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UCP leader Jason Kenney pitches fixed vote date, fundraising rule changes

EDMONTON — Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney says if he wins the upcoming provincial election he will launch democratic reforms on everything from floor-crossing to desk-thumping.

Kenney also says he would bring in a fixed election date and pass a law mandating a referendum before any future government tries to impose a carbon tax.

“Albertans sent a clear message in the last provincial election: they want to clean up our politics and they wanted real accountability,” Kenney said Thursday.

He said Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP took some steps on that path, such as banning corporate and union political donations, but didn’t go far enough.

A United Conservative government would bring in a law to allow voters to recall their legislature member and hold a byelection if 40 per cent or more sign a petition to do so, he said.

On floor crossing, Kenney said it’s unclear if a government could pass a law banning an MLA from quitting and joining another party between elections.

Instead, his government would put forward a motion to have all members vote on whether an MLA who wants to cross the floor should first resign and run in a byelection.

In late 2014, almost the entire Opposition Wildrose party crossed the floor to join the governing Progressive Conservatives.

About six months later, both parties were defeated by Notley’s NDP. The Wildrose and PCs have since joined forces under the new UCP banner.

“The United Conservative caucus would not accept a floor-crosser from a different party unless that person resigned and held a byelection,” said Kenney.

Thursday was a day of duelling news conferences by the two major parties.

NDP Government House Leader Brian Mason announced that his party has launched a website detailing what they say is key information on Kenney’s statements and actions toward minority groups like LGBTQ, on women’s rights and abortion, and enriching himself at public expense as a former MP.

“It doesn’t tell a pretty story and it could make for some tough reading for some people,” Mason said.

“Because past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour, it is important that the truth about Mr. Kenney’s record is widely known.”

Back at his news conference, Kenney repeated a promise to repeal Alberta’s carbon tax and said he would mandate a referendum before a government could bring it back.

The UCP would also bring in a fixed election date. Currently by law, a party must hold an election within a three-month window every four years, beginning in March and ending in May.

The party has said Notley’s government is abusing that flexibility by effectively campaigning now on public dollars even though Notley has not dropped the writ to formally start the 28-day countdown to voting day.

The UCP is further promising to allow MLAs more latitude to vote their preference on legislation and on matters of conscience. The NDP has said such leeway was lacking last year when Kenney’s caucus walked out en masse multiple times in the house rather than debate and vote on a bill to expand no-protest zones around abortion clinics.

Kenney also pledged to amend the rules of the legislature to end the noisy tradition of a politician pounding on their desk to show approval of a motion, speech, or comment.

He said the UCP would also bring back elections for so-called senators-in-waiting and impose a $30,000 limit on how much an individual can contribute to a political action committee.