By Justin Seward
Premier Jason Kenney was asked about what he would say to rural constituents that may not be inclined to support the UCP party in the 2023 election during a rural round table discussion with weekly newspapers on June 11.
“Our government has already implemented 80 per cent of the platform commitments that we were elected on,” said Kenney.
As for the polls, Kenney attributes the public decline in support for the UCP government to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s no secret that people in rural Alberta were more opposed to public health restrictions than elsewhere,” said the Premier.
“We’ve been going through an incredible polarization over the COVID debate in this province, where a very large number of people is proportionately in urban areas can believe that our government was too reluctant and too slow to bring in public health restrictions. But a significant amount of people disproportionately in rural areas believed our government went too far and was too stringent in public health restrictions. We have been trying responsibly to navigate a middle ground—which was to protect lives and a health care system while minimizing the damaging effect of public health restrictions.”
Kenney thinks Albertans have been doing a good job, resulting in a lower-per-capita death rate than the rest of Canada.
Kenney said once we emerge from COVID and everybody focuses back on issues like jobs, the economy, pipelines and fighting for a fair deal, that the support will be renewed of the last election.
A reporter broughtup key rural issues such as the unpopular K-6 draft curriculum, coal mining in the Rockies and doctor shortages in the rural areas.
Kenney touched on the K-6 draft curriculum.
“We talk about the K-6 curriculum, I think the single most popular platform commitment we made in the last election in many parts of rural Alberta was exactly this,” said Kenney.
“That we would consult widely on the revision of the new school curriculum, stop the NDP’s effort to inject Left Wing politics into our classroom s and come back to basics on things like math and reading—that’s exactly what our curriculum does.”
Kenney addressed the doctors dispute by saying the province added $90 million to the recruitment and retention of rural physicians, which he thinks is providing the province by far the strongest incentives for rural physicians in the country.
“It’s always been a challenge in rural Alberta and rural Canada everywhere to recruit and retain physicians to serve in smaller communities,” said Kenney.
“But that’s why we’ve added an additional $90 million to the highest level ever.”
Kenney said with respect to the Coal Policy, Albertans have always supported an approach of sustainable development, a balance between protection of our natural environment and responsible resource development.
“We have some of the most rigorous laws in the world and we’ll maintain those,” said Kenney.
There is proposed open pit coal mining on the table for the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
Kenney highlighted the areas important to rural Albertans that the UCP has addressed including the scrapping of the NDP carbon tax, suing Justin Trudeau for his party’s carbon tax, standing up for the oil and gas industry and the repealing of the NDP’s Bill 6—which was an attempt to unionize farms.