Today we saw an inevitable announcement in our Leadership Campaign.
Over the last few hours, I’ve been asked how I feel about my opponent Rick Fraser receiving an endorsement from fellow sitting Alberta Party MLA Karen McPherson.
My honest answer is completely unsurprised.
It did not come as a surprise to me, and nor should it come as a surprise to anyone. The fact that two of the Party’s sitting MLAs would be able to find benefit in supporting each other should not come as a shock. While I hold both Rick and Karen in the highest regard, I also recognize that Rick has been a member of the party for just a few months and Karen for a few more months than that. So I agree with their assessment that it is important for them to be able to demonstrate solidarity as they prepare to return to their full time work at the legislature shortly.
For two MLAs so new to the Party, showing that solidarity presents a strong face when they begin the task of representing both the needs of their constituents, their own needs and furthering the Party’s voice in the legislature. This means that they will be showing a strong Alberta Party Caucus with Greg, and Ricks participation in the race supported by an MLA that he will work with in the legislature presents a positive message to the other MLAs from across Alberta for the Party as they return to session.
If on February 27 I am elected leader of the Alberta Party I know I will be able to work constructively with all of our Alberta Party MLAs, regardless of who they supported in the Leadership.
As someone who has been a member of the Alberta Party for more than three years, with three years invested in the party, I know that in order to achieve the growth required to be successful in the 2019 election, we need a leader who is not trying to balance work in the legislature and in committees with the work of travelling across the province to build the party that we need and deserve. A leader like that simply won’t have the time and resources to build our Party as effectively and widely as someone who has made preparing the Alberta Party for the 2019 election their singular professional goal.
I have committed to doing exactly that. I have committed to not running in any by-elections outside of my home riding prior to the 2019 General Election because I know that our party needs to be built by someone travelling across the province, not from within the legislature. I am committed to making my efforts focused on party building, as our party deserves a leader who can build the Alberta Party with a singular focus in order for us to be the Party that I know we can be and change the way politics is done in Alberta in 2019.
This is why it is so deeply humbling and also a great source of pride that I am able to announce that I have officially been endorsed by a major party figure, and one whose time in the party far exceeds that of my opponents and even myself. Will Munsey joined the Alberta Party in the summer of 2009 when there were fewer than 20 members. He served as Alberta Party President beginning in 2012 until stepping down to contest the 2014 by-election. Will believes government’s role is to ensure these basics that make Alberta such a wonderful place to live: an amazing public education, a high standard of public health care, other essential services such as safeguarding the equality and rights of individuals, protecting the environment, and the efficient, ethical and transparent use of public money. See Will Munsey’s endorsement video below for more.
Why Doing Politics Differently Means Considering All Options – Including a Value Added Tax for Alberta
Albertans are proud of being the lowest-taxed jurisdiction in Canada. We’ve managed to do that over the years by relying on resource revenues and royalties from non-renewable oil and gas that Alberta has had in abundance.
Fiscal Responsibility is a Core Value
As proud Albertans, we talk about fiscal responsibility as a core value. Albertans live within their means, and they expect their government to do the same.
But natural gas prices plummeted, along with natural gas royalties. More recently the price of oil has gone from a high of around $130 per barrel to a low of about $30 a barrel, to today’s prices hovering around $65 a barrel. We’ve been able to spend lots when times were good, but faced large deficits or service cuts when resource royalties shrank. That’s no way to run a provincial budget.
Albertans have been hit hard with job losses and salary cuts. Dependent on resource revenues, the Government of Alberta faced revenue shortfalls at the same time, reducing the amount that could be made available to cushion the economic blow.
As Leader, I commit to an Alberta Party that makes sure tax dollars are spent wisely. Through careful monitoring, internal and external audits, and reviewing the programs and services offered by the Government of Alberta, we can ensure that our government is delivering on its core functions and work towards transitioning non-core functions to the non-profit or private sectors after careful consultation and a clear transition plan. By empowering our public sector and aligning the goals of our government workers, health care professionals and educational staff with the outcomes we seek, we can help reduce our public sector’s frustrations at roadblocks they face to delivering high-quality services at the same time as making government more efficient.
But even after that process is done, we’re facing a structural deficit in Alberta of billions of dollars. And neither the NDP nor the UCP have any plan to address closing that revenue gap.
Non-residents use our Infrastructure
In Alberta today, hundreds of thousands of visitors and non-residents use our infrastructure like roads, bridges and public transit, as well as some public services, but they don’t pay any income tax in Alberta. Alberta could consider introducing an HST that keeps Alberta’s point of sales taxes lower than all of our neighbours, while still collecting revenue from these visitors to our province. Each of our neighbouring provinces collect sales taxes from visitors, contributing to the delivery of their provincial government services. Albertans are missing out.
A Point of Sale Tax Harmonized with the GST is Simple for Alberta Businesses
It hurts Alberta businesses every time there is a complicated new rule or set of forms to fill out. It means business owners need to take time and effort away from running their businesses to do administrative work. That’s why I support eliminating the separate Alberta Corporate Income Tax Return - an unnecessary administrative burden on Alberta corporations. When it comes to a point of sale tax, with an HST, no new forms are needed. Both the Alberta Government and business owners can use the same returns and forms our Alberta businesses already fill out to account for a proposed provincial value added tax. AND our businesses would get input tax credits for all of their supplies, meaning that the tax burden placed on businesses is lower than what we see with something like the NDP’s new Carbon Tax.
We need to consider all of the tools in our toolbox to get the job done
We need to look at doing an overall review of the Government of Alberta’s revenue sources, using all the tools in our toolbox to come up with a fresh approach. Is it time to adjust personal income tax rates and the level of the basic personal exemption? Introduce a point of sale value added tax to allow for predictable, sustainable funding? Improve corporate income tax rates to be more competitive with neighbouring jurisdictions? These are all policy positions that can be debated at the upcoming Alberta Party policy conference.
Recently I proposed a new, lower tax rate for Alberta small businesses earning between $500,000 and $1 million, so that they will effectively pay a 7% business tax rate instead of the current 12% Alberta corporate tax rate that they pay now, to help our Alberta businesses grow and stay in Alberta. These types of solutions are possible if we look at the overall picture of revenue in Alberta and take a long-term view, not just for getting elected in one year or five years, but for setting Alberta on a sustainable path to prosperity for the long term.
The Alberta Party needs Bold Ideas to Attract Support
This is what a fresh, new approach to politics looks like. It means having the courage to identify a problem and take a calculated risk on a solution that is good for the long-term future of our province. If we put forward the same plan full of the same ideas Albertans have seen before (and now rejected) – if we don’t stand out from our opponents in the NDP and the UCP, then we’ll fail to give voters a clear reason to choose the Alberta Party and our vision for the future. That’s what putting Province before Politics is all about.
It’s been disappointing to see the headlines week after week on sexual harassment and sexual misconduct allegations against political leaders in Canada and elsewhere. Patrick Brown, Jamie Baillie and Kent Hehr are the most recent public figures to see consequences for these actions; I have no doubt there will be more. Dynamics of power and influence, bullying and the influence of party loyalty can make it very difficult for women and others, particularly those in junior positions and lacking in power, to feel confident to speak up about sexual harassment, sexual assault, bullying or other abuse they are facing.
The recent #metoo movement has helped to break the silence and more people are speaking out against inappropriate behaviour when they see it or experience it. In politics, a culture that chooses to ignore harassment has persisted for too long. No more.
We have a richer political discourse when there are diverse voices participating. But until recently, women’s voices were often silenced, belittled or demeaned by sexualized comments or worse. Women visible minorities faced double-discrimination. So we lost too many smart, accomplished young women who didn’t see the value in sticking it out, in living through the sexual harassment and bullying by powerful men who until recently saw themselves as untouchable. These women “self-selected” out because there was no meaningful way to address the harassment they faced.
No matter the place on the political spectrum, every political party needs to have a respectful workplace policy that covers harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and bullying. A policy that covers elected officials, candidates, staff, volunteers and members. A policy with a strong reporting mechanism that is followed regardless of the relative power of those involved in the complaint. A policy that sends a strong deterrent message to would-be harassers and bullies that abusive behaviour is not okay and that it will have consequences.
All of us need to feel comfortable participating in politics and in political parties. Our differences make our policies and our voices stronger.
I’m running to be the next leader of the Alberta Party - a party that is going through an unprecedented time of growth and change. I call on the Alberta Party to immediately put in place a strong Respectful Workplace policy - and I call on the Government of Alberta to do the same for its elected officials and legislature staff. The Alberta Party is opening the doors wide to people with a great diversity of experience and backgrounds. But one thing we must never lose sight of as our party grows is respect for people and respect for what is right.
I hope each of you had a wonderful holiday season and you’re looking forward to a healthy and prosperous new year ahead.
I want to share with you a project I’ll be working on in the new year. It’s about making Alberta a great place to live, work, start a business and raise a family. And it’s about putting province before politics in order to make the best choices for the long-term future of Alberta.
On December 18th I launched my campaign to be the next leader of The Alberta Party. The Alberta Party has a huge opportunity to champion a centrist vision for the province that brings together fiscal responsibility with strategic investment. Quality of life and sustainability. Prosperity and democracy.
We need to do this in the 2019 election. And to do it in 2019 we need to have a forward-thinking leader with political experience and a vision to take The Alberta Party from where it is today, to ten times that. To get The Alberta Party message to every doorstep in this province and show that there’s a credible alternative to the far-right politics of the UCP and the fiscal mismanagement of the NDP. The Alberta Party is that option and I have that vision.
But in order to carry out this ambitious challenge, I need your help. I need you to sign up for an Alberta Party membership. (https://leadership.albertaparty.ca/join-alberta-party). I need you to tell all your friends, your family and your networks what we are doing and ask them to join. And I need you to make a donation (http://karalevis.ca/donate).*
Donations will be used to fund leadership campaign activities like outreach to Albertans, travel across the province to meet potential members, digital advertising and member engagement events. In addition, 15% of all funds raised will be transferred directly to The Alberta Party to help fund ongoing activities as we build towards a successful 2019 election campaign.
If you want to learn more or if you have questions about the Alberta Party, my leadership campaign, or our strategic direction, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the information available on my campaign website at www.karalevis.ca. I’d love to hear what you think we can do to move Alberta forward.
Very best wishes for a happy and healthy 2018.
*Donations to this leadership campaign are eligible for Alberta tax credits, and your first $200 donated to any provincial political entity, candidate, constituency or nomination contestant in the year only costs you $0.25 for every dollar donated after the tax credit (i.e. a $200 donation is $50 net after tax, with $150 returned to you as a tax credit). For a donation of $1000 the tax credit is $550, with $150 back on the first $200 and $400 back on the next $800 donated. And if you make your donation before midnight December 31, you’ll be able to use these tax credits for your 2017 tax year and get that money back sooner. Information on these credits can be found at http://www.elections.ab.ca/parties-and-candidates/forms-and-guides/tax-credits/