Big promises in election campaigns



Darren Krause/metro Calgary


Kevin Taft delivered his agenda for the upcoming election yesterday in Calgary.


« We know that waiting lists and delays in seeing health-care professionals are mainly due to labour shortages. »

Day 1 of the 2008 Alberta election campaign saw the Liberals wooing Calgarians, the Tories vowing to heal the health-care system and the NDP bent on squeezing the very last drop out of the controversial oil-royalty debate.

In Edmonton, Premier Ed Stelmach vowed to create hundreds of new spaces to train new doctors and nurses by 2012.

"We know that waiting lists and delays in seeing health-care professionals are mainly due to labour shortages," he said. "The Progressive Conservative plan recognizes this and responds with aggressive actions."

His plan calls for more training facilities to add another 225 doctors, 350 registered nurses and 220 licensed practical nurses each year, but the registrar of Alberta’s College of Physicians and Surgeons says his numbers don’t make sense.

"The province needs to look at the rate of growth within the province to make sure that our infrastructure, including human resources, can catch up," said Dr. Trevor Theman.

In Calgary, Liberal Leader Kevin Taft outlined his priorities for that city, promising to ease traffic snarls and to give Mount Royal College university status.

And New Democrat Leader Brian Mason attacked the Stelmach government for what he calls a culture of secrecy that misled Albertans into being shortchanged on oil royalties.

Mason released an email yesterday from Bill Hunter, chairman of the province’s royalty-review panel, that says he didn’t see some of the reports now made public from freedom-of-information requests on energy royalties before his panel made their recommendations to government.

Hunter, however, still stands by his report, which found that Albertans could boost royalties by $2 billion annually. But Mason believes the entire process is "seriously flawed" and needs to be re-examined.

"The royalty task force didn’t have all the facts," Mason said yesterday. "Mr. Stelmach has left billions of dollars on the table — he has sold out Albertans."

Stelmach has pledged to boost royalties by around $1.4 billion, but Mason wouldn’t comment on what rate his party would use, saying that announcement will be revealed later in the election campaign.

Tory cabinet minister Hector Goudreau denied that the royalty panel was misled and didn’t have access to pertinent information.

"Bill Hunter could get the information that he wanted and we certainly had the staff and the support he needed to form those reports," he said.

After the review panel released their findings this fall, oil companies threatened to pull out billions in future investment if the province adopted their entire recommendations.

Stelmach announced a month later that he would boost royalties, but at a rate about $500 million a year lower than the panel recommended.

Election day is March 3.