EDMONTON - The feud between Alberta's two rival right-centre parties resumes Monday in what has become — depending on your spin preference — a battle between the debt deniers and the climate change deniers.
Premier Alison Redford is expected to outline the priorities for her Progressive Conservative government's fall sitting in a noontime speech Monday to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, an hour or so before both parties square off again in the legislature chamber.
What will be debated in the house has been kept largely under wraps.
Redford's government has moved away from past practice of outlining its priorities or holding a throne speech.
Government House Leader Dave Hancock has said the sitting will see legislation to implement new rules surrounding the disastrous June floods that displaced tens of thousands and caused billions of dollars damage in and around Calgary.
Late Sunday, the premier's office sent out an email saying there will also be legislation to reduce traffic congestion.
"The legislation would give the province the ability to respond to local needs and designate lane use such as creation of priority bus lanes, car pool lanes, and slow moving vehicles," said the email.
Otherwise, Albertans looking for more information have been directed to a short government video that promises in words flashed across a screen that Redford's team will continue "Building Alberta."
Redford recently told the chamber of commerce in Fort Saskatchewan she expects the Wildrose will try to make hay out of her plan to borrow $17 billion over four years to pay for infrastructure to accommodate hundreds of thousands of newcomers.
"We don't have debt in this province. We have infrastructure in this province," Redford told the chamber on Oct. 18.
"We have roads in this province, schools in this province, and hospitals in this province.
"We can't start saying that we're going to balance the books on the backs of people who either were impacted by flood, or (on) people who weren't impacted by flood that still need roads and highways and hospitals and schools."
Redford had promised a balanced budget in last year's election campaign, but this year delivered a spending document that runs in the red on the operations side to go with the billions of dollars in capital borrowing.
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith said Albertans won't be fooled by such sophistry.
Smith said the debt is unnecessary, the result of poor planning, bloated management and capital spending based on political favour rather than objective rationale.
"Last year at this time we warned you that Alberta's finances were in serious trouble, and for months on end the government continued to deny it, until January when the premier invented the bitumen bubble (of declining profits for oilsands bitumen) as an excuse for poor planning and reckless spending," said Smith.
"We warned Albertans that the Alberta government would go seriously into deficit and debt.
"They (the Tories) denied it for awhile, but then they created a budget that even the auditor general can't comprehend to obscure the fact they will spend our entire $17-billion rainy day fund as well as rack up $17 billion worth of debt by 2016."
Smith's party worked to defuse a public relations bomb of its own this past weekend, declaring once and for all at its annual policy convention that it believes in climate change.
Delegates also voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm its commitment to equal rights for all, including homosexuals.
Both issues fatally wounded any chance for a Wildrose win the 2012 election.
In the days before that vote, Redford's team reversed surging Wildrose polling numbers by suggested the party was rife with bigots, adding that Alberta would look like a global punch line if it had a premier jetting to Washington and Brussels to announce climate change is bogus.
The weekend Wildrose convention, held at a Red Deer hotel, had a surprise visitor on Saturday.
Cal Dallas, Redford's minister for international affairs, dropped in to remind reporters that when the Wildrose decided to embrace climate change on Friday, it hurriedly cancelled a party fundraiser with noted author/filmmaker/climate change denier Bruno Wiskel.
"Let's be real about what's really going on here," said Dallas.
"Is there (actual) change in the context of approach to policy? No."
The hostility between the two parties is palpable, extending beyond the usual antagonisms of ideological rivals elbowing for position to grab the same brass ring.
It is essentially a family feud. The Wildrose has become home for provincial Tories who could no longer stay within a party they believe has lost its commitment to fiscal prudence and preaches grassroots democracy while practising top-down decision making.
The Wildrose and the PCs have become enemies to the knife, leading to legislature debates fraught with personal insults or worse. Wildroser Shayne Saskiw, in the house, once called Redford's sister Lynn a criminal for making improper expense claims. One unnamed Tory backbencher was once overheard shouting across the aisle mocking Wildrose house leader Rob Anderson's Mormon religion.
This past week saw the government announce it will no longer give the opposition notice of government news conferences. Then the Wildrose kicked out three PC observers at the Wildrose convention, saying the PCers tried to pass themselves off as Wildrosers in order to spy and subvert.
Both Alberta's opposition NDP and the Liberals say that during this sitting they want to push to end what has become government by stealth under Redford.
They say while Redford promised transparency in the house, the reality is much different, with fewer sitting days and frequent Redford absences.
They say fewer bills are introduced, and those that do come forward are long on motherhood statements but short on detail, leaving the actual rules to be decided upon behind closed doors.
"Under Redford's leadership, transparency has all but evaporated in the province of Alberta," said NDP Leader Brian Mason.
Liberal house leader Laurie Blakeman branded it cynical politics.
"If you don't tell people what you're plan is, how can you be held accountable for it later?" she asked.
© Copyright 2013