AFJ – If the Federal Government is not doing anything to make the Trans Mountain Pipeline, why not stop collecting carbon tax?
Rod Loyola – For the first time, an Alberta government’s action on climate change means new pipelines and new markets for our oil. It’s the biggest and most important breakthrough in decades, and it’s because of Premier Notley. Thanks to our price on carbon, we are diversifying Alberta’s economy, creating thousands of new jobs, and helping our environment by reducing emissions and pollution. Recently, we saw how Doug Ford’s reckless actions in Ontario throw people out of work, make home upgrades more expensive for families, and render millions of investments worthless. On top of that, Ontarians are going to be slapped with Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax and have no say in their future.
We have a made-in-Alberta plan that works for our economy and our environment. Industry helped form our plan. Because of the carbon tax, we have been able to invest in much needed infrastructure projects like the LRT lines in both Edmonton and Calgary, provide energy rebates to roughly 60% of Albertan households, cut the small business tax rate, and allow residents and businesses affordable ways to begin to lower their carbon emissions and save money on their utilities. The carbon tax has also allowed us to pave the way to energy diversification for our province, investing in renewable energy projects and partnering with private-sector organizations in innovative ways to bring stabilization to our energy sector.
AFJ – What is your stand on Healthcare cuts? Jason Kenney wants a dual system. Isn’t a dual system double jeopardy, as this will hurt the middle people? It would also be harder to manage.
Rod Loyola – Jason Kenney’s reckless 20 % cuts to the health budget would slash 4.3 billion dollars out of our health care system. This would mean shutting down 53 acute care hospitals across Alberta and nearly 600 Emergency room spaces. We cannot afford to cut crucial ambulance services and fire over 2445 EMS workers. With Jason Kenny’s cuts, 23,165 cancer patients would no longer get lifesaving prescriptions filled.
Albertans understand how important health services are. In my own constituency, people are excited about a new hospital opening up on the south side. This was long overdue and much needed. The lasthospital in Edmonton opened 30 years go.
AFJ – The opposition says the Liberals and NDP are in bed, what can you say about this?
Rod Loyola – As a government, it is our job to work with other jurisdictions to further the interests of Alberta and what is best for Albertans. Kenney is saying this to score cheap political points. He is not interested in Alberta or Albertans but is auditioning for Prime Minister. Kenney didn’t come back to Alberta for Albertans he came back for himself.
We know for a fact that we will continue to fight for Alberta. That’s why we pulled out of the Federal Climate Change Plan and are taking steps on our own to get our products to market. Our government has always said that taking the next step and signing on to the federal climate plan can’t happen without the Trans-Mountain pipeline and we intend to keep working to get the pipeline built.
AFJ -Please briefly lay your specific Plans of Action down on our table:
Our government is supporting good jobs in a more diverse economy and our plan is working – with 90,000 new full-time jobs created last year alone. Our government is standing up for everyday Albertans and getting rid of government waste – like public golf memberships for conservative insiders. Jason Kenny wants to give a huge tax giveaway to the richest Albertans and pay for it with cuts to front-line services. We are diversifying our markets, we are building new pipelines, and we are supporting key industries – like green tech & construction. Whereas, Jason Kenny is more focused on promoting himself and cheering for the province to fail than he is on Albertan’s priorities.
Wages are up. Average weekly earnings are at its highest level since the recession and highest in the country. We know that there is still a way to go but it is clear that our plan is working and things are looking up – Jobs are up, Manufacturing is up, exports are up, and small business confidence is up.
Our government is working hard every day to make life better for working Albertans and their families. And we have made reasonable changes that will make life more affordable by ensuring that workplaces are fair, safe and that people can earn enough money to look after themselves and their families. We have followed through on our promise to phase in a $15 minimum wage, so people don’t have to go from their jobs to the food bank. We modernized our province’s WCB and OHS systems to strengthen worker’s rights and to ensure that all Alberta workplaces are safe and that families can feel confident that their loved ones will come home at the end of their shift.
c. Racism or Discrimination
As someone that came into his country as a refugee, this issue is very close to my heart. Our diversity is our strength. I am proud to be a member of a government that recognizes the impacts of racism and is fighting every single day to make sure all Albertans feel safe and welcome. We introduced the $2 million Anti-Racism Community Grant Program.
Albertans from all walks of life should not only feel welcome but celebrated. For that reason, our government declared June to be Philippine Heritage Month as a way to celebrate and recognize the many ways in which Filipinos have enriched our province and strengthened the fabric of our communities.
d. Health and Sanitation
Our government is focused on Albertans’ priorities as we work to make life better. All Albertans deserve access to high quality, public healthcare. While the UCP wants to privatize health care, we believe health care should be based on medical need – not the size of your wallet. We are transforming how primary care is delivered in Alberta. We are building new hospitals, investing in our paramedics and ensuring nurses are at the bedside when Albertans need them. We have increased home care and community care.
Through the toughest recession in years we made an historic investment in infrastructure that repaired and built our key transportation networks while creating good jobs. A good transportation network is essential to a strong economy, and we are making investments in roads and bridges that help create jobs and diversify our economy. We are making sure that this recovery is built to last.
We are expanding the Southwest Anthony Henday and investing in the Calgary Ring Road, the Green Line and the Edmonton Valley Line to help Albertans spend less time commuting and more time doing what they want to do – like spending time with their families. With Transportation’s construction program, we are creating an estimated 18,140 jobs across the province.
The previous government refused to build much needed schools and hospitals and Albertans suffered because of it. Our government has embarked on the biggest infrastructure build in our province’s history. We have put shovels in the ground on nearly 300 transportation projects, more than 100 school projects, plus post-secondary and health facilities that are putting Albertans back to work. As of September, there were 316 major capital projects underway ($5 million or more) including: 114 school projects, 69 road and bridge projects, like the Southwest Calgary Ring Road, 33 Seniors and Housing projects and 32 major health facility projects
g. Local/National Security
Every Albertan deserves to feel safe in their home, on their streets and in their community. Protecting Albertans’ safety and providing a fair, efficient justice system is one of the first duties of government, and it’s one that we take very seriously. We provide over $500 million for municipal and provincial policing services throughout Alberta. We are implementing a seven-point rural crime strategy, which will put boots on the ground where they are needed most.
We’re focused on the priorities of regular Albertans, like making sure our kids have great schools. During the worst recession in 40 years, we protected education – building schools and investing in classrooms. We have made life better for parents by cutting school fees and introducing our school nutrition program. We froze post-secondary tuition rates, and put 3,600 new teachers and support workers in classrooms.
i. Immigration (Provincial Nominee Program)
Immigrants are a valued part of our province’s workplaces and communities and are crucial to the ongoing success of our province. We know that many employers and workers felt that the old Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program was too complicated and slow. We fixed that. We opened the program to more skills and occupations, we’ve removed income thresholds to make it easier to apply, and we streamlined the applications. Our changes now mean simplified applications, faster processing times, and more fairness for those on the path to permanent residency.
While our government is making life better for families when the conservative leader was in Ottawa, he went out of his way to make it harder for families to come and settle here. Jason Kenney was responsible for changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program that forced the removal of thousands of Filipino TFWs from Canada and made it almost impossible for others to become permanent residents. TFWs can only work for 4 years and had to go back home and wait another 4 years to reapply as a TFW. Jason Kenney made it harder and more expensive for grandparents to reunite with families in Canada, longer time for immigrants to acquire citizenship, and accumulated a build-up of citizenship applications.
AFJ – Among these mentioned social issues, which is closer to your interest and in line with your existing programs? Do you like to add more, or do you like to re-arrange them according to your own set of priorities?
Health and Education are the key social issues for me because quality education and responsive health care system are key to the prosperity of Alberta and its families. Since 2015 we’ve made those two areas priorities in our budgeting, and the investment is showing. It has taken time to get to where we are today, but our plans are working and Alberta is seeing the benefit. Our opponents have stated before that they would make massive cuts to these critical areas in Albertans’ lives, and they know they’ll hurt, but they don’t seem to care as long as it balances the budget. We don’t believe that’s fair.
I would like to add Status of Woman to this. Our government is leading by example with a gender-balanced cabinet; we’re keeping our promise by increasing the minimum wage; we’ve increased funding for women’s shelters and passed a law to make it easier for those fleeing domestic violence. We’ve also created and expanded a $25-a-day child care program, helping more women enter or stay in the workforce. We will continue to listen to women and take action to advance equality and opportunity here in Alberta. There is a long way to go but I am glad we are taking steps in the right direction.