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Alberta election Day 9: Roads, rural crime and refining

WATCH ABOVE: On Wednesday, NDP Leader Rachel Notley made her first trip to northern Alberta this election campaign. Tom Vernon reports.

Editor’s note: This story previously mentioned plans for a GSA rally in Edmonton. Click here for full coverage of that event.

On Day 9 of the Alberta election campaign, the party leaders are spread out across the province as they continue along the campaign trail.

Here’s where the leaders are Wednesday on the campaign trail:

NDP Leader Rachel Notley

NDP Leader Rachel Notley is promising to spend $1.4 billion to expand Alberta’s network of roads that handle large and oversized loads.

Notley said the current 6,500-kilometre network is recognized as one of the best in North America, but more needs to be done.

She said a re-elected NDP government would work to increase the network to cover 10,000 kilometres over the next six years.

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Notley said loads such as oil and gas equipment and prefabricated houses would move much faster, saving time and money.

It was one of two new NDP platform announcements in Fort McMurray Wednesday ahead of the April 16 election.

Notley is also committing to build a secondary highway out of the oilsands city to ease congestion and to give residents an alternative escape route in an emergency.

She said people will never forget how residents were forced to flee down Highway 63 through a tunnel of flames as a raging forest fire torched parts of the municipality in 2016.

The opposition United Conservatives have said they would explore user-pay initiatives, such as tolls, to help pay for new industrial infrastructure such as heavy-load roads.

The UCP has said it wouldn’t toll existing infrastructure.

The party has said with the provincial debt climbing to close to $60 billion, the government has to look at other financing options.

Notley reiterated Wednesday that an NDP government will not pass the costs on to road users.

“We’re going to keep Alberta toll-free,” said Notley.

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney

United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney says if he were premier he would throw out an NDP policy that directs Alberta’s Crown prosecutors to abandon some criminal cases to make sure more serious ones get to court. Kenney says the policy flies in the face of justice and could be rectified with more resources and better planning.

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“We will shred the triage memo,” Kenney said Wednesday at a campaign stop in Lac Ste. Anne County, west of Edmonton.

Kenney said a UCP government would hire 50 more prosecutors and support staff and would use alternative measures such as more drug treatment courts to move people through the system.

READ MORE: 6 new provincial court judges appointed in Alberta

“The NDP seems to be able to find money for all sorts of things to waste it on — low-flow shower heads and light bulbs — but they are telling prosecutors to drop criminal cases that are ‘less important’ because they can’t afford to deal with them,” said Kenney.

“It basically means letting criminals go scot-free.”

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Watch below: UCP Leader Jason Kenney unveiled the UCP plan for fighting rural crime on Wednesday. Fletcher Kent reports.

Jason Kenney unveils plan to fight rural crime
Jason Kenney unveils plan to fight rural crime

Two years ago, Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley gave triage guidelines to prosecutors because some serious cases were being tossed out for taking too long to get to trial.

Ganley’s memo urged prosecutors to consider plea deals or to abandon some minor charges or protracted white-collar crime prosecutions to make sure serious crimes didn’t fall through the cracks.

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READ MORE: Alberta justice minister addresses memo, defends new triage protocol for prosecutors

Ganley, running for re-election in Calgary, responded to Kenney in a statement. She noted that her office had to act quickly in 2017 because of a Supreme Court ruling known as the Jordan decision. It directed that cases be tossed out if they dragged on for more than 18 months in the lower courts and 30 months in superior courts.

“Court backlogs have been building across Canada for decades,” wrote Ganley.

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“The Jordan decision represented a marked change in the law. When someone is caught shoplifting nail polish, jail time is not always the best solution. The triage protocol goes a long way to ensuring our criminal justice system is focused on serious and violent matters.

READ MORE: High profile double-murder case moved up to avoid ‘Jordan jeopardy’ 

Ganley said that Kenney and the UCP have voted against funding for dozens of Crown prosecutors, more provincial court judges and more RCMP officers.

“Since 2015, (NDP Leader) Rachel Notley has added more than 50 Crown prosecutors across Alberta, and in each instance, the Opposition has voted against it.”

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WATCH BELOW: UCP Leader Jason Kenney said his party will focus on reducing rural crime if his party is elected.

United Conservative Party announces rural crime strategy
United Conservative Party announces rural crime strategy

Kenney’s announcement is part of a UCP package of reforms to address crime and clogged courts.

He promised $10 million for new prosecutors and $20 million over four years for the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams, a consortium of police agencies that fight organized crime and other serious cases.

Kenney also said the United Conservatives would create an Alberta parole board for criminals serving provincial sentences of under two years.

“We’re tired of so many repeat offenders going through the revolving door of the justice system back out on the streets creating new victims.”

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He said a UCP government would also lobby Ottawa to appoint more superior court judges and to change the Criminal Code to make crimes against rural residents an aggravating factor in sentencing.

He said that would address the reality that people living in rural area are more vulnerable because police are usually farther away.

READ MORE: Alberta election promise tracker: Where do the parties stand on the major issues?

Liberal Party Leader David Khan

Liberal Leader David Khan was in Edmonton Wednesday where he released his party’s urban municipalities platform, saying municipalities play an “increasingly important role in the life of Albertans but they are disrespected by higher orders of government.”

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Khan said his party would amend the Municipal Government Act to formally recognize municipalities and their councils, to become a new order of government.

“We are committed to granting new revenue-generating powers to Edmonton and Calgary. Cities and their voters will be free to make decisions on taxes and spending. They will no longer need provincial politicians to make those decisions. Local decision makers know best about local issues,” Khan said in a media release.

READ MORE: Alberta introduces changes to Municipal Government Act

If elected on April 16, the Liberals would also create an “equitable cannabis revenue-sharing model.”

“The NDP Government has unfairly compensated cities on cannabis sales relative to the costs they are incurring for legalization.”

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The party would also give urban municipalities a veto over oil and gas drilling within their boundaries, Khan said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Khan unveiled his party’s platform on electoral reform.

If elected, Khan said the Liberals would move away from a “first-past-the-post” electoral system toward a “more democratic mixed member proportional representation (MMPS) system,” which would see voters cast ballots twice. They would vote once for a local constituency candidate and cast another ballot for a political party, Khan explained.

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“Votes for constituency candidates work similarly to our current system. The vote for political parties will elect representatives from a published list of party candidates,” Khan said in a media release.

“Seat counts will more accurately reflect the percentage of political parties’ popular vote under MMPR. The legislature will more accurately reflect the will of Alberta voters and maintain the local representation Albertans value.

“We will establish an automatic sunset clause on the electoral reform measure. There will be a referendum after two elections under MMPR. Voters can then choose to keep the proportional representation system, or revert to the FPTP system.”

Khan said the Liberals would also ban union, corporate and foreign donations to political action committees (PACs). The party would also cap individual donations to PACs at $4,000 a year per person.

The Liberals would also implement fixed election dates.

READ MORE: Alberta election 2019: What’s changed when it comes to campaign financing?

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel held a media event at Tiger Goldstick Park in Edmonton on Wednesday morning. He said he believes the environmentally-friendly way of getting Alberta’s oil to tidewater is by solidifying bitumen into pucks before transporting it by rail and then by sea.

Mandel also said the Alberta Party would increase funding to Alberta Innovates by over $300 million. He also said he would better utilize the province’s natural gas resources and come up with an initiative that would “take the royalty out of natural gas.” and support Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the North West Redwater Sturgeon Refinery.

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Corus Alberta radio coverage

With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News.

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