As the provincial election quickly approaches, party leaders were hot on the campaign trail for the third week.
Re-instating government programs, diversifying the economy and hospital parking rates were all topics up for debate on Tuesday.
Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley announced that the NDP would help create summer jobs for approximately 3,000 students by restoring the provincial Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP), which was eliminated in 2013.
“Alberta’s students deserve to have the best job opportunities this summer,” said Notley. “That’s why the NDP will help open the doors for young Albertans by restoring STEP and undoing the damage caused by the PCs’ reckless cut. By investing in young Albertans, we will help students take their first step up the ladder and we will help build our province’s future.”
STEP was established by the Government of Alberta in 1972 to create summer job opportunities for students.
Notley announced STEP would be restored by investing $10 million annually to create the 3,000 jobs each year.
“By reversing the PCs’ cut and restoring STEP, we will create new opportunities for students to gain the experience and skills they need to enter the workforce and continue their learning outside the classroom,” she added.
Wildrose Leader Brian Jean announced a Wildrose government would make it mandatory for hospitals to offer two-hours free parking.
“Visiting a sick family member or loved one in the hospital comes with a heavy emotional cost,” he said. “We shouldn’t add financial costs to what is already a difficult time. This reflects our commitment to make lives more affordable for Albertans and help them keep more of their money in their pockets.”
Jean stated Alberta Health Services (AHS) generates around $70 million in revenue from current hospital parking fees. The Wildrose move towards two-hour free parking would put an end to AHS profits from parking and make it more affordable for those to be a part of their loved ones’ care and recovery, he said.
He also responded to PC comments about the Wildrose low-tax balanced budget and savings plan.
Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark announced the PCs have failed to diversify the province’s economy. “During the last forty-four years the PCs have been saying that we need to diversify Alberta’s economy,” he said. “Forty-four years later the PCs are saying exactly the same thing with no results.”
Clark stated the Alberta Party plans to diversify the economy with market-driven solutions that will make it easier to start and grow business.
“The Alberta Party believes in market-driven economic diversification where entrepreneurs and the free market, not the PCs decide the future direction of Alberta’s economy,” he said.
Premier Jim Prentice announced that after hearing from Albertans during the course of the campaign, he would reconsider reducing the charitable donation tax credit in the 2015 provincial budget. He added the PC government would maintain the previous rate.
“I’ve said during this campaign that leadership is about difficult and sometimes unpopular choices,” said Prentice. “Hearing from Albertans during this campaign, it’s become clear that this choice was more than simply unpopular. Rather, Albertans have told me it was seen as contrary to our values as Albertans — values of generosity, community and looking out for one another. These are the leaders who manage your charitable dollars to deliver critical services and cultural excellence. These are the people we turn to, to help build and support our communities and we cannot tolerate even the impression that we might put that in jeopardy.”
He noted that the previous measure would have saved the province $90 million annually, but rescinding the change would not affect the three-year timeline for balancing the budget.
“Our plan has fiscal discipline at its core,” said Prentice. “This is a small change but an important one and one must take to respect what Albertans have told us. We will continue to move forward with a realistic plan, taking immediate action on challenges we face, while breaking the boom and bust cycle and saving for future generations.”
The provincial election is set for May 5th.
Polling stations will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. the day of the election.
Advance voting will take place from April 29th to May 2nd from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Advance polls in the Lacombe-Ponoka constituency are located at the Office of the Returning Officer: 117, 5001 52 St. Lacombe and the Rimoka Seniors Lodge at 5608 57 Ave. Ponoka.