|Smith tour stops in area|
|Local Content - Local News|
|Written by Trevor Busch|
|Thursday, 23 February 2012 16:37|
Wildrose Alliance Party leader Danielle Smith spoke in Taber last week as part of a tour of southern Alberta ridings in anticipation of a spring election in the province.
Getting down to business, Smith attacked the PC government’s move to eliminate the province’s former slogan the “Alberta Advantage.”
“You may recall a few years ago the brain trust in the premier’s office decided that there was no longer an ‘Alberta Advantage.’ Not as a slogan, no even as an idea. Which surprised a few people, including me, because I loved the slogan — I still love the slogan, because it does the very thing you want it to do. It sums up a complex set of ideas and complicated feelings into one perfect short phrase.”
The replacement slogan Smith characterized as a failure, and accused Premier Alison Redford of wasting taxpayer dollars again to come up with a new slogan.
“So the government spent a lot of money, millions and millions and millions of dollars, to come up with a new slogan and to sell it to us. At the end of it all we ended up with the impossible to remember, hopelessly-lame ‘Freedom to Create, Spirit to Achieve.’ Of course Alison Redford, who was in cabinet at the time, she supported it until now. Now her solution to this big money wasting process is to start it all over again.”
The Alberta Advantage has been subverted not due to tough economic times, Smith maintained, but because the current PC government has squandered it.
“In one sense the government was right to get rid of that initial slogan, because our freedoms, our Alberta Advantage, have been systematically torn down and subverted into a bureaucratic web of red tape and top-down control. That very freedom that once defined us is being strangled by a party that says ‘shut up — we’re in charge’. We’ve gone from a place of mavericks, a place of free men and women shaping this province, to a group in power that says they know best. Better than me, better than you.”
Smith recounted how she was once a supporter of the provincial PCs, and that change at the top does not represent real change.
“But they don’t know better, because you’re not wrong. You’re absolutely right. It’s not time for you to change, it’s time for them to change. But they won’t, or they can’t. And I don’t mean pretend change, I mean real change. For a conservative province, change can be a hard thing. I know this, because I once supported them. But they don’t speak for me anymore, and after 40 years in power, changing one person at the top is not real change. And we must be free to change.”
Many of the freedoms once enjoyed by the province’s citizens have been limited or curtailed by too many years of PC domination, according to Smith.
“If municipal leaders can’t be free to speak out against the government out of fear that they might lose their grants, where is the free speech? And if landowners can’t meet without having government spies in attendance, where is the freedom of association? If having useless red tape means that we have regulatory decisions in this province that take months or years to get approvals, compared to weeks or days in neighbouring Saskatchewan, where is the economic freedom? And freedom of information? When a government won’t let itself be checked or questioned or challenged, the rot has set in. And there is no other cure but change.”
Defending her party against a common accusation, Smith assured voters the Wildrose Alliance isn’t a radical ideological diversion.
“They’re going to try to paint our party as extreme. But when I talk to our supporters, when I talk to our candidates, I get quite a different picture, a picture of Albertans who care. We don’t want to do away with public health care, we want to save it. We don’t want to privatize education, we want to improve it. We don’t want to eradicate social services for those around us, just the opposite. We want to afford it all, we want to support it all, so that when someone needs it, it’s there, it’s strong, it’s healthy, and it’s ready to help.”
Taking back the “Alberta Advantage” for Albertans is a professed goal of the party, according to Smith.
“A change of government is not something to be taken lightly. It’s a leap of faith. And leaps of faith like that I understand can be a little bit scary. But to me, and to our supporters, and to our candidates, doing nothing is even scarier. You can also take heart that Albertans do this, from time to time we do change governments. We do this when the people who are in charge stop serving our interests and start serving their own. When common sense is not common at all, when our freedoms are under attack, and when the only reason why they stay in power is simply to stay in power — Albertans change government. For the last few elections, there really hasn’t been another option, until now. So don’t believe them. The Alberta Advantage is not done, is not dead, it’s waiting. It’s waiting for you, it’s waiting for me.”
After an opening address, Smith fielded questions from the floor on health, water rights and irrigation, education and other topics of concern.