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Alberta NDP promise laws by summer to lower consumer costs, keep Canada Pension Plan

Alberta UCP Leader Danielle Smith walks away as a reporter asks her a question at a news conference during the provincial election in Calgary on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. Calgary street pastor Artur Pawlowski has accused Danielle Smith of lying about their phone call and members of her team of offering him inducements to join the United Conservative cause. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

EDMONTON — NDP Leader Rachel Notley says if her party wins Monday’s election, it would reconvene the legislature this summer to pass bills to lower costs for Albertans and close the door on the province quitting the Canada Pension Plan.

Notley says an NDP government would also pass legislation to abolish the sovereignty act passed last year by Danielle Smith’s United Conservatives.

“We would be going back into the house this summer as soon as we possibly could to get the necessary legislation passed in order to provide relief to Alberta families, to provide certainty to investors and to provide security to Alberta seniors,” Notley told a news conference Thursday in Calgary.

She said the flagship Bill 1 would implement measures to lower the cost of utility bills, reduce auto insurance, create tax credits for children’s activities, freeze tuition, implement $10-per-day child care and extend that program to before- and after-school care.

Notley said the result would save most Albertans about $1,000 and families would pocket much more.

She said the second bill would repeal Smith’s sovereignty act, which gives Alberta the power to direct its agencies to flout federal laws and initiatives deemed inimical to provincial interests.

Notley said the third bill would prevent any future government from leaving the Canada Pension Plan.

The UCP has been publicly musing for years about the potential benefits of abandoning the CPP in favour of its own pension plan. 

Former premier Jason Kenney promised more than two years ago that a report into the pros and cons was imminent, but it has never been released. 

Smith has declined to discuss the Alberta Pension Plan idea until after the election, but has stressed no change would be made without citizens signing off on it in a referendum.

Notley said Albertans have been clear in polls they don’t want the government to interfere with pensions and that Smith needs to make it clear where she stands.

“There is no need for there to be a referendum that is manipulated by the UCP after an election. Rather, Danielle Smith should have the courage of her convictions to clearly have a conversation about it now,” Notley said. 

Notley said a government led by her would also begin work to create more teams of primary health-care workers and hire more staff to reduce surgical wait times and increase access to a family doctor.

Health care and the economy have been the top issues on doorsteps in the campaign.

Both parties are running on spend-heavy budgets that rely on oil and gas prices remaining stable.

The UCP has promised a flagship bill promising that any future hikes to personal or corporate income taxes must be approved in a referendum.

Smith has also promised tax changes that would see those earning more than $60,000 save up to $760 a year.

Smith, in an interview on Corus radio earlier Thursday, again took aim at Notley’s promise to hike corporate income taxes to 11 per cent from eight per cent.

Notley says the hike would still leave Alberta with the lowest corporate rate in the country while freeing up money to pay for core services. Her party also promises to end the small business tax.

Smith said the new rate would make Alberta less competitive with rival U.S. jurisdictions and would undermine economic growth.

“You don’t end up making up a revenue shortfall by increasing tax rates on our job creators,” Smith said. 

The UCP estimates its tax changes would cost the treasury $1 billion a year. 

Smith said if oil prices fall, there is a $1.5-billion cushion built into the current budget to cover off the expense without pushing Alberta’s budget into the red.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2023.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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