Official Opposition and Wildrose leader Brian Jean joined Drayton Valley-Devon MLA Mark Smith on June 16th to meet people in Drayton Valley at the Rotary Park. Before speaking to the crowd, Jean had visited Frank Maddock High School to speak with students. Jean was able to sit down with me and give a quick Question and Answer session at the constituency event.
Q: The Wildrose Party fought to make amendments to the carbon tax, how do you think the tax will affect Albertans, do you think the tax is the correct way to go about reducing the province’s carbon footprint?
A: No, because clearly this carbon tax is not revenue neutral. It’s a 3 billion dollar grab of taxpayers money to go into a slush fund for the NDP to spend how they want to, the majority is not coming back in any form of rebates and will cost the average family in Alberta about $1,000 per year, each and every year going forward. The gas hike is going to be very difficult for rural Alberta, difficult for businesses who ultimately will pay higher costs and they will take those costs and pass them on to consumers. It will have a trickle down effect, it will have a compounding effect on all Albertans.
Q: The Wildrose School Division is facing layoff and less government funding, do you think the NDP government is investing enough and looking seriously at the provinces education system?
A: Anytime frontline providers, whether it be health care or teachers are laid off it greatly concerns us we don’t think that is the proper way to go forward. We think that there is an opportunity to reduce the cost of government through attrition, 10 per-cent of the government leaves/retires/ or moves each and every year through that kind of attrition process and through maintaining our frontline and more critical workers and those positions, we hope to reduce our costs and the government over 3-4 years. That would keep us in line with other jurisdictions, for example we are 20 per-cent more expensive than B.C.
Q: The party had a small budget in the 2015 Election, and over the past year there has been an increase in party event attendance. What I’m getting at is how has boots on the ground changed the party, how has the party stitched itself together in the past year?
A: It’s been incredible. Albertan’s from every area of the province have come out, we’ve doubled our numbers in Edmonton and significantly improved our presence in Calgary. Our support is locked in on rural Alberta and we are proud of that, but the future of the party is to make sure that all Albertan’s recognize we will fight and stand up for them.
Official Opposition and Wildrose leader Brian Jean poses along side Drayton Valley-Devon Wildrose MLA Mark Smith
Q: Drayton Valley is an oil town, and has suffered during the oil crash. Has the NDP failed the oil industry, how would have the Wildrose dealt with economic blow differently?
A: We aren’t saying that the NDP are responsible for low oil prices. They are responsible for is all of the actions they have taken since the low oil prices have hit. The first one is the royalty review, that I think has certainly punished our oil and gas sector and has created a tremendous amount of insecurity and uncertainty for the oil and gas industry. Sometimes a company invests $15 billion dollars and they are international/multinational conglomerates that set up business right across the world, if our cost jurisdiction is much higher than those of whether it be Saskatchewan or South Africa, they simply won’t come here. The royalty review, Bill 6, Bill 8 have all hurt the oil and gas sector, and the carbon tax will hurt all Albertans. We’ll have fewer jobs and less money to pay for the things that we need.
Q: You lost your home in the Fort McMurray wildfire, you moved to that city when you were 5 years old and represented Fort McMurray for 10 years as a Conservative Member of Parliament. Seeing what the city went through during the disaster, what does that say about Fort Mac?
A: The people who live in Fort McMurray are very strong, they are very fierce. They will come through this very, very strong. I’ve lost my home but 3,000 people are not in their home tonight due to this wildfire, 2,500 families have lost their home and I’m very concerned about not myself but the younger families and the older Albertans who are retired and on fixed incomes, and the young people’s mental health after loosing everything.
Q: Going through the disaster yourself, what lessons will you take from it as the leader of the Official Opposition?
A: That there is very very important things that governments have to deal with, whether it’s decisions that they follow through with reports on recommendations from the 2011 Slave Lake Fire, whether it’s to create a fire break around a city, whether it’s to make sure our health care system works properly for the people who it’s supposed to. All of these things are very important, and as the leader of the Official Opposition I will continue to work hard.
Q: Finally, what do you hope to accomplish by the time October 31st rolls around and session resumes in the Legislature?
A: I’m hoping to travel the province, have people everywhere whether it be Drayton Valley, Edmonton, Fort McMurray or Calgary and have the opportunity to discuss their issues. We’re hoping to win the hearts and minds of Albertans across the province.
Jean will be in Hinton on June 17th. He has a busy summer planned, besides touring communities and caucus meetings, on the last day of sitting at the Alberta Legislature Jean revealed that he will be getting married on July 22nd.