UPDATE: 'I want to be your premier again:' Alberta's Rachel Notley calls spring election - InfoNews

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UPDATE: 'I want to be your premier again:' Alberta's Rachel Notley calls spring election

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speaks to a large crowd during a rally in Edmonton on Sunday, March 17, 2019.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
March 19, 2019 - 9:41 AM

CALGARY - Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has called an election for April 16.

Notley asked cheering supporters standing behind her in Calgary Tuesday morning if they are ready to fight for an Alberta that benefits everyone.

She began her attack on the leader of the Opposition United Conservatives immediately.

"The question is this: do Albertans stick together or do we turn on each other?" she said.

"Jason Kenney wants two Albertas — one for the wealthy and one for the rest of us. He wants two Albertas divided over people's rights.

"I want to continue to build one Alberta."

Notley introduced herself in the same way she often did during the 2015 election, but with the addition of one word.

"My name is Rachel Notley and I am running to be your premier — again," she said to cheers.

The start of a 28-day campaign comes a day after a new session of the legislature began with a throne speech that focused on the NDP government's accomplishments in the last four years — from building schools, roads and hospitals to providing more supports for seniors, students and those in need.

It also criticized the former Progressive Conservative government, and said the New Democrats have been working to overcome the failures of the past.

The spring election will be the first for the United Conservative Party and its leader Kenney, a federal cabinet minister under former prime minister Stephen Harper.

The United Conservatives were Kenney's answer to unite the right, and were born out of a merger of the Alberta Tories and what was the Opposition Wildrose Party.

By law, the election had to be held by May 31.

Notley and Kenney have already staked out the main planks of their platforms.

Notley is pledging to continue funding education and health to keep up with population growth, along with a program of building and retrofitting highways, schools, hospitals and health centres.

The NDP also want to see their tax and program incentives survive to help diversify the economy. The party is planning to spend $3.7 billion to lease rail cars to get more oil to market and has introduced a carbon tax.

Notley's government has delivered more aid and money for services ranging from legal aid to seniors housing, help for the severely disabled and low-cost daycare.

It has set salary grids for members of agencies, board, commissions and other public bodies.

The changes have come at a cost of multibillion-dollar deficits in every year of Notley's mandate. The debt now approaches $60 billion.

Kenney is promising to repeal the signature elements of Notley's first four years. He has said he would axe the carbon tax, roll back increases to corporate taxes, peel back some of the boosts to the minimum wage and cancel employment standards and injury compensation for farmers.

He has said he would will run a campaign focused on job creation and has promised to cut red tape by one third, which — along with the tax reductions — he believes will spur economic growth to balance the budget in four years.

Notley says her plan will also boost the economy and allow the budget to get out of the red by 2023.

Three other parties — the Liberals, the Alberta Party and the Freedom Conservative Party — say they will be releasing their platforms soon. All three hope to escape the political fringes in this election.

Notley's NDP has been trailing the UCP in pre-election polls but has history on its side.

Since the formation of the province in 1905, parties have governed in multi-year dynasties: the Liberals, the United Farmers, and Social Credit followed by 44 consecutive years of Progressive Conservative governments.

No party that gained power has lost it in its first try at re-election.

Kenney has been dealing with a growing scandal in recent days over his 2017 leadership campaign. Leaked documents and witnesses have revealed his campaign worked in lockstep with another candidate to derail his main opponent.

Kenney has denied running a "kamikaze candidate" or funding his campaign, which would violate election financing laws.

The RCMP is investigating.

The issue of racism has also reared its head in recent days.

A UCP candidate resigned late Monday following allegations that she made comments about white nationalists online.

Caylan Ford's announcement came after the website PressProgress reported on what it says was a private Facebook conversation from 2017 in which Ford allegedly spoke about the replacement of white people in their homelands and the collapse of Western culture.

Ford said the comments published by PressProgress were distortions and are not reflective of her views.

"I personally do not believe that Jason Kenney is racist," Notley said Tuesday. "But I do believe the UCP as a party has a problem with racism."

— With files from Dean Bennett in Edmonton

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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