Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties Fall Convention 2017 Speech
"No matter the size, rural Alberta knows how to get things done, and I’ll tell you I’m proud to have that as part of my background."
Check against delivery
Good morning everyone.
Before I begin I would like to acknowledge we are gathered here today on the traditional territory of Treaty 6.
I would also like to acknowledge the Métis people of Alberta, who share a deep connection with this land.
Deep connections are nothing new to you all.
You know your communities and what they need best.
It’s why we turn to you, time and again, for your solid advice, and it’s why we are going to keep turning to you.
Congratulations to Al for continuing on as president.
Al, you’ve been a stalwart advocate for rural Alberta, and you have always led with your down-to-earth grace and intelligence.
People here are in good hands, and I want to wish you the best.
Because as you all know, rural Alberta is “where it all starts.”
It’s certainly where it all started with me.
As many of you know, I grew up in and around Fairview.
My dad and I would drive down Main Street and Railroad Avenue in his old green pickup…
The one you’d always hear coming because he was too cheap to fix the muffler.
There’s a feeling in Fairview and in our rural communities you don’t get anywhere else.
You feel it driving down the street, waving to people you pass.
You feel it at the store. At the fair, the post office, the rodeo…
…places like Fairview, places like yours, these are the places that make our province great.
And it’s not just the people and the memories…
…it’s the closeness to the land that helps make Alberta what we are.
Our oil and gas. Our forests and farms. Our ranches and prairies and mountains…
…they are what draw people from across Canada and around the world – people who want to work hard and build a better life for themselves and the people they love.
And the warm welcome every new Albertan or visitor feels is a tribute to all of you.
No matter the size, rural Alberta knows how to get things done, and I’ll tell you I’m proud to have that as part of my background.
Making life better
Though of all the skills I learned growing up, who knew the skill that would come in handy most as Premier was the time I spent cleaning up after horses.
It’s a skill I’ve managed to hone every day in this job.
Back in 2015, the first time I got a good look at the books, all I could think was…
I’m going to need a bigger shovel.
And I’m only partly joking…
As you all know, we inherited the worst economic downturn in generations…
The price of oil collapsed, the cupboards were bare, and the old government hadn’t done a thing to prepare us.
We had a choice to make.
Cut our way out of the recession…
Or build our way out.
Make a bad situation worse, and try to make up for lost oil revenue by firing teachers and nurses, and cramming our kids into older and older classrooms…
Or keep a steady hand and invest in Albertans – in better schools for our kids, better hospitals for our loved ones, and in good jobs for people building Alberta for the future.
We chose to invest and to grow our way out of the recession.
We didn’t fire the nurses who helped deliver your child or grandchild.
Or the teachers who taught that same child their multiplication tables.
We sure didn’t choose the price of oil, but we did choose to protect Albertans when they needed protection the most…
And create good jobs however we could.
Rather than putting more pink-slips in people’s hands, we put tools, stethoscopes and laptops there instead.
Many of you agreed.
You told us you needed predictability to deliver programs and services.
Which is why our government also chose to stabilize municipal funding when your neighbours needed services the most.
And it’s why we took concrete steps to make life more affordable for rural Albertans.
We cut school fees for supplies and materials, capped electricity rates and froze tuition.
We’re making childcare more affordable in places like Peace River, Provost, Fairview, Bonnyville, Lac La Biche, and Westlock, communities that are now part of our $25-a-day childcare pilot program.
And I know in hearing from a lot of you there is great demand for this childcare pilot program to be expanded.
Young families deserve a break and we are working to make that happen.
The same goes for small businesses.
Small businesses are the backbone of our hometowns and neighbourhoods.
That’s exactly why we’ve reduced Alberta’s small business tax by a third, bringing it to two percent, the second lowest in Canada, saving Alberta businesses $185 million in 2017.
More broadly, we have kept taxes in Alberta the lowest in Canada by a country mile.
Investing in the economy
At the same time, we chose to improve and modernize the infrastructure we all need and use every day.
This year alone, we upgraded nearly 1,500 kilometres of highways.
Because to benefit from the rich, generous land we call home, we need these roads and bridges.
They connect workers, they connect resources and they connect Alberta to the world.
Building better roads also creates jobs. Good, family-supporting jobs right across Alberta.
How many jobs?
4,400 construction jobs and 3,100 indirect jobs for a total of 7,500.
That’s 7,500 people who aren’t up worrying about their mortgage payment and who can get out and shop at their local businesses.
These are the people building that new court house in Fort Vermillion, replacing a bridge in the County of Vermilion, rehabilitating a bridge in the County of Cardston Creek, building the Highway 43X bypass in Grande Prairie…
and finally, finally, finally building the new, long-overdue Peace River bridge.
With the Peace River Bridge, as many of you well know, communities in Northern Alberta have been asking for years for it.
The former government ignored those requests. Even at the height of the oil boom, they didn’t think it was a priority.
Well, we know it’s a priority…
It’s a priority because your roads and bridges aren’t luxury items…
they’re the lifeblood of your communities and of our entire economy.
And so when a truck comes up to the old Peace River Bridge, carrying gravel, oil, lumber or grain…
in what world is it in any of our interests to tell that driver to stop and wait because the bridge is down to one lane again?
Our cities stand on the shoulders of our rural communities.
It is in everyone’s interest to make sure our rural infrastructure is modern, safe and efficient.
It is in everyone’s interest to make sure the great chain of commerce that runs from our rural soil to our urban office towers is as strong as can be.
And it is in everyone’s interest to help create great rural communities, communities where people want to live, work and raise their families.
So don’t tell me the Peace River Bridge and other historically neglected construction projects aren’t priorities.
They are to us, and we’re getting them built.
And while we’re on the subject of making sure our economy runs in the smartest, safest, most efficient way possible…
Let’s talk about pipelines.
Our oil and gas resources can help fuel prosperity for Albertans and all Canadians for generations to come.
And we need to make sure we are getting maximum value for those resources, resources that are the natural inheritance of each and every one of us.
Because the choice isn’t whether Canada and the world will continue to need oil…
The choice is whether that oil will be from places with weak environmental protections like Venezuela….
Or whether it will come from responsible, sustainable places like right here in Alberta.
And that’s why I’m going to continue to listen to people like the Mayor of Beaumont, not Burnaby.
That’s why we are working day and night to get pipelines built.
As you may have heard, next week I am heading out across the country to talk about the huge importance of the Trans Mountain pipeline…
…and the economic benefits it will provide for all Canadians.
Alberta is Canada’s third largest economy.
We generate tens of billions of dollars in economic activity around the country.
There is not a school.
There is not a hospital.
There is not a road, bus, or public bike lane…
anywhere in the country that does not owe something to a strong Alberta energy industry.
This isn’t the first time we have taken this message directly to folks in other provinces.
There’s momentum on our side and it’s building.
Across the country, everyday people are starting to really hear the full story…
And starting to get how critical this project is to the future prosperity of us all.
They’re hearing that our oil and gas is the cleanest and safest in the world, that our made-in-Alberta climate leadership plan means new pipelines will increase jobs, not emissions.
They’re hearing how fundamental it is we work together for jobs and communities…
and that we don’t let one region stand in the way of responsible, hardworking people throughout the rest of the country.
This is something we’ve fought hard for and will continue to fight hard for…
And it’s something I need all of your help with.
You are all trusted community leaders. When you go to meetings in BC and across Canada, people listen.
We need all of you, wherever you are and whoever you’re talking to, to make sure people know there is no safer, more responsible way to transport our energy resources than with modern, carefully regulated, carefully monitored pipelines.
Don’t believe the nay-sayers…
And don’t believe the conspiracy theorists…
Because we have the facts on our side.
And when you see politicians here in Alberta hoping and praying we fail on pipelines…
Ask them what kind of leader thinks they’re better off when our province loses.
Because we’re not giving in and we’re not letting up…
we’re going to get Trans Mountain built.
Economic and jobs plans are working
Our support for pipelines is part of a broader economic strategy…
A strategy that creates good jobs by investing in infrastructure and defending our schools, hospitals and the services Albertans rely on every day.
That strategy is working.
Alberta’s economy is growing, with independent experts predicting we’ll grow faster than anywhere else in Canada.
RBC had to adjust their economic growth forecast up for Alberta, from 2.9% up to over 4%.
Interestingly, at the same time, some other provinces…
and I won’t name names…
but provinces who chose the path of reckless cuts and severe austerity, well, one of them was adjusted down, to 1.4% growth.
And it’s not just RBC saying Alberta’s economy is growing.
The Conference Board of Canada says we’ll lead the country for the next two years.
Things are looking up…
Friends, since I’ve started coming here and speaking to you as Premier, you’ve heard me talk about jobs and job creation…
And though we have more work ahead, I am so pleased to stand here today and report to you all that since June 2016…
Alberta has added more than 70,000 full-time jobs… 70,000!
Drilling activity is way up, more than double compared to 2016, with over 2,700 new wells being drilled since this time last year.
But it’s not just drilling. Retail sales are up, housing starts are up, exports are up.
In fact, almost every indicator that should be is up.
But you and I both know not every Albertan is feeling it and there’s more work to do.
And we will not stop until the economic recovery reaches everyone.
At the same time we are taking careful, compassionate measures to bring our deficit down.
We’ve already started to negotiate common sense agreements with labour unions…
like the agreement with teachers, which saw no pay raises in return for job stability and better services for kids.
We also brought in our Executive Compensation Framework, which says the days of lavish, out-of-whack salaries for CEOs of government agencies, boards and commissions are over.
New legislation we brought in serves notice that these publicly funded salaries are coming down, some to the tune of 50%.
It’s a good start, but we need to do more…
More so we can return to balance in a way that enhances rather than hinders the economic recovery underway.
The path back to balance is not paved with reckless cuts.
Careful, considered choices about priorities will guide us instead.
We invested during the downturn to grow…
Now that the economy is improving and picking up its own momentum…
With the private sector continuing its growth…
Now is the point in the plan…
where the same steady approach that saw us through the recession is going to see us carefully and compassionately tighten our belts…
And ask others to tighten theirs.
Because Albertans know we’re much more likely to see oil at $50 to $60 a barrel than we are to see it at $100.
We’re a practical province, full of practical people.
And practicality tells us to protect the priorities of everyday families while reducing spending elsewhere, which is what we will do.
As we refine our work on the next budget, my commitment to you is we will work with you and your communities as full partners.
You’ll hear more from me, Shaye and Joe in the coming weeks and months.
Emergency response and community support
Before I wrap up, I would like to take a moment to salute our first responders and emergency workers…
Women and men who sadly have had another busy year.
When lives are affected, or tragically lost, by natural disaster or acts of terror or cruelty, Alberta’s emergency workers are there.
I know many of these brave, dedicated men and women work directly in your communities, and they deserve our respect and deep appreciation.
Here in Edmonton, Constable Michael Chernyk’s bravery and courage helped save lives during our recent, tragic brush with terror.
And further south, I know many of your communities were threatened by the wildfire that hit near Waterton Lakes, triggering local states of emergencies.
And just last month near Hilda a volunteer firefighter…
…a young husband, father, and rancher by the name of James Hargrave…
lost his life while helping battle the fire on behalf of us all.
We saw Albertans rise to meet these challenges this year, but in this case the cost was far too high.
To all those affected I want you to know you are in our thoughts and we will always have your back.
Because that’s what we do as Albertans – we take care of one another.
I know if my family’s car slid off the road, I’d want an Albertan to be in the first vehicle to drive up.
Chances are good they’d have tools in the trunk...
And better yet, they’d actually know how to use them.
My friends, working together, we can make life better for all Albertans…
from our biggest city, to our smallest hamlet.
And together, we can continue to grow and diversify our economy, and make sure hardworking Albertans have good jobs.
Thank you all for your dedication to your communities and for all of the great advice and feedback you’ve given us.
It’s been an honour to be here with you all today.
I wish you all safe travels home.