With the by-election won, Smith focuses on affordability policy

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Prime Minister’s new guidelines include indexing income supports like AISH and elderly benefits to inflation

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With a seat in the Alberta legislature secured, Premier Danielle Smith and her United Conservative government refocused their attention on politics on Wednesday.

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The Prime Minister’s new directives include indexing income supports like AISH and elderly benefits to inflation, and revising electricity and natural gas rates to reduce utility prices .

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The day after winning the Brooks-Medicine Hat by-electionSmith has emphasized affordability in mandate letters to some of his new cabinet ministers, as well as in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It’s an issue she says will be a key pillar of the UCP’s platform ahead of the general elections due in the spring.

Writing to his new ministers, Smith said his cabinet faced the challenge of implementing its platform in a short period. The legislature will resume on November 29 for a short sitting, with exactly six months separating that day from the elections scheduled for May 29.

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Inflation and affordability should be a priority for the UCP, she wrote, calling it “the number one challenge facing Albertans today” and promising action in the coming weeks.

Smith has given new Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services Jeremy Nixon the mandate to ensure payments to seniors and vulnerable Albertans, including Alberta Income for the Severely Disabled, are indexed to increase with inflation.

It is an about-face from the previous government of Jason Kenney, which drew heavy criticism by de-indexing AISH in 2019 and had refused to link the benefit to the cost of living.

Nixon’s new mandate also included direction on building affordable housing, bolstering Alberta’s food bank network, and expanding facilities for seniors amid growing demand for these services.

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Elsewhere, Smith directed Matt Jones, the minister responsible for the new accessibility and public services portfolio, to “prepare and implement a package of inflation-fighting measures aimed at addressing Albertans’ concerns about accessibility and cost of living”.

Specifically, those moves could involve the cost of utilities and child care, with Jones urged to review Alberta’s electricity pricing system in a bid to cut costs and work with the government. federal on the inclusion of private operators in the recent childcare agreement between the two levels of government.

Jones told Postmedia on Wednesday he would work across departments to tackle broader accessibility issues, with topics like insurance on the table alongside energy and childcare costs. He said he will work to implement as many changes as possible before the next election.

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“That’s one of our challenges, the timing, but I think we can definitely come up with some accessibility relief measures in the weeks and months to come and we can kick off and start some long-term work. “Jones said.

Jones also said that the UCP had never intended to suspend the indexation of social programs, including AISH, until they were able to “get their house in order”. Alberta Finances”.

  1. On Wednesday, Finance Minister Christia Freeland speaks at the office of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers in southeast Calgary.

    Freeland not budging on Premier Smith’s demands to end carbon tax

  2. United Conservative Party Leader and Premier Danielle Smith celebrates winning a by-election in Medicine Hat, Alta., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.

    Premier Danielle Smith wins Brooks-Medicine Hat by-election

  3. Finance Minister Jason Nixon speaks during a press conference in Edmonton on October 25, 2021.

    Alberta budget update confirms $13.2 billion surplus, income tax reindexed but not AISH

Besides affordability, Smith said his top priorities ahead of the general election will be job creation, health care reform and asserting Alberta’s sovereignty within Confederation.

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That last point should be front and center when the House reconvenes at the end of the month, as Smith has promised to personally introduce his Alberta Sovereignty Act as the first piece of legislation from the sitting.

The act was the focal point of Smith’s UCP leadership campaign. As proposed, this would allow Alberta to opt out of federal policies and decisions it deems contrary to provincial interests.

Asked Wednesday in Calgary about the Liberal government’s response to the Sovereignty Act, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland declined to comment until legislation is drafted.

“We will be looking closely at any legislation the new prime minister introduces and will respond to it when we have something,” said Freeland, who congratulated Smith on the by-election victory.

Freeland said his government’s job is to work with Alberta to find common ground, including on economic issues.

“I’m sure she and her government and our government will disagree on a lot of things. But I’m also sure there’s a lot we’ll agree on.

Smith continued her combative approach in Ottawa on Wednesday, posting on social media a letter she had sent to Trudeau urging action on affordability. She called on the federal government to reverse its planned carbon tax increases and promote Alberta’s energy industry to international partners.

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The new Prime Minister seems to be turning a page in the by-election, which she won with 54.5% of the vote, while the NDP candidate came second with 26.7%.

It was a less landslide victory in the traditionally conservative Brooks-Medicine Hat constituency than that won by the UCP in the 2019 election, when backbencher Michaela Frey won 60.7% of the vote.

Speaking to reporters in Edmonton on Wednesday, NDP Leader Rachel Notley also congratulated Smith on her victory, but said she was disappointed a winner had not also been chosen from the vacant riding of Calgary-Elbow. , where Smith refused to call a by-election.

Notley also questioned the Smith government’s ability to address the affordability problem, accusing the UCP under Kenney of failing to take effective action to tackle the problem.

“There are so many ways this UCP government has threatened the affordability of Alberta families across the province,” she said.

“Inflation is obviously not entirely or even primarily the province of the provincial government. However, we are seeing home heating costs skyrocket. We see electricity costs skyrocketing. We see insurance costs skyrocketing. This is all within the jurisdiction of the government to take action. »

— With files by Josh Aldrich

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonfherring

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