Good evening my fellow Albertans.
I am truly humbled to speak with you as your Premier tonight, and want you to know how seriously I take the responsibility to serve you in this Office.
We are facing a very difficult time as country and as a Province. We have been through a lot together these past 3 years, but still have many challenges ahead of us.
Tonight, I want to address how our government is going to work together with you and your family to overcome these challenges.
First off, I wish to address the inflation and affordability crisis.
This severity of this crisis has been primarily caused by years of record spending and debt by the federal government in Ottawa, combined with a continual string of anti-energy policies that are driving up the price of fuel, electricity, heating, food and everything else we need to live and raise our families.
Too many moms and dads are having to choose between nutritious food for their children and making their rising mortgage payments.
Many seniors are choosing between filling their needed prescriptions and fuel for their vehicles.
As a province we can’t solve this inflation crisis on our own, but due to our strong fiscal position and balanced budget, we CAN offer substantial relief, so Albertans and their families are better able to manage through this storm.
That is why our government will be implementing a series of affordability measures to benefit ALL Albertans, and with additional targeted relief for seniors, the vulnerable and families.
Although details of this Inflation Relief Act are still being finalized, measures will include the following:
- For seniors and families with dependent children under 18 years of age, we will provide $600 over six months for each child, as well as each senior.
- This will be targeted to middle income families with household incomes below $180,000.
- That same amount will be provided to vulnerable Albertans collecting AISH and PDD and income support.
- We will suspend the entire provincial fuel tax for at least the next 6 months, and make the current fuel relief program permanent thereafter.
- We will index all provincial tax brackets retroactively to 2022 resulting in larger rebates when you file your taxes this Spring.
- We will also index for inflation AISH, income support, the Seniors benefit and the Alberta Child and Family benefit, beginning this January.
- We will provide an increased rebate on consumer electricity bills through the winter months totalling an additional $200 per household.
- We will limit spikes in winter electricity rates while continuing with the current natural gas rebate program.
- And finally, we will invest in food banks and expand low-income transit passes to ensure every Albertan has access to food and mobility for their families. These are just first steps and there is much more to do.
But, I will ensure every decision our government makes from now until this crisis is over, balances affordability for Albertans with the need for continued balanced budgets, and fiscal responsibility.
Because when our provinces financial house is in order, we have the ability to assist Albertans through times of crisis - just like this one.
Our province’s other big challenge is health care.
We have amazing frontline staff; our nurses, doctors, paramedics and other health professionals are truly world class in every respect.
But we have far too many managers and consultants, and not enough health professionals on the front lines caring for patients.
Albertans are waiting too long for Emergency Room treatment or to have an ambulance arrive when they need it. Surgery times are far too lengthy, leaving many in pain or at unacceptable health risk.
The answer is not the opposition’s plan to throw billions more into the system. They already tried that once. It failed and almost bankrupted the province.
But maintaining the status quo cannot continue either.
Albertans want our government to get to work on fixing these problems without delay.
That is why last week, Minister Jason Copping and AHS official administrator Dr. John Cowell, initiated a health reform action plan to specifically target our most urgent health care challenges without disrupting front line services.
What does that mean for you and your family?
It means more health professionals in emergency rooms to make sure those who need beds get them faster, and those who need a simple prescription or alternate care, get that care without having to be in hospital.
It also means ensuring we don’t have ambulances waiting with patients at the emergency rooms, so our paramedics can get to more calls faster.
And it means getting more surgeries done and wait lists decreased by using specialized surgical centres and underutilized rural hospitals and operating rooms that are just sitting there empty.
We will also be looking at ways to gradually restore health care decision making to local communities and health professionals on the ground, and to encourage a stronger culture of innovation and patient care.
This will take time and patience of course. But I am confident that it will result in better health care for Albertans, when and where you need it most.
Finally, I’d also like to speak about our province’s relationship with Ottawa.
As Albertans we love our nation deeply. Canada is our home, and Canadians…our family.
However, the Federal Government’s treatment of all provinces, most especially Alberta, is unacceptable.
The government in Ottawa is intentionally and systematically attempting to control and regulate all aspects of our province’s economy, resources and social programs.
Through equalization and transfers, they funnel billions of your tax dollars away from you and into a black hole of federal bureaucracy and vote buying arrangements in other parts of the country.
These continual federal attacks on our economy and provincial rights cannot be allowed to continue.
The Canadian constitution is clear. The Federal and Provincial Governments are equals. We both have sovereign areas of exclusive federal and provincial jurisdiction.
Albertans, not Ottawa, are in charge of developing and exporting our resources, growing our economy and delivering health care, education, child care and other programs in the manner that we, Albertans, choose.
In about a week’s time, our government will introduce the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act.
This legislation is designed to be a constitutional shield to protect Albertans, so that when Ottawa implements a policy or law attacking our economy or provincial rights, our government will not enforce those unconstitutional measures in Alberta.
We will put the rights of Albertans first…always.
Some are attempting to scare folks into thinking that this legislation has something to do with leaving Canada.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact this new law will have the opposite effect.
By restoring and respecting the constitutional rights of our creative and diverse provinces, including Alberta, Canada will become stronger, more prosperous, and more unified than ever.
As Albertans, we must no longer ask permission from Ottawa to be prosperous and free.
We must be free to chart our own course as a senior partner in a strong and united Canada.
In closing, my fellow Albertans, I wish to speak about something personal.
Serving as your Premier is by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.
I know that I am far from perfect, and I make mistakes.
And having spent decades in media and hosting talk shows, I discussed hundreds of different topics, and sometimes took controversial positions, many of which have evolved or changed as I have grown and learned from listening to you.
But I know I’m not a talk show host or media commentator any longer.
That is not my job today.
My job today is to serve each and every Albertan with everything I have and to the best of my ability, however imperfect that may be at times.
I must be humble, listen and continue to learn from you.
I must also be strong, focused and determined to do what I believe to be in the best interests of Albertans no matter how hard that is.
But when I’m wrong or make a mistake, I will look to follow the example of our dear departed friend - Premier Ralph Klein – admit to it, learn from it, and get back to work.
Because that is the Alberta way.
I love this province – and everything it stands for.
We are a land of pioneers and farmers; entrepreneurs and innovators; communities and families.
A place where the best and brightest come from every corner of this world to join with us in building one of the greatest places on earth to live, work and raise our families.
Together, we can and will overcome every challenge we face to ensure that our province’s best days are still to come, and that Alberta forever remains strong and free.
Thank-you and good night.