Lukaszuk, McIver and Prentice go one-on-one with the Journal
It is inarguable that trust is the buzzword of the 2014 Progressive Conservative leadership election that is taking place Sept.6 (with a possible second round of voting on Sept. 20). It has been and continues to be the chief priority of the three leadership candidates — Thomas Lukaszuk, Ric McIver and Jim Prentice — to convince Albertans that they are the man who can restore trust and confidence in the PC Party after that trust has been severely compromised due to the various controversies surround former Premier Alison Redford. Gaining the trust of party members and Albertan citizens is perhaps not just pivotal to come away with a victory this month, but also to ensure the health of the PC leadership dynasty going forward.
The Calgary Journal spoke with each candidate about earning the trust of Albertans, their position on education, why they want to be premier and where they see the province going forward, among other things.
CJ: What inspired you to join the PC leadership race?
Photo by Paulina Liwski.Thomas Lukaszuk: We need to focus on social development, infrastructure, daycares, senior homes, education and things of that nature. I found that I have more experience than the other candidates, I know provincial issues really well, I still have that burning in my belly and I knew that I could offer something very different. Putting all this together I thought it would be simply unbecoming not to step in because there are other alternatives that should be offered to Albertans.
Ric McIver: It has been an ambition of mine to serve and make sure Alberta provides the opportunities for our kids and grandkids that I have enjoyed since I arrived here in 1981. I made a decision that it was my time to serve in this way and I am well able to do it.
Jim Prentice: I made this decision because I am concerned about the direction of Alberta. I am profoundly concerned about the absence of leadership in our province. I am a disappointed taxpayer. I think that we need a good government to move forward and in particular Alberta requires leadership at this point in time.
CJ: What policies do you wish to introduce during your time in office?
TL: You know that were going to have to go Full Monty and do a full review of any and all expenditures independently so it’s open and to deal with the consequences. If it’s criminal, charges so be it or if it’s paying back, so be it. The second thing will be focusing on moving forward. Catching up on 20 years of unbilled infrastructure, and focusing on diversifying our economy for the first time. We can lessen our reliance on carbon fuels revenue and invest in food production, agriculture, research, development and commercialization to diversify our portfolio of income sources and address some of the important issues in health care, there’s issues that you don’t fix through changing the corporate structure and you actually do it at the ground level, where services are delivered.
RM: Trust is a big issue right now. I intend to make sure everyone’s expense account is as boring as mine is. Albertans are looking for their next leader to treat their dollars with care and respect, and to spend modestly. I will start by leading by example with fiscal restraints and then work hard on dealing with the issues that affect Albertan’s quality of life: the economy, healthcare, education and the social services we deliver.
Photo taken from Ric McIver Facebook page.JP: I think of the five priorities I have spoken of over the course of the campaign. The first priority is a commitment to fiscal responsibility and to balance our budget. The second priority is to restore public trust and eliminating entitlement among people in elected office. The third priority is to ensure that as Albertans we secure global prices on global markets on the commodities that we produce. The fourth priority is a commitment to excellence for the environment and the fifth priority is to maintain the quality of life that Albertans have and the services that are provided to them.
CJ: What is your position on education in the province? What will you do to further support students?
TL: We can have a smart economy in this province that’s based on advanced education, research and commercialization of research, so we need to bank on that, we need to get more involved in applying research to spin off some economic activity in this province. We have second-to-none post-secondary institutions so that is a great foundation to build upon. K-12 education, we have to invest in infrastructure because we simply have kids where we don’t have schools and that’s a problem.
RM: Unless we are looking after all of our students we are not doing a good enough job so funding formula needs to be fixed and I intend to consult with the school boards, parents and teachers to get that done. I also want to do maintain the tremendous level of choice we have in Alberta. There is some pressure to take away some of the choices that Albertan parents have to raise their kids in a school of their choice be it a public school, sports school, religious school, a technical school or a cultural school and I think no one is better suited than a child’s parent on how their child is educated so I intend this right of parents to make this choice for their children and to protect the funding of these schools.
JP: From my perspective nothing is as important than hard work and education so that is the ethic in my family and that makes me a strong proponent of a quality education system. I apply that from education for young people and post-secondary education. I think that we should pursue excellence in education. That should be our objective and our standard in everything we do whether it be primary or university education. In order to do that we need proper facilities that are up to date and keep pace with our population growth. We also need predictable and sustainable funding for our post-secondary institutions.
CJ: How do you plan to make the government more accountable and trustworthy to the
Photo taken from Jim Prentice Facebook Page.public?
TL: We need an independent budgetary officer in this province, who will only report to the legislature not to the government, that will be in real time doing the expenditures (of) not only the premier’s office but the entire executive council, which would be all the ministers and deputy ministers. Albertans would have a piece of mind knowing that for a first time somebody is actually reviewing those expenditures.
RM: I will insist on good behaviour, not only for myself, but also by other members of government and of the legislature. The only way to build that trust is by earning that trust and my track record is one of being very respectful of the taxpayer dollars that we spend and the way that I conduct myself financially. Those are the issues of public concern and I think the public will respond to good behaviour in the same direct way they respond to poor behavior.
JP: I propose to conduct myself the way I always have in public life which is to be a reliable person that people trust and speak the truth and who is prepared to take on the difficult issues and make difficult choices. The six years I was a federal cabinet minister I didn’t even carry a Government of Canada credit card. I charged expenses to my personal card, and then sought reimbursement if it was appropriate. What Alberta needs is someone setting a different tone from the top and I think that’s exemplified in that certain story.
CJ: Why are you the man to rehabilitate the reputation of the PC Party?
TL: The number one reason is that I’ve been the only one to challenge the premier (Alison Redford) and I got demoted for that. I was the first one to call out the government saying that we have lost the morality to govern. I was the first to one and the only one to put her on the hot seat in caucus and question her about those issues. The fact is that my reputation speaks for itself. If there are issues that I simply disagree with, I will affect that change. I am not surrounded by cohorts or consultants that have been living off of government for decades. They are not a part of my campaign team.
RM: My expense reports are boring, and I insist that everybody’s expense reports are boring. Even in the case with a consistuency budget where I spend $10 to $20,000 less than I am allowed to because I don’t need the money and I think that’s the attitude that Albertans want their leader to have . . . the leader won’t treat money available as a gift but rather treat it as a tool to use for their benefit, and if we don’t need it all, don’t use it all. Really my behaviour is the exact opposite of entitlement and that is exactly the attitude Albertans are looking for.
JP: I am from the outside. I think a new broom sweeps clean. And the Progressive Conservative party needs someone from the outside that is not encumbered by baggage who did not sit back and accept what was going on before, but someone from the outside that can clean up the mess.
Calgary Journal Note: Answers have been edited for clarity and length.
Thumbnail photo of the PC Leadership 2014 election logo was taken from the Alberta PC Party Facebook page.