Wildrose Party Eager to Rule - Okotoks Western Wheel

Mistakes made by Alberta’s PC government are giving the opposition Wildrose Party more ammunition as it reaches the half-way point to the next provincial election, said the Highwood MLA.

With the election just two years away, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith told more than 100 attendees at the Dine with Danielle fundraiser dinner in the Turner Valley Golf and Country Club on Feb. 7 that her party is working hard to connect with Albertans and respond to their needs.

“We are a government in waiting,” she said. “We are a party of fiscal discipline. I guarantee we can do better.”

Smith said among the concerns her party is hearing from Albertans are the deplorable conditions of seniors facilities, cuts to post-secondary education, expense of the health care system, overpaid politicians and people who lost their homes in the 2013 flood still waiting for financial assistance eight months later.

“These are the real-life consequences of a government that doesn’t care about their expenses,” she said. “This government is seriously out of step.”

Danielle also told those attending the dinner that the PC government is in the habit of making mistakes and then backtracking.

She used the example of Alberta Premier Alison Redford spending $45,000 for a trip to South Africa.

“This is not what people expect of their politicians,” she said. “We have seen this government only do the right thing after being caught doing the wrong thing.”

Rick Fraser, MLA for Calgary-South East, defended his party’s record. He said Health Minister Fred Horne is diligently looking at every nursing home to make sure they meet the standards and where human error comes into play, the minister is doing what he should to address that.

In response to Albertans displaced from the 2013 flood still awaiting provincial funding, Fraser said 99.9 per cent who haven’t received financial assistance are still on hold because of their insurance companies.

“We are continually on the insurance companies trying to work through that,” he said. “We are understanding people are hurting. This is the worst natural disaster that Canada has ever faced.”

When it comes to the premier’s controversial South African trip, Fraser said that while mistakes are made, the government admits to the errors, corrected it and moved forward.

“What I’m proud of is when people recognize they made a mistake, whether it’s me, the premier or my children,” he said.

Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier, who also attended the Dine with Danielle dinner last week, said Alberta Health Service’s centralized 911 dispatch services was another mistake. He said ambulance services jumped from region to region, often leaving vast areas without ambulance service where it was needed the most.

Another mistake, added Smith, is the billion dollar debt now being faced by Albertans. She predicted it will reach $17 billion by 2016.

Smith said the government in power is making cuts while their politicians are receiving pay increases.

Wildrose MLAs have given their pay increases to the Wildrose Caucus Foundation to give back to Albertans, she said. Smith said these funds have gone to victims of sexual abuse, The Royal Canadian Legion Poppy Fund to support war veterans and assisted women fleeing domestic violence, including those at the Rowan House Emergency Shelter in High River.

“We don’t look at it as our money,” she said. “Each and every one of us has the obligation to give back to our communities.”

Smith said staying in the black isn’t impossible.

“We believe we have the ability to pay as you go,” she said. “We believe there is enough money collected from tax systems.”

In defence, Fraser questioned why the government would take billions of dollars out of savings that are earning upwards of eight per cent in interest when it’s only paying about two per cent on what it’s borrowing.

A resident attending last week’s dinner expressed concerns about the anticipated drop in oil prices and asked how the Wildrose Party would handle it if in power.

Smith responded the province has become too dependent on natural resources and there are other ways to create revenue including cutting wasteful spending.

She said it’s also the responsibility of the government to reinvest revenue in an account where the money can compound.

Another resident in attendance expressed concerns about land use changes that are making it difficult to build because of so many restrictions.

Smith said there is a balance that must be looked at so developers aren’t getting wrapped up in red tape.