Alberta election: NDP losing ground to UCP in polls ahead of leaders' debate
EDMONTON -- Alberta's two main political leaders used the only election debate to drill in on trust, with Jason Kenney saying Rachel Notley can't run the economy and Notley saying Kenney's moral compass needs a major readjustment.
Kenney, the United Conservative leader, said Notley has failed to stand up for Alberta's interests and has allowed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to bring in legislation that threatens energy projects.
Kenney said Notley, the NDP leader, has also run-up multibillion-dollar deficits as premier and a debt that is forecast to approach $100 billion in four years.
Notley questioned Kenney's moral leadership, citing intolerant views expressed by some UCP candidates.
She also spoke of the investigations into the UCP leadership campaign.
Alberta's elections commissioner, and the RCMP, have been investigating Jeff Callaway's leadership campaign, and how it was financed amid reports that Callaway was not a real candidate, but was planted there to attack Kenney's main rival on Kenney's behalf.
Kenney has denied any agreement with Callaway, but recently disclosed documents showed the two campaigns shared talking points, attack ads and even collaborated on the date Callaway would quit the race in order to back Kenney.
"The leadership campaign of which you were a part is under R-C-M-P investigation," Notley said, emphasizing every letter of the national police forces' name. "They are talking to the RCMP who are investigating the wrongdoing."
"Not true, premier," Kenney interrupted. "Another drive-by smear. This is sad."
The debate comes as the four-week provincial election campaign enters the home stretch. Voters go to the polls on April 16.
Notley's NDP is hoping for a renewed four-year mandate.
Kenney, a former federal cabinet minister, is leading the United Conservatives in their first election campaign. The party was created in 2017 after the Progressive Conservatives merged with the Wildrose party.
The campaign to date has seen the two main parties promise to end multibillion-dollar budget deficits within the next term while also creating jobs in a province that has struggled in recent years due to the global downturn in oil prices.
Both sides say the opposing leader is unfit for the job and each has attacked the other with ads on the airwaves and in cyberspace.
The NDP say Kenney has lost the heading on his moral compass for failing to keep those with intolerant views out of the party. This week, Kenney refused to take action on candidate Mark Smith for 2013 homophobic remarks and comments equating abortion to murder.
Kenney has condemned the remarks but is letting Smith, his education critic in caucus, remain on as a candidate.
Smith is one of a number of UCP candidates or party members who have faced controversy over remarks about LGBTQ, Muslims or other minority groups.
Kenney himself has been criticized for past actions, such as fighting same sex marriage and, as a student at a Catholic university in the 1980s in San Francisco, lobbying to effectively limit contact between dying AIDS patients and their loved ones.
The UCP has criticized Notley over the budget and her relationship with Trudeau.
Kenney has said this election is all about jobs and has repeatedly hammered Notley on her failed "Trudeau-Notley alliance."
He has said Notley foolishly tied Alberta's fortunes to the federal government and Trudeau by introducing a carbon tax.
In return, he said, Trudeau has hindered Alberta's bedrock industry with measures such as proposed legislation that could hinder approvals for future energy projects, along with a ban on tankers on the northern B.C. coast.
He said Trudeau has also bungled the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to get more Alberta oil to the B.C. coast. The project has been delayed by court challenges and rulings. The federal government stepped in last year to buy the project just to help ensure it gets built.
The two other leaders in the debate were Stephen Mandel of the Alberta Party and David Khan of the Liberals.
Mandel is promising to lower the corporate income tax rate to 10 per cent from 12, leave the minimum wage at $15 an hour, and launch a two year corporate tax holiday for large head offices that move to Alberta.
There would also be a voucher system to offset child-care costs for low-income earners, and mandatory vaccinations.
Khan is promising to raise exemption levels to effectively end provincial income tax, while lowering the corporate rate to 10 per cent from 12. He's also pledging to introduce a sales tax and start a pilot project for a universal basic income.
Derek Fildebrandt, leader of the Freedom Conservative party, was not invited to the debate, even though he had a seat in the legislature at dissolution. His party focuses on individual freedoms, particularly in areas like property, firearms and self-defence.