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Rachel Notley drops hint about affordable child-care plan, mocks recent UCP fumbles

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley surrounded by supporters at yesterday's rally in Edmonton Photo: Marshall Boyd, used with permission.

It sure sounds as if Alberta Premier Rachel Notley will announce an affordable child-care plan for Alberta today.

At any rate, at a rally in downtown Edmonton's Polish Hall yesterday, she boldly told more than 1,000 enthusiastic supporters -- who sounded like an Oilers crowd back in the days this place was known as the City of Champions -- that if it's re-elected, her NDP government is flat-out going to fix the problem of unaffordable child care in Alberta.

"Too many young families face sky-high costs for child care," she said, adding that "some reports say child care costs in Alberta are higher than anywhere in the country," rivalling mortgage payments and rent.

"They stand as a major barrier to people buying their first home," she stated. They "keep too many young women out of the workforce."

So, stand by, "we're going to fix this problem and make life a lot more affordable for young families."

The United Conservative Party Opposition led by Jason Kenney, which we have been told interminably by mainstream media is leading Notley's NDP Government comfortably in the polls, will argue we can’t afford such fripperies when we need to give huge tax breaks to profitable foreign corporations and spend big money on constitutionally meaningless referenda.

Well, it'll be interesting to see if Alberta voters continue to swallow that line now that more of them, presumably, are starting to pay attention to the election campaign the premier called on March 19.

Notley also promised significant policy announcements this week on improving Alberta's classrooms, cutting hospital wait times and making life more affordable for seniors.

Whether the UCP juggernaut narrative of the past year turns out to be true or there's another Miracle on the Prairies on April 16, this campaign is already significantly different from other Alberta election campaigns in recent memory.

That is to say, while the two leading parties have similar assessments of the problems facing Alberta that may or may not be right -- a lack of sufficient pipeline capacity to Canada's coasts, for example -- their policy prescriptions are dramatically different from one another in many regards.

At least since the retirement of Peter Lougheed, the principal argument between the most competitive parties in Alberta political campaigns has been whether we should have austerity and more austerity. That was even true in 1993, when Liberal leader Laurence Decore's Liberals managed to win 32 of the province's then 83 seats, the party's historical high tide, by trying to out-Tory Ralph Klein's Tories.

I suppose you could argue the 2015 campaign, won by Notley's New Democrats, was different in this way -- but it wasn't until a month or so before the election that most of us even realized the NDP were in contention.

Kenney took yesterday off from campaigning, perhaps to honour the Sabbath, or maybe to use the occasion to pray for an end to the string of bozo eruptions by his candidates that marred the opening of the campaign his party hopes will be a triumphal march to victory.

Notley -- who obviously has some pretty good gag writers in her employ if she isn't one herself -- commented on Kenney's troubles this week at the start of her remarks.

Referencing some of Kenney's candidates' fumbles on such topics as the place of women in the home, Europeans in their "homelands," and whether or not global climate change is a thing, she commented: "In all fairness, Mr. Kenney did say he wasn't aiming for perfection with his candidates. … Well, Mr. Kenney: Mission accomplished!"

She compared the scene at UCP headquarters to the set of Survivor. "Except no one really knows how low you've got to go to get kicked off the island."

As for the Kamikaze Mission Scandal stemming from the 2017 UCP leadership contest and how Kenney won it that has bedevilled the UCP in recent weeks, she observed how when her party took office, "the Sky Palace stood as a testament to politicians putting themselves ahead of you.

"There were cabinet ministers under investigation and scandal after scandal.

"Some things never change, do they? Today, they're not even in office and they're under investigation!"

"And my-oh-my, do they want back in power," she continued. "Here is Jason Kenney's argument in a nutshell:

"His team made a terrible mess.

"We didn't clean it up fast enough.

"So fire us and put the old boys back in!

"That's his case."

And, you know what? That's certainly not the way Kenney would put it, but when you get right down to it, it pretty much is his case.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.  

Photo: Marshall Boyd, used with permission

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