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Pre-Throne Speech news conference

"You can never go far wrong if you stick close to the values, priorities and common sense of the people of Alberta, and that is exactly what our new government is going to do."

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Thank you all for coming. This is a momentous day for Albertans and their new government.

The Speech from the Throne we will hear today has some important things to say about our province, about the common values we share as Albertans and about our common goals.

You can never go far wrong if you stick close to the values, priorities and common sense of the people of Alberta, and that is exactly what our new government is going to do.

This Speech from the Throne acknowledges the important contributions our predecessors in government have made to Alberta.

The Liberal, United Farmers, Social Credit and Progressive Conservative governments that preceded us were all province-builders in their own ways.

We honour their best contributions and we’re going to build on them.

This Throne Speech speaks of the new start we are all looking forward to.

Albertans wanted change, and they didn’t get there through half measures. They voted in a new government, with new people and new ideas.

And they voted in a new Legislature overwhelmingly made up of new MLAs, on both sides of the aisle.

We can do a better job of working together in this Legislature.

And we’re going to try to do so.

The item at the top of everyone’s list is obviously the government’s immediate agenda as set out in the Throne Speech, so let me turn to that.

Our government laid out what we will do in our campaign platform, and Albertans elected a stable majority government to implement that plan.

In this session of the Legislature, we’re getting down to work to keep the commitments Albertans voted for.

The Throne Speech you have in your hands sets out what the first steps will be.

We intend to bring forward three bills designed to put our platform into practice.

Bill 1, An Act to Renew Democracy in Alberta, will end corporate and union donations to political parties.

Our political system has been far, far too dependent on funds from a narrow range of donors with deep pockets…

…and too far removed from the interests of ordinary people.

We will tilt the playing field back in Albertans’ favour, so that their interests come first, as an initial step to restore openness and trust in government.

Our second bill, An Act to Restore Fairness to Public Revenue, will see a modest rise in corporate taxes on profitable firms.

And it will reintroduce progressive income taxes for earners at the highest income levels.

We will ask those who benefitted most during Alberta’s boom to contribute a little more, to help keep essential services strong.

In this, we are ending Alberta’s brief and unfortunate experiment with a regressive flat tax, and we are returning to a more typical Canadian tax system.

We will also continue to have – by far – the lowest overall provincial taxes of any Canadian province.

Our third piece of legislation will be an interim supply bill to restore and maintain predictable, stable funding for public services while we work on the budget.

A tough economic environment requires a responsible, considered and balanced approach.

We are going to take the time needed for a line-by-line review of Alberta’s budget to craft a fiscal plan that’s right for Alberta and the circumstances we’re in.

In the interim, this bill will ensure that hospitals can continue to care for the sick, and that schools have what they need to educate our children.

There are no more important investments than the programs and services Albertans rely on every day.

Albertans made their views on these issues known loud and clear during the election, and we are going to honour the decisions they made at the ballot box a few weeks ago.

There is a good deal more work to be done and many more issues to address.

There are some key issues we won’t be handling alone. Albertans expect elected representatives from all parties to work together to get things done, on issues we can agree on.

The Speech from the Throne announces reforms to political fundraising, for example, but we know we must do more to renew democracy in Alberta.

So I’m pleased to join my colleague Brian Jean, Leader of the Official Opposition, in calling today for a special committee of the Legislature to review Alberta’s approach to ethics in elections and government.

Mr. Jean and I will be jointly presenting a motion to the House calling for a special committee, comprised of nine government MLAs and eight opposition MLAs drawn from all parties, to conduct a careful review of laws governing elections, whistleblowing and conflicts of interest.

Albertans expect their political system to be accountable to them, not to those with the largest wallets.

They expect people in public service to feel safe telling the truth. And they expect the government to operate in the public interest.

The Wildrose Party proposed this review as part of their agenda for the new Legislature, and we’re going to take them up on it.

Working together with all of our colleagues in the House, we will ensure that these principles become the new normal in Alberta.

In the same spirit of cooperation among Alberta’s elected representatives, I have asked Dr. David Swann to co-chair a review of the province’s mental health system.

Dr. Swann and I worked closely on the issue of mental health while we were both on the opposition benches.

I am reaching out to him to take a careful look at this issue, and to give our government advice on how Alberta can at long last address it more effectively.

Dr. Swann will join government MLA Danielle Larivee to consider this issue and give the government his best advice on it.

Our current system has failed too many Albertans, and we are going to take action.

Every Albertan who is hurting in ways no one else can see, and everyone who’s been shoved to the margins of society by mental illness, deserves treatment, respect and understanding.

We will do our best to ensure they get what they need.

Thank you. I’m happy to take your questions.