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Election race in high gear

<p>If Liberal Leader Kevin Taft wanted to shout his party’s message from the rooftops in Calgary, he picked the right venue — the observation deck of the Calgary Tower.</p>

Oil royalty, health care hot issues on campaign trail




« It seems like each step we take, Ed Stelmach’s following in our footsteps. We might as well just have a Liberal government.»





If Liberal Leader Kevin Taft wanted to shout his party’s message from the rooftops in Calgary, he picked the right venue — the observation deck of the Calgary Tower.



Flanked by dozens of supporters, current MLAs and MLA hopefuls Taft outlined the top six items on the Liberal party’s "Calgary Agenda" as he kicked off the first full day of campaigning for the provincial election.



Protecting the city’s water supply, re-balancing of the royalty structure to achieve a bottom line 20 per cent increase in royalty take, transportation and transit, the elimination of homelessness, education and community policing were the pillars of his announcement.



"It’s time… long past time for a government to act on these essential issues," Taft said at the news conference.



In particular, Taft suggested increasing the per capita amount given to cities for police services from $16 to $20 — though he couldn’t comment on how much that promise would cost taxpayers.



Answering questions afterward, Taft admitted that in the interim oilsands players would likely feel the brunt of a rebalancing of the royalty scheme, while natural gas producers would see relief.



Early campaign rhetoric was also apparent after Taft accused the Conservative government of scalping the plan to increase health care spaces in schools to aid an ailing health sector.



"It seems like each step we take, Ed Stelmach’s following in our footsteps. We might as well just have a Liberal government," Taft mused.



In Edmonton yesterday, NDP Leader Brian Mason also attacked the royalty regime, presenting an e-mail from the royalty review panel chair, Bill Hunter, stating the chair didn’t see all of the necessary technical documents.



Mason has contended from the beginning that the Stelmach plan has "left billions on the table."



Ed Stelmach was on the campaign trail yesterday, announcing a plan to graduate an additional 225 doctors per year, increase RN grads by 350 and LPNs by 220.



He also touched on opening pilot health care high schools in both Calgary and Edmonton to help students prepare for a health services career.



"Alberta’s unprecedented growth has added strains on our health care system and our health service providers," said Stelmach in a statement.



"The Progressive Conservative plan recognizes and responds to our labour shortages in the health care professions and ensures that capital investment and patient care will be available when and where Albertan’s need them."




darren.krause@metronews.ca



 
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