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Metro Q&A: Rachel Notley on an NDP Alberta, Bill 6 and Trudeau

In a year-end interview, the Alberta premier reflects on her first seven months in office and the road ahead.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speaks with Metro's Ryan Tumilty.

Kevin Tuong / For Metro

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speaks with Metro's Ryan Tumilty.

As the year comes to an end, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley sat down with Metro to talk about the road ahead and her first seven months in office.

Q: Your budget was based on an economy of a certain strength. Have you started to think about what happens if that doesn’t happen?

A: We always do. Any good government is going to keep an eye on the state of the economy and look at whether the recovery happens as soon as you expect it to or whether that is more delayed.

That is why we introduced a budget this year that was very focused on, as I have said in other occasions, partnering with Albertans as we try to move ahead through this difficult time rather than taking an economic crisis and piling onto it, with a whole bunch of additional crises

I think one of Albertans’ critical values that are reflected in the choice they made during the election, is that when times are tough you come together. It’s the government’s role to facilitate that not to inspire division and more hardship.

Q: You are the first NDP government in the province’s history and I am sure you wanted this for a long time, do you feel at all that you’ve been dealt a bad hand?

A: I think every premier would love to take over when oil is at $150 per barrel, it makes things a little easier. You also show your mettle when you are faced with challenging times, that’s what government is about.

Whether it is good times or bad times the choices you make are based on your values.

Q: Do you view the election as an endorsement of your entire platform or do you see it, as a lot of people do, as a call for change?

A: It’s a combination of the two. We were very clear in our platform, our platform, which was I think very clearly laid out. It was not too vague in most cases. We had some fair priorities in it.

It was substantive, but balanced. It was not overly ambitious, as far as I am concerned and it was pragmatic.

We try to reach back to it as much as we can, because I think obviously Albertans are going to respect that. I think that actually renews faith in democracy if people get more or less what they voted for.

As conditions change and as circumstances changes people also expect their government to exercise good judgment. In my case I am also a big fan of evidence based governance, so we will do that as well.    

Q: Is there something about that platform, now that you’re in the job and have seen the economic circumstances that you think might not be achievable?

A: We have already seen in our budget that we have deferred some of the pieces that were in the platform, so it is a question of having to defer a few things while we are dealing with this unprecedented drop in revenue and I think that’s the responsible thing to do.

I would love to be able to point to a fully operational childcare system within 18 months, but that’s not something we have the resources to engage in right now.

I don’t think it will surprise most Albertans that we have to defer some of those things until we are in a better state fiscally.

Q: Do you go ahead with the things in your platform, like Bill 6 or the minimum wage, because they were in your platform or do you have to consult more because some people didn’t vote for you or for the whole platform?

A: I think for the most part on certain issues that are principle based you move forward.

On Bill 6, it is our responsibility that we didn’t communicate well enough with people that we create worry on the impact this would have on people’s way of life.

It was never our intention that family members or unpaid works would be covered by it, but we didn’t make it clear at the outset.

That’s why we put in the amendment that we did it to say that it’s in the legislation and you can count on this. Now going forward in terms of the development of the regulations and the timing of the application of the pieces of it, that’s something we always intended to engage in, in a very consultative way.

Q: You brought the bill in ahead of the consultation though?

A: No, not really. The consultation is on the regulations and so the heart of this stuff is actually found in the regulations, that is the way the legislation is structured in Alberta and in most other jurisdictions.

More and more farmers will see that the things they were worried about are not things that they needed to be worried about.

Q: A lot of economists are predicting this will be a bad year. For a lot of the layoffs we saw this year, this is the year where severance or employment insurance will run out, are you worried about in the year ahead?

A: I am worried about it on behalf of many Alberta families who are worried about it. I don’t think you can be someone who cares about their community and not worry about it.

That’s why, as I say, we have already embarked upon a budget that is geared to giving us levers that we can pull to attempt to provide greater levels of support as needed.

We still have to balance that with prudence with respect to the budget, but I think we certainly need to do everything we can to support families, understanding that it’s a dip and it’s not going to last forever. There will be some recovery.

Certainly, if you’ve just been handed a layoff notice, you don’t care what’s coming six months or 18 months down the road. You care about right now.

Q: What is your agenda with cities and the city charter this year? Do you see moving that ahead?

A: Minister Danielle Larivee is doing a lot of the legwork on it and I know she is moving forward very amitously, which is not susprising she is a very hard –working minister.

We are having the two mayors come visit us in January, so we will move that conversation forward absolutely, but it’s still very much one of those things that is the subject of discussion.

Q: When you were elected Prime Minister Harper was in office now Prime Minister Trudeau is in office. Do you think Alberta has a better opportunity with a prime minister who sees the world closer to the way you see it?

A: I certainly hope so. There is no question that the new federal government has laid out an intention to be more collaborative, so the more collaborative they are, I think the better that is.

We are certainly going to use those opportunities and I will use those opportunities to advocate for Alberta’s interests.

Probably the biggest issue on our plate right now with the federal government is to continue to push for market access and to make the case that where goes Alberta’s economy, so goes overall the Canadian economy.

There is major implications to the Canadian economy right now because of Alberta’s slowdown and what we need is some support and we need that support by the way of enhanced market access.

What I am looking forward to is to be able to make that case on more platforms and to more people within the federal government.

I believe we have been able to reach a fair amount of consensus in terms of the value of our climate change plan and people will be more likely to listen to the economic argument on its merits.

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