Monday, November 14, 2016

MLA Stier on uniting the right, alternative power, and other Alberta issues (updated)

MLA Pat Stier (file photo)
* Updated with additional information from press release and video regarding concerns about wind and solar projects.

Chris Davis - In a November 4 interview Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier spoke extensively on a number of topics, including the potential uniting of conservatives in the next Alberta provincial election, which will take place on or before May 31, 2019. "We are already heading to a new election, we are already campaigning," he said. When asked if he thought the right would present a united front in that election he said "It's going to be a conservative election, and it's going to be a party of conservatives. I'm sure it will be."

"A year ago this month our leader at our convention in Calgary for the Wildrose Party had said that we need to unite the conservatives, and we are opening our arms to talk to our PC friends about how we can work together." There have been conversations to unite the two parties. Progressive Conservative (PC) leadership candidate Jason Kenney is advocating a merger with the Wildrose Party. "He has indicated his preference for Wildrose values," Stier said.

"We (the Wildrose Party) continue to oppose the main party that is in power right now, the NDP."

"We are the official opposition, that's our task. We want to, as fast as possible, see them no longer in government."

I asked Stier what he thought of the candidates for the PC leadership, and Kenney in particular. "We wish all of them well, a lot of them are comrades that I work with as colleagues in the Legislative Assembly now and have known for several years during my two terms. All of those people are good, qualified people. I don't know Mr. Kenney, hardly at all, but I have seen him in the House in Ottawa, and I have met him."

"We have three or four of these candidates that are not advocating for the same campaign promises Mr. Kenney is, quite the opposite." Note: The PC leadership campaign has undergone some changes since this interview was conducted, including two candidates dropping out of the race, Sandra Jansen and Donna Kennedy-Glans. The PC leadership race will conclude in March of 2017.

"We have some people who are also very unhappy that they have sort of launched a Federal Conservative hostile takeover maneuver," Stier said of Kenney's high-profile campaign for the PC leadership. As MP for Calgary Midnapore Kenney last held office as a member of the Conservatives as MP for Calgary Midnapore, and was Minister of National Defence in Stephen Harper's government before the last federal election. Kenney was initially elected to Parliament as a Reform Party candidate.

Vermilion/Lloydminster MLA Dr. Richard Starke is also in the race for the PC leadership. "He is a strong candidate," said Stier. "He is not that well known, he was the former Minister of Parks, and he was very good at that. He was also behind the rural health council review that went around all of Alberta to try and get our ambulances and health services in rural done. I think he is a very big contender as well." 

In terms of the Wildrose Party, Stier said "Our main objective and our goal here is to carry on in fighting the NDP. That is what we are doing, and will continue to do. Our dance partner, whoever it might be at the end in terms of the leadership on that side, will or will not decide whether they want to talk to us in the future. We are not going to stand idly by. We are determined to carry on the fight, no matter what."

Stier said he was still very supportive of Wildrose leader Brian Jean. "I have been ever since day one. The leader is the leader, and that's the person I support. Brian has put in so much effort throughout Alberta, and he has been through so many personal challenges, whether it was losing his son, earlier in his term as our leader, and later on losing his house in Fort McMurray..."

"He has been extremely strong, and extremely talented in his remarks. He has been putting the Premier through her paces trying to keep up with his agenda."

"I think the Wildrose is very lucky to have Brian Jean."

Stier said there were some real obstacles ahead if the conservatives of Alberta are to unite under one banner before the next election. 

"A whole pile of technical stuff has to happen with regard to the PC constitution, and all of the different mechanics of reorganizing their whole family has to be done."

"That takes time. How is that going to happen? Even then, if they do proceed in that manner, then it's a question of how can it be done after that. It is certainly possible for two parties to merge, we have seen it at a federal level."

"We too would have conventions to be held, we too would have to change some of our constitution directions and policies as well, to a more minor extent, but we certainly would have to work with that because the PCs run a delegate system, we run a member-by-member system."

"These things are not insurmountable, but they are technically complex."

Wildrose leader Brian Jean has suggested the possibility of rebranding the party before the next election, and two names have been registered with the province's societies registrar, 'Alberta Conservative Party Association' and 'Conservative Party of Alberta Association', something that Stier mentioned briefly during our discussion. He added that there are several unknowns at this point, making it hard for him to predict what will actually happen. "What will happen if Mr. Kenney does not get the leadership? Who will be the leader, what will be the direction, and what will he do?"

Kenney campaigned throughout the summer and is continuing to do so. "What is he going to do with that? Where is he going to put himself into the situation if he doesn't become a PC leader? Questions, questions, questions. Is it possible, with the 400,000 federal voting conservatives of Alberta, does he have the 'Army of the North', like in the movie Gladiator? Are they out, camped there somewhere, waiting to come in and back him on a new venture? Speculation is out there. Or is he going to go in another direction become the consultant that he used to be, like for the Canadian Taxpayer Association, which he more or less founded?"

"We have to keep our guns well cleaned and oiled, and we have to keep on fighting the NDP, because who knows what's going to happen."

Our discussion touched upon the recent deaths of former Alberta Premier Jim Prentice earlier this year, that of then sitting PC MLA Manmeet Bhullar last year. and that of former Premier Ralph Klein in 2013.

Of Prentice's death in an airplane crash Stier said "That was a horrific event, to lose someone that way, and I was very impressed with Mr. Prentice, I thought he was one of the best qualified Premiers we've had."

"This is getting to be quite an emotional job, it seems in that regard."

Stier is the Wildrose's Municipal Affairs critic, a role that he says occupies a lot of is time. "Right now, I am dealing with the most heavy, thick bill I have ever seen in the house since I have been there. It's about 140 pages long, and it's the modernized Municipal Government Act." He said there are over 800 sections in the MGA. which outlines how municipalities handle governance including taxation, assessments, councils, functions, development, subdivisions, "All kinds of things."

"We have just started on this now, and we have identified over 30 topics of big concern there. It's a lot of work, a lot of debates coming from that."

Stier is a member of the regional Highway 3 Committee, which is working toward making that highway safer. "They are making some good progress. The last update I had was where the government had given them another $10,000 as an association group to do more up to date studies of traffic counts, in particular on long weekends."

At the time of this interview Stier was in town to present a cheque to the Pincher Creek and District Historical Society on behalf of the provincial government, for renovations to the 1905 CIBC/Turcott building at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village. During his first term as MLA, under a PC government, he wasn't asked to represent the government in such a manner. It appears to be common practice under the current NDP government. I asked Stier what he thought about that. "Minister Mason (Brian Mason, Minister of Infrastructure and Minister of Transportation) is house leader in the government as well, and I have to say for our particular constituency here, we have had a fairly good degree of cooperation with him." As examples Stier mentioned waste water projects in Crowsnest Pass and Nanton, and seniors' facility upgrades and construction in Pincher Creek, Fort Macleod and Coleman, as examples of such cooperation. "Despite that we are opposition in government, the work of the people is still being done."

Stier also commented on the crisis currently impacting Alberta's oil and gas industry. "This is the worst situation I have ever seen. I worked in downtown (Calgary) on gas on the seismic data side of the world, which is exploration. I have seen where I was working, in amongst 25 different companies as a service company.  One of those buildings, they are down to two companies left now. I have never seen empty buildings as much as I have seen down there now." He mentioned he believes the vacancy rate in Calgary commercial real estate is up to approximately 25%, with approximately 10% unemployment. "You take 10% of a population of 1.4 (million), that's a lot of people."

Stier also said feedlots are having problems with Bill 6, carbon taxes, and a world-price market challenge for beef producers. "It's making it obvious to them that this is not a good business climate to be in. The writing's on the wall. There are a lot of businesses that are now looking for an alternative."

"Until the oil and gas price solidifies and re-stabilizes... the Saudis are driving the bus on this. It is hard to say how it's going to go. Until we figure out how to do a lot of our bigger projects more efficiently, where we can actually make money at $50 (a barrel)... I think that we are going to see a continued unstable environment in oil and gas, and a very cautious one..."

Stier said he recently heard southeast Saskatchewan has a "clean coal" combustion development. "They don't seem to want to do that here. What I am worried about in Alberta is I get an awful lot of push back from a lot of people where I am at regarding the turbines," he said, adding that those concerns also included related power lines and substations as well. "I don't want to see the landscape suffer any further from this kind of stuff." In addition to the impact wind energy construction has on viewscapes, he said he is concerned about environmental impacts, tourism, and how wind is/will be funded. "I think it is going to be a mess."

*A Wildrose press release issued today, November 14 said that last Thursday Stier "asked the NDP government about how future wind and solar projects could affect landowners and municipalities in southern Alberta.  Stier said there has been little to no information or consultation on the locations of wind and solar projects. He said he's concerned that the NDP could use draconian property rights legislation to impose projects on landowners who don't want them."

"Given the lack of consultation from the NDP government, I'm concerned that farmers and ranchers in southern Alberta won't receive adequate compensation should unsightly wind and solar projects negatively impact their operations," Stier said. "The NDP used to oppose draconian property rights laws, but now it sounds like they could draw on these same laws to bring wind and solar projects to our region. I will be watching these developments closely."

In his interview with me Stier said "I think the answer is to find a better, more efficient way to produce power. But not at the risk of local economy, local jobs, and lifestyles and lives."

Stier isn't a fan of the NDP's carbon tax policy as outlined in Bill 20: the Climate Leadership Implementation Act. "They've got this idea that that conversion to alternative fuel sources is worth putting every business and every family in jeopardy. I think its wrong, and if we got elected, we would rescind that bill, and kill it."

Earlier this month the NDP government was found to be in contempt of the legislature by Speaker Bob Wanner after using radio ads to promote the carbon tax bill before the the legislature voted on it, a violation of the province's legislative rules. Stier cited the incident as proof of the Wildrose's effectiveness as the official opposition party. "We found that the Alberta Government held in contempt the other day. They did a procedural thing, and got into a little bit of trouble. We pushed the button on that one."

"I think this is the second time we have caught them with their fingers in the cookie jar, so to speak, in the wrong way, at the wrong time. This too is how they advertised prior to actually putting out legislation. Remember how much we raised (a similar) issue with Allison Redford when she was putting her name on all those signs."

1 comment:

  1. Gary Mitchell15/11/16

    I urge all of you who have read this article to show your support for the efforts that Pat Stier and the Wildrose continue to give for Alberta. Give them your support in Legislature by becoming a member. Show Rachel Notley that you do not support their Environmentalist ideologies. Show them that the NDP does not have the right to impose Legislation that they were not mandated to do. Give the Opposition the voice of million members to stand up with them in Legislature.


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