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Alberta NDP's Rachel Notley introduces detailed platform

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Rachel Notley

The big question about the detailed NDP fiscal plan, released this afternoon at a slickly run news conference in Edmonton by Leader Rachel Notley, is how voters will receive it.

That we won't know for at least a couple of days.

Because the election platform contains a job-creation program, a serious review of royalty rates for the resources we all own and a reversal of the massive cuts to health care and education for which Premier Jim Prentice insisted he needed a mandate to justify the early election that he's finding isn’t going as swimmingly as he expected, it's pretty obvious how Austerity Party 1 and Austerity Party 2 will react.

You can probably expect a panel of six or seven serious-looking Progressive Conservative ministers to show up at an Edmonton hotel any minute now to prognosticate grimily about what happens when you "tax and spend."

As for the Wildrosers, representing the incandescently angry wing of the conservative movement, they’ll say the same thing even louder, possibly with the whites of their eyes visible.

However, arguing from the authority of Peter Lougheed -- the founder of the nearly 44-year-old Tory dynasty that haunts us Albertans still -- Notley made her detailed proposal for a budget that would use modest tax increases for the wealthy and major corporations to balance the budget by 2017.

That's the same year Prentice promises a balanced budget, only without the cuts to key public services like health care and education that he proposes.

Prentice certainly can't accuse the NDP of not having costed out its proposals for governance, as he said of the Wildrose Party's platform.

Ms. Notley sounded calm and reasonable when she brushed off the premier's recent accusations of "extremism."

"Instead of listening to Prentice,' she explained, "I'll listen to premier Peter Lougheed, who said that it’s time for Alberta to consider a corporate tax increase. Like Mr. Lougheed, I believe what we've set out today is a common sense better approach, an approach that builds instead of tearing down."

That's not ancient history, by the way. Lougheed made that observation on May 11, 2011, less that a year and a half before his death at 84.

Key points in the NDP platform included:

-    A job-creation tax credit that would rebate 10 per cent of wages paid to new hires up to a salary of $50,000, which the NDP predicts would create 27,000 new jobs.

-    A review of Alberta's resource royalties and tax incentives, and new policies to promote processing and upgrading in Alberta that would "create jobs, diversify Alberta's economy and reduce our exposure to crude oil price swings."

-    A ban on corporate and union donations to political parties.

-    A rollback of Prentice's planned $1-billion cuts to health care, plus efforts to fill the 600,000 square feet of hospital space currently sitting empty.

-    Creation of 2,000 new long-term-care beds over four years to make places for seniors and reduce pressure on Emergency Rooms and acute care facilities.

-    A rollback of planned cuts to education and what the NDP calls the premier's "decision to leave 12,000 new students without teachers this coming year."

-    Investments in child care for families.

-    A break from Prentice's health care levy.

-    Reintroduction of progressive income taxes in Alberta.

-    Reintroduction of fairer corporate taxes in Alberta with a 12-per cent corporate tax -- "the small business exemption  will be preserved."

-    Plus, of course, no new sales tax, which Ms. Notley called preserving the Alberta Advantage with a cheeky tip of the hat to Ralph Klein.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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