need to build fire halls, we need to keep our roads that are going to these big industries safe and free of potholes excetera. And that funding is not being increased, so how do you attract labour into Alberta when you can’t provide that high quality of life?” Heron asked.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson
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