Premier Rachel Notley gave her state of the province address speech in Calgary, and announced that the province-wide tuition freeze would be extended another year.
She gave the speech on Wednesday Oct.19, in the lobby of the Jack Singer concert hall, where various NDP party members, media and guests attended.
The tuition freeze was announced the morning of the speech, which Notley further reiterated during the address.
“We need to make sure that education and training are accessible,” Notley said.
“The best education in the world does no good if the people who need it most can’t afford it.”
Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark told reporters that he disagreed with the decision, despite being a believer in post-secondary education.
“I believe that what we need in post-secondary education is a very clear cap to tuition increase,” he said.
“If we freeze it for too long there is going to be a snapback at some point, and the money has to come from somewhere.”
While Clark said that the stance wasn’t economical and could cause constraints on school budgets, Notley called affordable education the “cornerstone of a healthy economy.”
“We all benefit from well educated citizens contributing to our economy and building our communities,” she said.
The address also covered many plans for the future of the province, including the push for a 15$ minimum wage.
“If you work hard, you should be able to afford to house your family, and to feed them and to live a decent and dignified life,” said Notley.
“Which is why we are increasing the minimum wage in Alberta to 15$ an hour so that better times will be widely shared and no one will be left behind.”
She didn’t name an exact date for implementation of the minimum wage, only saying that it would be put into place when there is a more balanced budget.
Redistribution of wealth in Alberta seemed to be a common theme in the speech as she mentioned benefits of a good economy being “shared” several times.
Clark named the newly introduced carbon tax plan as a ploy to redistribute wealth in Alberta.
“What they’re doing is taking billions of dollars out of the economy and rebating it to up to two-thirds of Albertans,” he said.
“That’s highly political, and I’m profoundly disappointed.”
Another theme that Notley promoted in her speech was stability, and urged Albertans that the government could handle the broken economy until it picks up again.
“The provincial government can serve and is serving as an economic shock absorber for a time,” she said.
“As our economy improves in coming years the provincial budget is going to have to be towards coming back into balance.
“That also means that we are very unlikely to have a lot of headroom for major new spending proposals until recovery occurs.”
Despite talk about stability, when asked, Notley couldn’t confirm that the toughest economical times for Alberta are over.
“We are cautiously optimistic, but we are still planning to manage as though things have started to improve,” she told reporters.
Wildrose representative Leela Aheer criticized the speech, calling it a “rally”.
“This is about Albertans, this isn’t about my party or anybody else’s party,” she said.
Clark also criticized the address, saying it was “polarizing”.
“For a speech that is ostensibly a state of Alberta, she spent an awfully long time running down the opposition,” he said.
“What she’s doing is creating division in Alberta at a time a Premier, a leader, ought to be bringing our province together.”
Whether she was “rallying” Albertans to keep pushing through tough times, or was rallying for her own party’s support, Notley’s final words reiterated just how dire a situation Alberta is in.
“We’ve taken some hard knocks from the international price of oil, but nobody knocks Alberta down for long, we’re getting back on our feet,” she said.
“A province that has led before, and a province that I know, will lead again.”