On April 16th, voters in the Lacombe-Ponoka region will head to the polls for Alberta’s 30th General Election.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced the decision Tuesday, dissolving the 29th Legislature, which was welcome news for local incumbent and opposition MLA Ron Orr.
“I’m excited. I’m glad the premier kept her word and stayed within the legislated time window,” Orr said.
“This is truly going to be a historic election and I think the choice has never been clearer for people between a tax and spend government and a government that’s, hopefully, going to be focused on getting our economy back on track.”
Orr, who was elected under the Wildrose banner in 2015, will seek his second term as MLA – only this time as part of the United Conservative Party (UCP) led by Jason Kenney. Previously, he’s told the Globe his reasons for running this time are much the same as they were four years ago – a belief that the government needs to do better to resolve the big issues.
The biggest issue on the minds of Albertans, he says, is the economy and creating an environment where both investors and employers are able to flourish.
“I get so many people who call me struggling with jobs, and so many businesses are just on the edge of being able to stay in existence,” he said. “We need to bring back jobs – we’ve been bleeding jobs for the last few months. We’re somewhere around 168,000-170,000 people unemployed in Alberta currently.”
Many of the promises and policies already put forward by the UCP are geared towards the economy and employment. Foremost Is the axing of the carbon tax, which Kenney has said will be the first bill they introduce should the UCP form government. They’ve promised to create a taxpayer-funded “war room” in defence of the energy industry, and appoint a minister of “deregulation,” whose mission will be to reduce regulation by 33 per cent across all ministries. They’ve also pledged to freeze minimum wage increases and lower the minimum wage for workers under the age of 18.
Another UCP platform point is repealing Bill 6, the controversial farm safety bill which made Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) insurance coverage for farm and ranch workers mandatory.
“We said we’d get rid of Bill 6 as it is, but we will replace it with the Farm Freedom and Safety Act,” said Orr. “We will try to restore some of the freedom local farmers want with regards to how they get insurance for workers.”
Another issue Orr sees coming up over the next 28 days is the NDP’s proposal to turn Bighorn Country into a provincial park, limiting off-road vehicle use, while creating four different recreation areas in the area, as well as three provincial park sites. Many in Lacombe-Ponoka, he says, have expressed their concerns, and it’s a process that the UCP want to start anew.
“Our promise has been that we recognize there needs to be some review out there, we recognize there needs to be some better enforcement and changes, but we’re going to go back to the legislation North Saskatchewan Regional Plan Land Use Framework and follow that procedure,” Orr said.
“We just feel the way the environment minister went about it, it’s become such a polarized issued and we need to give it a fresh start. We will address it, but in a much more respectful, consulted way.”
As of Tuesday, polls indicated the UCP have the best chance of forming the next government, however, they’re already facing the early challenge of dealing with questions on
While the UCP have some big plans to put Alberta and it’s economy “back on track,” the UCP will have the early challenge of dealing with accusations Kenney and his campaign team may have created a “kamikaze” campaign, using leadership candidate Jeff Callaway to defeat Brian Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership race.
Orr, who was one of several MLA’s who threw support behind former Wildrose leader Jean during the race, said he believes the issue has been resolved, and his faith in the party has not been shaken.
“There were questions about the candidacy of Jeff Callaway and Brian Jean, but Maclean’s Magazine was able to clarify in a recent article Jason Kenney had nothing to do with funding on any of that,” he said.
“There’s going to be a lot of negative smearing, but the reality is there isn’t any substance
to any of it…We’re just going to stay calm and soldier on and focus on what’s going to make things better for Alberta and what we can do to build our province so it’s vibrant and healthy again.”
Orr says he’ll be on the campaign trail right away, with the campaign office set to open Wednesday near Hanna’s Seeds at 5005-49 St. Those with questions can contact the campaign office at 403-704-7130.
“I encourage everybody to remember democracy is one of our most treasured institutions,” he said. “I don’t care who you vote for – come out and vote.
“Let’s not stick our head in the sand, but participate in the opportunity we have and engage in it.”