Alberta election Day 10: Leaders release plans on education spending, battling opioid crisis, QEII expansion and taxes
On Day 10 of the Alberta election campaign, all of the party leaders were in central and southern Alberta, with the main focus in the key battleground of Calgary.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley, United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney, and Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan all made announcements in Calgary, while Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel was up the road in Red Deer to talk about expanding the QEII.
WATCH BELOW: Day 10 of the provincial election campaign had leaders focused on southern Alberta.
Where the leaders were Thursday on the campaign trail:
NDP Leader Rachel Notley
Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley was in Calgary Thursday where she promised to hire nearly 1,000 more teachers this fall if her party returns to power after the April 16 election.
Notley said an additional 15,000 students are projected to be in classrooms when the next school year starts and it’s critical to give them the supports they need.
She said an NDP government would hire 600 teachers and another 400 would come through a $23-million increase in the province’s classroom improvement fund.
The fund is delivered to schools based on student enrolment and is meant to help retain teachers, hire new ones and pay for resources to help students with complex needs.
Notley also promised that the NDP would spend $1.3 billion to build and upgrade another 70 schools. There would also be money to ensure every new and modernized school came with a playground.
Another $5 million a year would go to replace 100 aging and outdated play areas.
She criticizes her opponent, United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney, for failing to promise to fund enrolment growth. She says that would mean cuts and bigger classrooms.
“Parents need to know when they take their kids to school, they want to know that their child is going to be in a class that’s an appropriate size,” Notley said Thursday.
“(Failing to fund growth) will create chaos and will undermine the quality of education that our kids receive. There’s no need to do that. It’s just the wrong priorities.”
Kenney has said he would keep funding at current levels, and possibly increase it, but would be looking to find savings in administration to get more money to teachers.
United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney
The leader of Alberta’s United Conservatives said that, if elected, they would open more beds and expand treatment programs to help people battling drug and opioid addictions.
Jason Kenney said a UCP government would not approve new supervised drug consumption sites without extensive consultations with affected communities.
He also said those sites would ideally be accompanied by treatment services.
Kenney said it’s critical to balance help for users with safe neighbourhoods free of discarded needles and to avoid an increase in drug-related crime.
The opioid plan is part of a broader package of health reforms promised by Kenney in the campaign for the April 16 election.
He is promising that he would review health spending to find $200 million in administrative savings.
He said wait times for surgeries under the NDP are falling behind, and he would explore ways to have more day procedures done by private clinics under the public system to improve service and save money.
Such a system has been successful in Saskatchewan, he said.
“We will seek to replicate the phenomenal success of the Saskatchewan surgical initiative to meet our goal of a four-month maximum wait time for surgery,” Kenney told a news conference Thursday.
Rachel Notley’s New Democrats are running on a promise not to expand private care within the public system, because that can lead to queue-jumping and even higher costs.
The NDP has promised to keep health-care funding sufficient for a growing population and said Kenney’s refusal to match that promise means hardships and delays for patients.
Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan
Liberal Leader David Khan was in Calgary on Thursday where he unveiled his party’s fiscal plan, which includes the implementation of an eight per cent provincial sales tax.
Khan said a Liberal government would increase the tax-free limit to $57,250 to eliminate personal income tax for “most Albertans.”
“For couples, $114,500 will be tax-free. Almost two-thirds of Albertans will be exempt from personal income tax under our plan. We will cut personal taxes on the rest of Albertans’ income by one point across the board,” Khan said.
The party would also lower the corporate income tax rate from 12 per cent to 10 per cent. A revenue-neutral eight-per-cent sales tax would also be implemented, Khan said.
“Taxes on Albertans will not increase. We are simply shifting our tax burden from income taxation to a sales tax,” the party said.
“Our bold plan will raise nearly $1 billion a year in additional revenue from out-of-province visitors. It will boost economic growth because reducing personal and corporate taxes encourages hard work and investment. It will give our Alberta government a less volatile and more resilient revenue stream.”
Khan planned to door-knock in Calgary-Mountain View for a few hours Thursday afternoon before taking part in a march supporting gay-straight alliances in Calgary on Thursday evening.
Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel
Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel said his party would create the first corridor for self-driving vehicles in Canada by adding more lanes to the QEII.
“It’s needed A) upgrading and B) investing in,” Mandel said. “So we’re going to add a third lane to QEII going north and south. We think it’s vitally important and the Red Deer section is an important part of this — the QEII — and I think it’ll help Red Deer a great deal and also help move goods and services through the province of Alberta.”
Mandel said the triple lanes would run all the way between Calgary and Edmonton.
“It’s essential. There’s no sense in doing two lanes part way, it’s just not the way to do it. So we’ll put in a third lane,” he said. It’ll also put a lot of people to work.
Mandel said the work the project would create is especially needed “at a time where business is slow and companies need work.”
“There’s not a lot of municipal work being done as far as servicing land and developing land, so we think it’s a good time to get some reasonable prices too.”
READ MORE: How, when, where to vote
WATCH BELOW: While broadcasting live from Drayton Valley, The Ryan Jespersen Show heard from residents of the area who have been hit hard by the economy over the last few years.
Corus Alberta radio coverage
With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News.
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