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Today I want to talk about the historic choice facing Albertans next Monday.
All political leaders talk about the future during election campaigns. It’s our job, to offer a vision of where we want to lead, and how we intend to get there.
Our Wildrose party has laid out a very clear, practical and affordable plan for Alberta over the course of the campaign.
We have pledged to balance the budget immediately without raising taxes or cutting front-line government services, and to begin rebuilding the Heritage fund from budget surpluses.
We have pledged to help families with new child tax credits and a ban on school fees.
We have pledged to distribute tax-free energy dividends to all Albertans from budget surpluses. We have pledged to improve public healthcare by guaranteeing timely patient access to necessary medical procedures.
And we have pledged to replace the old PC culture of corruption and entitlement with a Wildrose culture of honesty, democracy, and accountability.
Early in the campaign, on the second day in fact, Alison Redford laid out her PC vision for the future of our province.
She declared that Alberta today is quote, “a different community…a different society,” and described the election as an opportunity to, quote, “make some…long-term decisions that will change the character of our province.”
Ms Redford, you’re wrong. Albertans don’t want or need a change of character, they want a change in government to reflect the strong, noble and freedom-loving character of Albertans.
After a month of campaigning, we still don’t know what Ms. Redford thinks is wrong with the character of our province, what she wants to change it to, or how she proposes to do it.
She hasn’t addressed the character issue since day one.
Except to attack my character, and the character of my Wildrose candidates and supporters.
Today I want to address those attacks.
My roots in Alberta are as deep as they get.
My great grandmother Mary Crow was a member of the Cherokee Nation that had been forcibly relocated from the southeastern United States to the Oklahoma territory in the 1830s by the U.S. Government, a terrible stain on the history of America known as the Trail of Tears.
Eventually her descendants found their way to Alberta.
My paternal great grandfather Philipus Kolodnicki arrived here from the Ukraine around the time of the Great War. A customs agent unfamiliar with the concept of multiculturalism renamed him – and therefore me – with the last name Smith. Alberta was good to him too.
So as a person of mixed race ancestry, I take it personally when accusations of racism and bigotry are aimed at me and my party.
Let me be perfectly clear – a Wildrose government will not tolerate discrimination against any individual based on their ethnicity, religion, beliefs, background, disability or sexual orientation … period.
And I know and expect my Wildrose candidates, regardless of what ethnicity they come from or what personal beliefs they might have, will speak to and wholeheartedly serve every one of their diverse and unique constituents.
All Albertans are welcome in my Wildrose party and in the province I seek to be Premier of – not just the ones I agree with – not just the ones who would vote for me. I’m running to serve all Albertans – every…single…one.
These charges against me and my party are the last futile gasps of a frightened 41-year old government and its allies.
The Wildrose candidates and supporters in this room and all over Alberta know the truth.
They know the stereotypes are bogus, and often used by liberal political parties when they feel threatened by conservatives.
Usually, though, the stereotypes are aimed at Albertans from outside the province.
What’s uncommon in this election, and particularly reprehensible, is that they are being used by Albertans, against fellow Albertans.
Let me introduce you to somebody you should know because he’s a smart young man with a great future in Alberta.
His name is Ali Waissi.
Like my ancestors, he’s got a meandering history that wound up in Alberta. He’s Kurdish, from Iran, by way of Iraq, which means his people know quite a bit about racism and religious persecution.
Ali loves Alberta. He loves the character of Alberta.
That’s why he’s managing Ron Leech’s campaign.
Ali knows the truth about Ron. He knows that his friend Ron has made his career in service to new Canadians from virtually every cultural background living in Calgary for the last 30 years. Ron is a good person who made a statement last week that was wrong, and hurtful to many in our friends in this diverse community. When he realized his mistake he apologized immediately, and he did so again last night. If I believed he was a racist I would have fired him. But he’s not. He simply misspoke.
I understand, but most importantly Ali understands, that one misspoken sentence does not erase a lifetime of good works, tolerance and service. And I understand and Ali understands that when mistakes are made and sincere apologies given – the Alberta way is to accept it, forgive and move on rather than to pursue the politics of division.
Our Wildrose candidates and the vast majority of Albertans all understand these principles.
They know we have a proud history of welcoming people from all over the world.
They know that cultural and religious diversity is one of our province’s greatest strengths.
They know we have been at the forefront in Canada in the fight for equality rights for over a century.
And they know that our commitment to equality is rooted in our shared devotion to individual freedom.
On Monday, for the first time in our history – one way or the other -Albertans will elect a woman premier.
In doing so we will fulfill the vision of the Famous Five, the Alberta suffragettes of the early 20th century who led the battle in Canada for gender equality.
I can’t tell you how proud I will be to have a role in fulfilling that vision.
But that’s just one reason Monday’s election represents an historic choice for Albertans.
It’s also an historic choice between the Redford PCs who want to change our character to satisfy someone else’s idea of who we should be, and a new Wildrose government that will uphold the traditions of tolerance, and freedom of expression, and freedom of religion, that have been hallmarks of Alberta’s character for over a century.
The historic choice on Monday is between a tired and increasingly intolerant Redford PC government that wants to overthrow a century of Alberta history and the values that have made us a welcoming sanctuary and place of opportunity for people from all over the world, And a Wildrose government that will honour our history, uphold our values and convictions, and celebrate the unique and noble character of the Alberta we love.