Check against delivery, I think all of these issues that you're challenged with, issues in delivering municipal services, the fiscal challenges that we all face, frankly the crime crisis in rural Alberta, all of these things come back to the economy. So let me focus on that for a moment.

Our government ran on and was elected on a clear platform to get Alberta back to work. And we have acted with lightning speed to deliver policies that will restore investor confidence, so that we can once again see job creation in this province. We began that with Bill number 1, The Carbon Tax Repeal Act. And then the passage of The Open for Business Act that brought balance back to our labour legislation. We passed The Job Creation Tax Cut and have already implemented the first installment of it. According to independent economists, it will help to lead to the creation of at lest 55,000 full-time new, private sector jobs, and will increase our provincial economy by nearly three per cent.

We've begun implementing the Red Tape Reduction Action Plan with the adoption of the Red Tape Reduction Act, the appointment of Minister Hunter as the Associate Minister for Red Tape Reduction Because Alberta, during the good years, we got a bit careless. And we allowed at all levels of government more and more regulatory complexity to hold back wealth creation, job creation and economic growth. To the point where the Federation of Independent Business has rated Alberta as the only province that gets an F on its red tape burden, with some of the slowest moving approvals in North America.

We need to turn that around. That's why our goal, which we are absolutely determined to achieve, is a one-third reduction, at least, in the number of regulatory requirements imposed by Alberta's government. We want to work with you, as municipal leaders, in applying this same Red Tape Reduction Plan to the administrative burden that Alberta's provincial government imposes on you as municipalities.

I think this is more relevant for RMA (Rural Municipalities of Alberta) than the urban municipalities, because many of our rural counties and districts have quite limited, as you know, administrative capacity to deal with all the forms that you have to fill out with provincial bureaucracy peering over your shoulder on every dime that you spend.

My view is that you are accountable to your voters. You have to publish audited financial statements. And if you screw up, you'll get fired in the next election. So you don't need the provincial government doing what your voters already do, which is to hold you to account. We want to liberate you to deliver more in terms of services.

You know, I think generally, in government in Canada, we now have too many people checking and not enough doing. We want to liberate our municipal councils to focus on efficient service delivery and not ticking boxes for provincial bureaucracies. I hope you agree with us.

And that…not only can we generate savings that way, but we would then expect you and, frankly, will ask municipalities to then pass on those regulatory savings to the job creating private sector. Let me say that we are prepared to be very bold on this. I've told AUMA (Alberta Urban Municipalities Association), I'll repeat it here, that we're prepared to make comprehensive amendments to the Municipal Government Act, to simplify it, to streamline it.

As I've been in government I've been shocked by the presumption of the provincial government to micromanage how you govern your affairs. And you're the ones who are closest to the ground. You’re the ones who are, in that sense, most accountable. And we are prepared to make major amendments to the MGA to liberate you to do what you do best. That's the red tape reduction.

We've also brought in the Royalty Guarantee Act to tell investors in our energy sector that they're no longer going to face uncertainty in the royalty structure, which drove away investment in 2008 and in 2015. We've given municipalities the ability to offer property tax incentives for major new investments, and we did this at the request of a number of municipalities around the province.

Because, folks, we are competing with places like Texas and Louisiana for billions of dollars of new job-creating capital investment in areas like petrochemicals. And those jurisdictions, their municipalities offer very generous local property tax breaks. We've seen at least 100 Alberta businesses move from Alberta to one Texas municipality alone - Lubbock - that is offering generous property tax incentives. We must be competitive and that's why we've given you the ability to do so.

We're also retooling our whole approach to trade and investment promotion. An announcement will be following, but the posture of our government is to be proactive and aggressive in going out there and attracting job-creating investment to this province. The single biggest reason – the single biggest reason why so many of your residents are unemployed or underemployed - why so many of your businesses have gone under or are struggling – is because of the massive flight of capital, of money, from Alberta to other jurisdictions.

Tens of billions of that have gone from Alberta's energy sector to the energy sector in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and North Dakota. And so, by the way, this is not about energy prices. That money is still being invested in oil and gas, just in different places, which have had friendlier policies, which don't have a huge price differential driven by a lack of pipeline and market access.

So we need to reverse that flow. And that is one of the reasons why I'm happy to announce that this coming Monday I will be travelling to Texas for three days on an Alberta investment promotion visit. I will be meeting with some of the world's largest energy and petrochemical companies. And I will be telling them the story about how Alberta is open for business. How we will have the freest and fastest moving economy through this red tape plan. And how we will have almost the lowest corporate and business taxes anywhere in North America.

We are going out, we are no longer going to sit here passively and watch the Texans come up here and take our jobs. We're now going down there to reverse the flow back to Alberta.

Now, I could go on about the economic strategy. But I just want to say we need you, our municipal leaders, to be part of Team Alberta, focused relentlessly on whatever you can do to help to create jobs. And that means wherever you can, holding the line or reducing the tax burden on job creators, operating more efficiently and reducing red tape, being a partner with us in investment promotion across Canada and around the world.

Now let me say, I know that – I should add that, because so many of you depend on agriculture, not just energy, I want to give a shout out to our Ag Minister, Devin Dreeshen, for his good work. He'll be coming forward in the weeks to come with a new Farm Freedom and Safety Act to replace Bill 6, again to liberate our farmers to do what they do best, and we are giving our farmers and our rural residents greater power...

(bell ringing) Ooops. That’s telling me I have to wake up, or that my time has expired after nine minutes. Okay. I think you guys can give me a few more minutes here. Sorry about that. There we go. Yeah I was set exactly at 10 minutes. Can you give me five more minutes? All right. They do that to me because, you know, I gave a speech on Saturday that went on for an hour and 10 minutes. So that's a Fidel Castro-length speech.

So, and Devon's been doing great work on promoting diversification of export markets around the world as well. And congratulations to Devon and all of those in the industry who worked on reopening China to beef and pork exports. And we are going to fight without relent to get access again for canola exports to China.

But folks, let me now talk for a moment about a challenge that we face together, which is the fiscal crisis facing the province. As you know, we appointed Dr. Janice MacKinnon, a former NDP finance minister, and a panel of experts, to advise us on how to stop running Alberta on a credit card.

They came back and said that we are in a fiscal crisis and that if we do not act urgently now, that the situation will run out of control, and we will have to face a future of deep cuts. They said if we act now, we can make some prudent, challenging, but reasonable decisions to get our finances in order. And if we don’t…

By the way, four years ago, after 110 years of history, we had an accumulated debt of only $13 billion. It's now $62 billion, and without action it's headed to blow well past $100 billion in the next three or four years. That would mean spending $4 billion a year on interest payments to bankers and bondholders, rather than on the delivery of public services.

So, to folks who are concerned about our recent budget, I say to them, what do you think is the alternative? Running Alberta forever on a credit card? Spending more and more and more on interest payments? Borrowing money in order to pay the interest on the debt while the debt continues to grow? Is that really responsible?

Or do you want us to raise taxes? And how would we be able to grow our economy if we're taking more money out of people's pockets? If we're making life more difficult for job creators? By the way, the previous government already tried that, folks. They raised income taxes. They raised business taxes. They helped the federal government raise payroll taxes. They raised provincial share of property taxes. They imposed a huge carbon tax.

And guess what? We ended up with less revenue. Less income tax revenue, less business tax revenue. Why did we end up with less revenue? Because they suppressed economic growth. So, I don't believe higher taxes are the answer. And endless borrowing surely is not, either.

So, in our budget, though, we made choices. Like you have to as individuals, as farmers or business owners, as folks who run community organizations, as municipal leaders. You know what it is to make choices. And we chose to protect the highest priority areas for Albertans with an actual increase in health care spending, with no reductions in the education budget, with significant increases in programs for the most vulnerable through Children Services and Community and Social Services.

And so once you remove those departments, you're down to about 25 per cent of the provincial budget. And by the way, we don't get to cut dead interest. That's the first thing we have to pay, a couple billion dollars now.

So, here's the point. In that one-quarter that remained, we had to make choices. Now, I think it's actually not that difficult to make choices in Alberta given that, according to the MacKinnon Panel, we operate the most inefficient government in North America.

We spend 20 per cent more per person than the average amongst Canadian provinces. If we spent at the same per capita level as B.C., Ontario and Quebec, we would be spending $40 billion instead of $50 billion. We would have a $3-4 billion surplus, instead of a $7-8 billion deficit. Just if we were as efficient. And, by the way - we're Albertans. Since when did we think we have to be the least efficient government in Canada?

And are we getting the bang for the buck? No. The MacKinnon Panel looked into that and they said, on health care for example, we have higher than average infant mortality, lower than average life expectancy, longer surgical wait times, even though we have the youngest population and spend 20 per cent more on health care.

On higher education we spend 20 per cent more than the other provinces, in some cases, 50 per cent more. And yet we have lower than average post-secondary enrolment and lower than average post- secondary completion. On capital spending and municipal grants. Again we spend far more than any other province, far more than the national average.

And so folks, the challenge for us, as Albertans, is to operate at least as efficiently as our fellow Canadians in other provinces do. We don't have a choice about this. The only choice we have is to kick the can down the road and irresponsibly rack up debt.

So that is why we had to make changes to the provincial budget. And by the way, the overall scheme of this budget is simply this: a 2.8 per cent reduction in spending over four years. Three pennies on the dollar. My friends in the Opposition in the legislature are referring to this as a cruel, heartless budget - apocalyptic terms. Let's put this in perspective. 1993: The Klein government reduced spending by 20 per cent over two years. We're reducing spending by 2.8 per cent over four years. Folks, we can do this. We can do this. Albertans expect us to do this.

We're still investing in infrastructure and municipal grants. And as you know we've come out with a new structure on that. We've delivered our commitment to you to predictable, long-term formula for municipal infrastructure grants. As you know, the MSI program was streamlined by cutting red tape earlier this year. And rural municipalities have asked for a more detailed funding model. This budget gives you the predictability that you need.

As I say, the MacKinnon report found that grants to municipalities are 20 per cent higher in Alberta than the rest of Canada. So introducing a new fiscal framework for municipalities means stable, long-term funding. I know it's not as much as some of you would like. But frankly, this is the consequence of years of overspending.

Let me wrap up. I was going to talk a lot about crime but I know that Minister Schweitzer is here and I believe he's spoken to you about the actions we are taking on crime. I'll just add this: as you know, the government is looking at a new police funding model. And I just want to assure you that no changes will be made unless they add significantly more boots on the ground in terms of police officers to respond to and help us tackle the rural Alberta crime wave.

So we are absolutely committed: if there are any additional revenues generated from a fair distribution of policing costs across the province, every cent of that would go to hiring additional police officers for faster response times. Now, we know that it's challenging to get RCMP officers through a depot and we need to work, we will work, with the federal government to have fast response to our demand for more police officers. Just as Minister Schweitzer will be hiring 50 additional prosecutors.

And just as we've introduced legislation that helps farmers protect their private property. And we brought in stronger legislation against trespassing. And we're also putting forward amendments to better register scrap metal that has been driving a lot of the rural crime. And a number of other practical initiatives that Minister Schweitzer will be taking.

We've also, as you know, given clearance to more Fish and Wildlife, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement and Alberta Sheriffs to help the RCMP in rural Alberta with the task of law enforcement. And we're putting more first responders in rural areas through the Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence Force. So we are absolutely focused on that.

Now I'm gonna close with this. All of this – growing the economy, handling our fiscal challenges, having the resources to protect our citizens from crime – all of these things are dependent on us getting a fair deal in the Canadian Federation. All of these things are dependent on us standing up and fighting back against the largely foreign-funded attacks against our largest job-creating industry.

And that is why one of the central priorities of our government is to stand up for Alberta. I gave a major speech this Saturday about how we will do so fighting for a fair deal in the Canadian Federation. We have already begun action on multiple fronts to do just that.

But now we have launched the Fair Deal Panel made up of highly respected Albertans who will consult widely on how we can maximize our leverage with the federal government to get pipelines built, to get a fair price for our energy, to get a fair deal in the federation. And we are asking that panel and Albertans to be imaginative and open-minded about all the possible solutions to the problems that we face.

We Albertans, we Albertans are proud to have been great contributors to Canadian prosperity, contributing over $600 billion more to the rest of the federation than we've received back in benefits and services from Ottawa since 1960. Over $200 billion net contribution in the past decade. An average of $23 billion annual net contribution over each of the past five years.

And we do not begrudge our fellow Canadians that generosity. All we ask of them is the right to be able to develop our resources, get those resources to market at a fair price. And we say to the rest of Canada, you can't expect us to continue carrying the freight and paying the bills, if we can't develop the resources and the wealth that has made us the goose that laid the golden egg.

That is why I am prepared to take a page out of Quebec's playbook, and do everything we can to assert our right to autonomy within the Canadian Federation. And that may mean replicating the powers that Quebec exercises on provincial police, on a provincial pension plan, on the collection of taxes in their own jurisdiction. It means withdrawing from federal cost-share programs so that we can be masters of our own destiny.

And it means fighting for fairness in equalization, and giving Albertans the opportunity to vote on removing equalization from the Canadian Constitution if we do not get a fair deal.

Friends, I swear I'm going to close on this. I know I'm over time. See, I ignored the alarm.

I got to say something about this guy - this Bloc Quebecois leader. You're not going to cut me off on this, are you? Mr. Blanchet. Mr. Blanchet. I said the other day that he can't have his cake and eat it too. In French, they have a good expression for this. Some of the councillors from up north and Francophone areas will know it.

(speaking in French)

"You can't have the butter and the butter money." He responded, you know what? He said this on TV yesterday. "I like my cake, and I will do what I think about it. I think Kenny can, as far as I'm concerned, have his own oil and do whatever he wants with it."

Well, now some people are saying I should just ignore this guy, that he's not relevant. Guess what, he's the leader of the third largest party in the Parliament of Canada. He controls the balance of power with the federal government. Whether we like it or not, he is relevant.

Let me say this, we Albertans are friends with Quebecers. Most Quebecers overwhelmingly say they prefer to buy Alberta energy rather than import foreign energy, including from dictators in the OPEC countries. Most Quebecers support the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.

The Government of Quebec stands with us against the no more pipelines law, Bill C-69. The Government of Quebec is joining us at the Supreme Court of Canada to challenge the constitutionality of the federal carbon tax. The Government of Quebec says that it wants to help us get liquefied natural gas export facilities built in Quebec.

Quebec has always been a traditional ally of Alberta in defending provincial jurisdiction under the Constitution. And we'll be turning to them to help us on that - to defeat Justin Trudeau's violation of our exclusive jurisdiction to control the development of our resources through Section 92A of the Constitution that was won by Peter Lougheed.

So Mr. Blanchet, I don't believe you speak for the majority of Quebecers. Quebecers understand that they have benefited enormously annually, to the tune of $13 billion in equalization payments, which comes disproportionately from the energy wealth that we develop here in Alberta.

(speaking in French)

I'll say that in English. In a minute. I'm sorry. I had to. That's going to get played in Quebec tonight, okay? You understand what I'm up to here?

What I just said is that I launch an appeal to the ordinary people of Quebec - good hardworking people. They know they've benefited from Alberta resources and hard work and ingenuity. They know they receive $13 billion of equalization payments that allows them to run a surplus even while we are coping with a huge deficit. They know members of their families and communities who have moved to Alberta, who have gone from underemployment to the dignity of work and the thrill of opportunity in this province.

They know that we are stronger together. They know that we can and should be great allies, so I say again to the people of Quebec: Please reject this arrogance, this idea that Quebec should be able to take the benefit of our resource wealth without allowing us to develop it. And I say once again, as I did the night our government was elected, let us be partners in prosperity. Let us move together united with a fair deal for all parts of Canada, including Alberta and Quebec.

Merci beaucoup. Thank you very much.

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