Nanton News: Leader of the Opposition Brian Jean toured Nanton last month

This past week, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean commenced the final leg of his month-long, province-wide tour, continuing his commitment to meet with Albertans, receive their feedback and listen to their concerns about the state of the province.

On August 19, MLA Pat Stier toured Jean through his riding and made a stop at the Nanton News and the Nanton Candy Store.

“It feels like a mini vacation, traveling around, meeting people and getting to see beautiful areas of Alberta. I love it here,” said Jean. “This has been an entire learning tour. We have gone from central Alberta to south and then the next leg will be north and back home. We have talked to as many people as we possibly could about what their priorities are. It is all about what Albertans priorities are and not what mine are or Pat's. We represent the people of Alberta, we work for them and we want to make sure we have their priorities first and foremost as our number one priority.”

The Wildrose leader noticed that there has been an underlying concern throughout his tour and it surprised him,“When I started the tour in central Alberta, I wasn't sure if it was local to there especially because it is heavy into oil and gas industry but everybody is talking about the economy and jobs. It's all about the oil and gas sector and a lot of discussion in relation to what is happening with the NDP and some of the signals from them in relation to the royal review, the GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions and regulation suggestions that they put forward. People are concerned and people are very worried.”

Jean believes that the “social experiment” by the NDP will cost the province jobs.

“When the business owner has to pay $15 an hour when he is used to paying $8 or $10, for instance, he may have to cut some employees. I firmly believe that is going to happen. They have done this around the world and it has caused employees to become unemployed because employers can't afford it. Service in restaurants and cafes will be cut because you can't tell me that if you have higher wages, business owners will have less staff and as a result of less staff, poorer service,” said Jean.

Seniors are one of the groups of vulnerable people that the Wildrose leader is most worried about in relation to the $15 minimum wage. 

“For instance, the seniors who want to make $500 or $600 more a month with a part-time job or youth that want to make extra money or those that are physically or mentally unable to create an opportunity through training or a good job, those people are the ones that are making minimum wage right now and will be hurt the most later on. That's what bothers me most. The single mom or the single dad with two jobs to try to make ends meet, all of a sudden may lose one of those jobs because employers can't afford to pay the extra 40 percent and the social experiment will put a dent in the economy.”

Jean thinks the only thing his party can really do is try to slow the changes down as much as possible.

“We need to bring forward empirical evidence that proves their social experiment on raising the minimum wage to such a high degree is not going to work and will actually cost jobs. Right now is not the time to do that when our economy is soft. If the NDP want to do their social experiment sometime when we are rolling in dough, that's up to the people of Alberta, and hopefully Rachel will listen to them. At a time when there is a fragile global economy, when we have these low oil prices and the emissions regulations, I just don't think it is the right time to do any social experimenting.”

Jean believes it certainly is not the time to do a royalty review and says we saw what happened last time, “people were scared and ran away from it”.

Jean has had the opportunity to meet with “Captains of Industry” in Calgary and Edmonton that are directly impacted by the new provincial government's decisions.

“These are large business operators, they have billions of dollars, literally, and they have all told me clearly that they are not investing any more money in Alberta. You are going to see a lot more layoffs in the oil and gas industry. It's the largest employer in Alberta by far and the ramifications are staggering because every industry suffers, like my car wash in Fort McMurray. Even the agricultural sector benefits when the oil and gas industry does well. All of Alberta is going to feel it,” said Jean.

 “The NDP has created uncertainty and unpredictability in the marketplace. Look at the TSX, for instance, 30 percent of the TSX is Alberta companies. That is a big chunk of change that is in the TSX that represents the entire economic corporate community in Canada. When you take that 30 percent and you depreciate it by 50 percent, it takes a huge chunk out of the whole country. We had a 120,000 people in Alberta that worked and paid taxes in other provinces and those incomes were over $100,000 a year. I know that because 70,000 of those lived in camps about five miles from my house in Fort McMurray.”

Jean is concerned about the senior citizens in the province and says there are some things that have been done federally but not so much provincially.

“The federal government has provided senior supplements, and the ability for seniors to deduct things but the provincial government has ignored seniors, especially in relation to age-in-place facilities, long term care facilities right across the province. They have announced more beds but have never delivered on the beds; especially in Fort McMurray and Lloydminister. In Fort McMurray, it was announced five times by five different premiers in over ten years. If we look at the cost in health care, for instance, it's $8,000 to $15,000 for a bed for a senior in a hospital. It shouldn't cost that much and it doesn't cost that much in senior care homes.

“We have to look at how we can keep seniors in their home so they can age with dignity but sometimes people need help and we should have those programs available for them. If we take care of them in the home, it costs 10 to 15 percent what it would cost in a hospital. We should have a step approach. Right now they go from their home to proper supervised care to hospitals, they miss the jump in between where they have proper adequate medical attention at home and then they move into a seniors' age-in-place facility which has the facility on site for each step as they go through the journey of life.”

Jean feels the best thing he could possibly do for the province is work with the caucus to reduce taxes. 

“The people of Alberta would make their own decisions on how they want to spend their money. I don't think I should take tax money. Take 10 or 20 percent off the top for administration charges, and take the last 80 percent and divide it up on where I think they should spend their money. It's not my money and it's not Pat's money. It belongs to the people of Alberta. The best thing I can do is keep government small, make sure we provide what we need to to those people that need it, and let people decide wherever they want to spend their money. I, for instance, take ballroom dancing.”

The Wildrose party would like to address the water and wastewater infrastructure in communities across the province.

“We think that wastewater and water are very important and those kinds of infrastructure investments are the most important we can do and we have to make sure we do it because most towns can't afford it. I do like the federal government's New Building Canada Plan and their approach of a third, a third and a third. It encourages federal, provincial and municipality involvement. I know that file very well because I was deeply involved in it. All the legislation that was passed through 2006 to 2012 was under my department and I have great relationships with all the bureaucratizes. I do know how the process works, how to make applications for it, what they look for in the application and we would gear our programs towards that, to make sure they match and we get the most bang for our buck. Those are the kinds of things a government should be there for, basic infrastructure for people's needs.”

For the leader of the opposition, he is constantly on campaign. 

“This campaign started the day the last one ended and it will end in four years. We have a lot at stake here and, it's not a joke, we have $45 billion in taxpayers money and royalties and things that belong to the people of Alberta that we need to budget according to their needs and their wishes. It is a very, very important thing to control that and as a result of what's going on with the 'Social Experiment' with the NDP, it's more important than ever to make sure that we are in a position in four years to be the government of this province. 

In the meantime, between now and then, we have to rebuild the trust of Albertans back to the Wildrose, but also build the confidence that they can have in us to pick their priorities and go forward with those and manage their money properly. I think that in the next two years, people will want in a government is a government that has experience managing money and can do a good job managing their money because that is really what we are, managers of their money.”

All the things that Jean has learnt on this tour will in turn create the Wildrose policy.

“That's the big secret. This information I have learned creates our campaign platform. And why is that? The people we are campaigning with are the people voting for us and are the ones who should decide what we do.”