Not­ley says lead­er­ship is lack­ing dur­ing cri­sis

NDP LEADER NOT IM­PRESSED WITH PER­FOR­MANCE OF KENNEY GOV­ERN­MENT

Lethbridge Herald - - Front Page - Tim Kali­nowski LETH­BRIDGE HER­ALD

Op­po­si­tion leader Rachel Not­ley ar­rived in Leth­bridge on Wed­nes­day for a two-day visit to the city to bring a mes­sage of change which works for Al­ber­tans and gets Al­ber­tans back to work.

“I think clearly Alberta is go­ing through some gen­er­a­tional and his­toric chal­lenges right now, and there needs to be a very strong vi­sion for how we go for­ward that fo­cuses on job cre­ation and en­sures all Al­ber­tans are part of the re­cov­ery,” Not­ley told The Her­ald in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view.

“What we have seen over the last 18 months is a fail­ure to pro­vide that kind of lead­er­ship by the UCP. I think now more than ever there needs to be a re­ally ro­bust and mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tion go­ing for­ward what the im­pli­ca­tions are for the ma­jor­ity of Al­ber­tans.

“This is not a care­taker kind of time,” she added. “This is an his­toric time. And I think that peo­ple who are truly en­gaged in the fu­ture of their prov­ince need to be part of that con­ver­sa­tion.”

Not­ley ac­knowl­edged the vast fi­nan­cial chal­lenges fac­ing the prov­ince right now, but she also stressed, in her opin­ion, the

Kenney gov­ern­ment had not risen to the chal­lenge of fac­ing them in a way which will make Alberta stronger and bet­ter com­ing out of the worst fi­nan­cial down­turn the prov­ince has seen in sev­eral gen­er­a­tions. She noted that de­spite a gen­er­ous cor­po­rate tax cut last year 50,000 jobs were lost in

Alberta in 2019, and the econ­omy had be­gun shrink­ing long be­fore the on­set of this year’s COVID-19 pan­demic.

“If I were then faced with these kinds of pres­sures like ev­ery ju­ris­dic­tion across the coun­try and across the world was fac­ing, would I dou­ble down on a (tax-cut) strat­egy that was clearly fail­ing?” she asked. “Un­for­tu­nately what Ja­son Kenney has done is ex­actly that, and then he is turn­ing around threat­en­ing Al­ber­tans with this so­called reck­on­ing in the midst of this.”

If faced with the same dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, Not­ley said an NDP gov­ern­ment would have done things dif­fer­ently.

“In my view, a job is a job,” she said. “And you don’t build the econ­omy by fir­ing more peo­ple. You can­not cut your way to pros­per­ity. Alberta has, even now de­spite the mis­man­age­ment of the Kenney gov­ern­ment, good fis­cal bones. We have the abil­ity now to help each other, sup­port each other, in­vest in eco­nomic stim­u­lus, in­vest in job cre­ation, and en­sure the eco­nomic re­cov­ery that will come is ex­pe­ri­enced by all Al­ber­tans on an eq­ui­table ba­sis.”

“As I talk about in­vest­ing in each other,” Not­ley added, “I also mean we would go back to the strate­gic in­vest­ments we had in place be­fore that were fo­cused on di­ver­si­fy­ing the econ­omy and were get­ting re­sults.”

Not­ley also crit­i­cized the Kenney gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of the on­go­ing dis­pute with the Alberta Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, and its han­dling of the re-open­ing strat­egy for schools across the prov­ince in the face of the COVID-19 pan­demic.

“It’s ab­so­lutely a self-in­flicted wound,” she said in ref­er­ence to the on­go­ing doc­tors’ dis­pute. “It’s very ide­o­log­i­cal in na­ture. It flows from a gen­eral lack of con­cern for main­tain­ing a high-func­tion­ing sys­tem of public health care. It flows from a gen­eral lack of con­cern of ef­fec­tive ac­cess to health care no mat­ter where you live or how much you earn. If you think health care is some­thing you should get if you can af­ford to pay for it then you are go­ing to be less con­cerned about the con­se­quences of mak­ing re­ally ag­gres­sive moves within the public health­care sys­tem. That’s what we see (from the UCP).

“It’s very ar­ro­gant,” she stated. “It’s very top down. And it demon­strates an am­biva­lence with re­spect to the out­comes par­tic­u­larly with re­spect to the ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.”

Again, Not­ley said, the NDP would have done things dif­fer­ently.

“It’s pretty sim­ple,” she stated. “Let’s get back to the ta­ble and ne­go­ti­ate in good faith. And if it doesn’t work, fine. Send it to ar­bi­tra­tion with fair ar­bi­tra­tion rules, and go from there. Com­mon sense, and the vast ma­jor­ity of doc­tors, I think would un­der­stand there are places where there need to be some changes, and a bend­ing of the cost curve with re­spect to the rate at which doc­tors’ com­pen­sa­tion is in­creas­ing. I think an ar­bi­tra­tor would find that, too, but I think it would be done in a bal­anced, re­spect­ful, and ne­go­ti­ated way. I think there is room for that.”

On schools re-open­ing, and the ris­ing num­bers of re­ported COVID cases in schools across the prov­ince, Not­ley said again, in her opin­ion, the UCP didn’t do what it needed with re­spect to class sizes and proper fund­ing to limit the risks for teach­ers and stu­dents as it should have done.

“It is ab­so­lutely true that no­body has a strat­egy for a zero-case re­turn; that doesn’t ex­ist,” Not­ley ac­knowl­edged.

“But the ques­tion is do we put our­selves into a sit­u­a­tion where we are blithely walk­ing around pre­tend­ing be­cause kids are un­der 18 the very rules we are ask­ing each and ev­ery cit­i­zen of this prov­ince to fol­low, don’t ap­ply to kids and teach­ers? That makes no sense.

“The other key piece here is they (the UCP) haven’t funded a safe re­turn,” she added. “And not only have they not funded it, they have con­tin­ued with their pre­vi­ously laid out plans to cut ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing. They claimed in the elec­tion they would not cut ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing, and they still claim that, but it is a lie.

“Ja­son Kenney lies ev­ery sin­gle time he says he has not cut ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing,” she em­pha­sized. “The per stu­dent al­lot­ment has gone down by just un­der $500 per stu­dent since the elec­tion.”

Fol­low @TimKalHer­ald on Twit­ter

Her­ald photo by Ian Martens

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Not­ley speaks with down­town busi­ness owner Levi Cox at the out­door ta­bles at Fes­ti­val Square Wed­nes­day dur­ing her visit to the city. @IMarten­sHer­ald

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