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Notley, Kenney renew attacks over budget, jobs on Alberta campaign trail

SHERWOOD PARK, Alta. — Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley says the United Conservatives are trying to pull a fast one on voters by slipping in changes to their policy platform.

It’s a charge Jason Kenney dismissed Friday, calling it more misdirection from a premier on a day when new Statistics Canada numbers revealed her job creation plan is falling flat.

The two leaders made the comments as they returned to the campaign trail following Thursday’s televised leaders debate.

Both have promised to erase Alberta’s chronic multibillion-dollar deficits in the next term if they win the April 16 election.

However, Notley pointed out that recent changes to the UCP’s online policy platform document show that Kenney plans to outsource that crucial task to a blue-ribbon panel of experts.

“You don’t do a big event where you release your platform and tell people: ‘Here’s our plan. Hold us to account to it. Trust us.’ And then secretly change that platform in the dark of night,” Notley told supporters at a rally east of Edmonton.

“You cannot run to be the premier of this province without convincing people that you actually have a plan to bring the budget into balance.”

Last weekend, Kenney unveiled the party’s 100-plus page foundational policy document, which calls for the creation of a panel of experts to advise on fiscal policy and paying down the debt.

A revised online version of the document this week adds a new task to the panel:”recommend a path to (budget) balance.”

Notley called that misleading, given that the change wasn’t publicized, and also suggests the UCP hasn’t got a road map on a critical piece of policy.

Kenney said the change was one of a number of minor edits and fixes to the original document. He said nothing substantive has changed and that the budget balance plan is clearly spelled out in the platform.

He said the role of the panel remains an advisory one on how best to achieve that goal.

“Our fiscal target is $49 billion in spending and a $700-million surplus in year four. That is the plan,” he said in Calgary.

He said Notley will try any attack to deflect from her failure to get Albertans back to work after years of low oil prices and the loss of thousands of jobs.

Kenney noted new Statistics Canada numbers reveal Alberta lost 1,800 jobs last month, with the unemployment rate in Edmonton and Calgary over seven per cent.

Kenney says NDP tax hikes and added rules and regulations have made a bad situation worse.

“This is hard evidence of the jobs crisis that is hurting Albertans,” said Kenney. “This is not about oil prices. This is about bad government policy.

“This is on Rachel Notley.”

Notley said her government remains committed to boosting the economy with oil and gas diversification investment incentives along with other programs to attract work in specialized fields like high-tech.

“We are very concerned and we understand what (the unemployed) are going through,” she said.

“We know it’s not going fast enough. That’s why we continue to remain focused on this.”