By Stephen Dafoe
Edmonton – Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths announced Tuesday morning he will run for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives. The candidate submitted his resignation to the Premier as Parliamentary Assistant to Finance and Enterprise.
Making his announcement from the McKay Avenue School, which served as Alberta’s first legislature, Griffiths said a lot has changed in the century since the province’s original leaders were there.
“There’s no way that those leaders that sat in this spot could have seen all that Alberta would become,” he said. “But they knew the possibility was only limited by the dreams they had.”
Griffiths said the province will see an equivalent amount of change, not over the next century, but over the next couple of decades.
“It is essential that we stop arguing about who and what we are and what we have, and begin the public discussion to fully realize all that we can become in the next 20 to 100 years,” Griffiths said. “It’s imperative that we stop focusing on what we can get because we are Albertans and turn our attention to what we can build because we are Albertans.”
The candidate said his leadership campaign will not be all things to all people, nor would it focus on too many priorities. Rather, Griffiths said the campaign will focus on five key areas.
Griffiths, a former teacher, said his campaign and leadership’s first focus would be on education from kindergarten to post secondary education. Additionally, the leadership hopeful said he would focus on land stewardship issues, reforming government and empowering government employees to build a better Alberta, collectively developing solutions to healthcare and reinvigorating the Progressive Conservative party of Alberta.
The PC leadership candidate said he is not prepared to wait for the party rules, although he has no plans to contravene them once announced. However, one area of importance to him is transparency on campaign contributions.
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“Anyone who wishes to donate to our campaign can expect that there will be full disclosure of every single dollar received – and not just after the campaign is over, but during – so there is no question to anybody where the support we have comes from.”
Griffiths also said he plans to run a clean campaign, debating the issues and not the personalities.
“We’ll engage other candidates in debate, but at no point will I or anyone else associated in this campaign team ever slag, demean or attack the integrity or character of any leadership candidate in this or any other party,” Griffiths said. “It takes a lot of guts to put your name, your reputation and your ideas out there for public debate, so we’ll show every single political candidate the full respect they’ll deserve. Because that’s what will restore integrity back to politics.
But while Griffiths is looking to raise the level of integrity in the province’s political circles, there is also a need to raise the revenues to pay for provincial programs.
Griffiths came under some criticism recently for comments on the possibility of a provincial sales tax for Alberta, something he said opponents may try to stick to him because they do not want to face him in a political race.
Asked about the potential of a provincial sales tax, Griffiths said business and personal income taxes collected by Alberta only pay for 80 per cent of the province’s healthcare budget. “They don’t pay for education or advanced education, environmental issues or agriculture programs or any of the social services,” Griffiths said. “But then people always say, ‘You guys use too much oil revenue. You need to save it.’ Well, how are we going to pay for this stuff? They want us to save royalties and they don’t want us to spend as much money. If they don’t want to cut any programs, they have to have a discussion. And if Albertans want to discuss a PST, let them. If they want to discuss progressive tax, let them. If they want to discuss cutting programs and government getting back to what is essential, let them. There is no harm in Albertans discussing what they want their future to look like.”
At the age of 29, Griffiths was elected MLA for the constituency of Wainwright in a by-election in 2002, becoming the youngest MLA in provincial history. The MLA is currently in his third term.