Wildrose leader announces final policy plank in Airdrie
Inside a busy Airdrie day care, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith read to children from The Busy Little Squirrel, Oct. 3. Minutes later, Airdrie Chestermere MLA Rob Anderson, the party’s house leader, introduced Smith to a throng of media and made it clear why the setting was chosen.
“Airdrie is the youngest city in the province. There’s no better place in Alberta than here to release the policy,” he said.
Smith’s spent the next 15 minutes detailing the final plank of her party’s platform: a family and child policy.
“Families expect a government to be there to assist rather than hinder their ability to provide for each other and to spend more quality time together,” said Smith.
“Our tax system penalizes stay-at-home parents, child-care options are limited, social workers are overworked and foster parents are under appreciated. What has the current government done to address these problems? Not much.”
Smith said her party, should it be elected, would immediately introduce a family resource centre hotline to ease pressure on an already overworked health-care system.
She later stressed social workers and foster parents need more assistance.
“We want to make sure they are given the respect and the resources that are needed to care for children in the most extreme of circumstances,” she said.
“We can’t afford to be burning them out with heavy case loads and too much stress.”
Following her speech, Smith fielded questions and took an opportunity to fire some opening salvos at then premier-designate Alison Redford ahead of a likely June 2012 election.
“It’s pretty clear that blue conservatives have left the PCs,” said Smith, who described her party as the “only party on the political landscape that represents those small-c conservative values. She (Redford) was appealing to the people that traditionally vote Liberal and NDP.”
Smith pointed to Redford’s flip-flop on the next election date.
Redford stated on Sept. 23 she would push for a spring election. Since defeating Gary Mar and Doug Horner Oct. 1, Redford has changed her tune and publicly said an election would be held “within 12 months.”
“I think it’s surprising that we see a flip-flop within less than 12 hours of her becoming premier,” said Smith. “We should have an election in March of 2012 as Ms. Redford promised.”
Anderson said the process of school approvals has degenerated into a game of politics and is no longer about students’ needs.
“The PCs made education and new schools a political issue,” he said.
While he admits the $107 million Redford plans to give back to Alberta’s education sector will help kids in Airdrie, there are bigger issues to address.
“The problem is that the PCs have to get salaries under control. All public, not just teacher salaries, but all public sector employees,” he said.