Jason Kenney addresses ‘difficult choices’ at UCP meeting

It is the tale of two Albertas. The
province’s governing UCP is gathering for their annual general meeting. Jason
Kenney rallied support for his vision of Alberta’s future. Others gathered outside
to protest it. Hundreds of public sector workers demonstrated against proposed
job cuts. Teachers, nurses and government workers marched for hours in the cold
but inside the UCP convention, Premier Jason Kenney received a warm welcome
from party members. So like I say there are no easy choices but let us together
choose the path of cooperation, not confrontation. Kenney delivered a speech
of unity followed by promises for a better Alberta. In his speech, the premier
talked about budget plans acknowledging that some will find his cuts
controversial. Kenney also outlined actions for the provinces carbon tax and
Education Act. CBC’s Bryan Labby has more from the
convention. For the United Conservative Party this weekend is all about
celebrating the party’s first ever election win and leader Jason Kenney
received a welcome fit for a rock star. Kenney reminded the roughly 1600 people
in the audience that his party steamrolled to victory last spring
winning 63 of 87 seats. At one point during his speech a light went out on
the stage and he didn’t miss a beat to blame a familiar opponent. Well there we
go, like I say, the NDP tried to turn the
lights out in this province, but we’re gonna keep them on. Kenney repeated a number of messages that some Albertans have likely heard before: a threat to hold a
referendum to change the country’s equalization payment formula if the
Trans Mountain pipeline isn’t completed and changes aren’t made to what he calls
Ottawa’s no more pipelines bill. Not everyone is celebrating. Protesters
targeted the hotel where the party is meeting. Between 700 and a thousand
people braved the cold to criticize the Kenney government’s budget cuts and the
potential loss of thousands of public sector jobs. A bit later some people made
their way into the lobby before being asked to leave. Kenney says he won’t back
down from those decisions, “Now let me say a word an important word to the good
folks who work hard delivering our public services. Albertans respect the
work that you do. As does this government. We want to empower you to create a
high-performing government that delivers services more efficiently, reducing
internal red tape, empowering frontline workers. We also want to challenge you to
help us find reasonable savings in what is the biggest spending and best paid
public sector in Canada. Party members signaled their support to boost
Alberta’s clout within the federation through their so-called fair deal
initiative, which includes a possible provincial police force, a revenue agency
for tax collection and an Alberta pension plan the government says all
Albertans will get a chance to have their say on those proposals which could
ultimately be decided by referendum.

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