The Broadbent Blog


Alberta Premier Rachel Notley addresses the Progress Gala

 

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Alberta Premier Rachel Notley spoke at the Broadbent Institute's Progress Gala in Toronto on November 12. Here is a condensed copy of her prepared remarks. 

I want to congratulate and thank everyone involved in the work of the Broadbent Institute for the contribution you are making to progressive politics in Canada. And I’m here tonight to report that in Alberta, we’re making some progress too.

So, for example, a few days ago I showed off a "love, hope and optimism" baby onesie that I will be giving to one of my caucus colleagues, in celebration of the fact that she will be Alberta’s first sitting MLA to give birth.

It is high time that younger people take their place in the legislatures of this country. It is high time that young women take their place in the legislature of this country. And it is high time those Legislatures become a lot more family-friendly. It is therefore high time the rules of employment for elected representatives include reasonable provision for parental leave.

And it is high time for legislatures to change how they work, to become more family-friendly.

And it is high time for families at the Legislature to have access to reasonable childcare, at a reasonable price, reasonably close to the workplace.

And because, friends, as CCF leader J. S. Woodsworth put it so well: "What we desire for ourselves we wish for all."

I believe all parents in all workplaces should have access to these things. Which is something – hopefully in partnership with our new federal government – that I am quite determined to work on as Premier of Alberta.

Making change happen on child care, parental leave, and family-friendly workplaces is just one very good example of why it is worth getting involved in politics.

It is worth getting involved. It is worth challenging the orthodoxies of the past. And it is worth winning office. Because legislatures and governments are where citizens act together to get things done. 

Having stood outside the Alberta legislature many many times, waving signs at conservative politicians making bad decisions, I can’t tell you what a wonderful change it was to join ten thousand citizens standing in the same place last spring, to join us in swearing in a new progressive government. 

 

 

 

And since then, we’ve been doing something our official opposition apparently finds unusual — we’ve been keeping our promises.

Let me tell you a little about that.

As our very first act, the new Government of Alberta banned political contributions from anyone but individual citizens.

In doing this, we have rid our province of practices that corrupted our political system and perverted the priorities of government. The first duty of any newly-elected progressive government is to get the influence of big money out of politics.

The political process should be financed by citizens, so that the political process is accountable to citizens, and only to them. That change is coming to Alberta.

As our next act, our government threw out a two-decades-long experiment with wrongheaded, regressive and unfair flat taxes. In its place, we reintroduced a progressive income tax system in Alberta.

In this, we have led a return to basic Albertan values of fairness. A return that was met with remarkably little opposition from our conservative friends on the other side of the House - remarkably little opposition to this fundamental reform to one of the foundations of conservative rule in Alberta.

The conservatives in our Legislature were quite prepared to introduce regressive flat taxes when they had it all their own way. But they weren’t prepared to seriously defend any of those policies in the bright light of a new day. And I think I know why.

Because they know the people of Alberta have had enough of those policies. Because the people of Alberta decided it is time for things to change.

It is time for things to change on many fronts. Like the idea that by firing teachers and nurses, we can make the price of oil go back up.

This has been the standard conservative response every time the commodity price cycle has turned against us.

Times are bad, so let’s make them worse. Let’s make them worse for ordinary families, with another dose of austerity economics in the middle of a downturn.

There are definitely still those who defend this approach. But there aren’t a whole lot of them in office at the moment – in Alberta, or anywhere in Canada.

Because the people of Alberta – like most Canadians – have had enough of policies that only made things worst for most people.

We introduced a budget this fall that stabilized funding for health care and education, instead of broad-based cutbacks to those services.

And we introduced a plan to balance the budget over the term of our government, without causing damage to basic public services that will only have to be repaired later at greater cost.

And we introduced an economic development and diversification plan that is about creating jobs and opportunity in our economy, in close partnership with job creators and visionaries.

The approach we took in our budget allowed us to get to work on some important priorities.

Like greater accessibility to post-secondary education. Education is a basic building block of the prosperous, diversified, high value-added economy we are aiming for. 

Families in Alberta are going to be able to send students to college and university benefiting from a two-year tuition freeze.

And a reversal to huge Tory increases to tuition in professional faculties — the kind of increases that would have discouraged low and middle income students from pursuing their passion.

We implemented a 40 per cent increase in our support for women’s shelters. Violence against women and families are crimes that need a response at many levels. But we begin by caring for the people who are its victims.

We made a significant investment in grants to social service organizations that care for the poorest and most vulnerable among us. Our province wrestles with Canada’s highest level of income inequality. 

We’ve asked those who can afford it to make a bigger contribution through our tax reforms. 

We are also reaching out to those who need help the most. Because that’s what Albertans do for our neighbours and fellow citizens. We look after each other.

We also restored funding to our elementary and secondary education system. So when 12,000 new students showed up for school this fall, there were teachers in their classrooms.

And we introduced a comprehensive economic development plan. That plan includes a significant new commitment to support job creation — more than $2 billion in new capital and loans to support job creators.

Our plan also includes a $4.4 billion increase to infrastructure - an investment in making our province more efficient and productive.

And our plan includes a strong commitment to trade development, innovation and diversification through the establishment of a ministry dedicated to those tasks. 

Finally, we have also made an important additional commitment to reducing income inequality in our province. 

In orderly steps, exactly as we promised in the campaign, we are introducing a 15 dollar minimum wage. As a first step this fall, we went from being the province with the lowest minimum wage in the country, to the second highest.

A moderate, mainstream, constructive plan.

A plan in the great tradition of prairie progressive government.

A tradition that stands as Canada’ best alternative to the wrong priorities, failed policies and bad decisions of conservative rule.

So as I said at the beginning of my remarks, we’ve been thinking about children and their future.

In the fall of 2015, on the eve of the United Nations Conference in Paris, that means thinking about climate change. And that means acting on it.

Friends, jobs in Alberta are heavily dependent on our energy industry. And that will be true for many decades to come. So, Alberta must be a good place for people to invest in the energy business.

We must be a good place for people to explore for energy opportunities; And to develop energy resources; And to add value to energy products in a diversifying economy.

And Canada must find a way to export our country’s energy products to the world, so that Canada isn’t so dependent on a single customer.

We need to do these things so that our energy industry can keep making its contribution to the overall Canadian economy.

A contribution that has long created good jobs — and financed health care and education — for Canadians in every province and territory.

For example, over 1,100 Ontario-based companies, employing thousands of Ontarians, are involved in providing services to the energy industry in Alberta. That’s a lot of good, well-paid jobs right here in Ontario that are directly associated with Canada’s energy industry.

But none of this is going to happen if we continue with the discredited and failed policies of the past.

Conservative governments in Alberta and in Ottawa claimed to be pursuing policies in the interests of the energy industry. The failure of those former governments to understand the challenge posed to the world by climate change, and to do our share to address it — have become one the energy industry’s biggest problems. 

And families all across Alberta — and all across Canada — are paying the price. So it is time for a change.

Ignoring climate change is no way to develop the energy industry. Ignoring climate change is a blind alley for both the energy business, and for the province of Alberta.  If we continue with the failed policies of those former conservative governments, we will remain landlocked.

And we will face an increasingly difficult and challenging future.

Canada needs to become a world leader on climate change, a world leader, instead of the world’s political football, as we were at the hands of our principal market and partner last week.

The way to a better future lies in a balanced, responsible, determined and effective approach to climate change.

That’s what we owe our children. That’s what we owe this planet.That’s what is necessary for our economic future. And so that is what we are going to do.

My government has been hard at work on these issues since we got elected. And we will be presenting the key elements of our plan to the people of Alberta very soon.

We outlined our key environmental priorities in the budget we put before the people of our province, a few weeks ago.

We are going to address the issue of coal. Coal is a high-carbon fuel that we currently depend on for more than half of our electricity. In its place we are going to encourage lower-carbon natural gas, and zero-carbon renewables.

We are going to introduce an energy efficiency program. Alberta is the only province in Canada without such a program. We are going to correct that.

And we are going to reduce carbon emissions, by pricing them. Our government already took an important step here last spring, by doubling the carbon price in our province’s existing carbon regulations. That was a good start, but more needs to be done. So we will do what needs to be done. 

So that Alberta – and Canada – can stand before the world in December in Paris, and for decades to come, as one of the world’s most progressive and environmentally-responsible energy producers.

Which will be, I hope you agree, the kind of change we need.

The kind of change progressive government is all about. The kind of change the people of Alberta — and all Canadians — hope for, so desperately need, and will benefit from, for generations to come.

As I said at the beginning, this is work worth doing. It is worth getting engaged in politics. It is worth fighting the fight.

It is worth championing our principles and our causes. Because sometimes, we win. And by keeping our promises and keeping our eyes on the ball, we can make change we can all be proud of.

 Friends, thank you for coming here tonight and thank you for doing your part.

And by the way, we’re just getting started!