Can Alberta rebound from oil recession?

Image copyright ©Dan Balilty/AP Image caption Kenney was boosted by a massive thumbs-up from a crowd he addressed at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce

Joe Marston is a conservative figurehead and former mayor of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

A transplanted Scotsman, he used to be a major opposition figure in Canada. But he has thrown in his lot with the Progressive Conservatives (PC), an earlier incarnation of the Alberta Conservative Party that ousted former prime minister Stephen Harper’s centre-right Conservatives in 2015.

Mr Marston is also now running to be party leader.

So Mr Marston was keen to show Calgary – still reeling from recession in the wake of the oil price crash – that its fortunes had changed following the election of a new leader just four months ago.

His main objective was to attract new people into the party.

That involves selling a positive vision for the province.

The Conservatives under Mr Marston won back power on a very narrow vote margin in last October’s provincial election.

Story highlights

Alberta is attempting to pull itself out of a recession

The province’s share of Canada’s oil and gas wealth has crashed.

Last month’s Alberta budget cut spending by 1% and raised taxes for a fourth consecutive year.

The federal NDP ruled the land from 1971 to 1988 but since 2015 Alberta has had a Tory government.

In a 2016 video recorded by Will Horter, the riding manager of Alison Redford, when she was premier, Mr Marston had this to say of the province: “I honestly believe Alberta is back.”

Image copyright Dan Balilty/AP Image caption Joe Marston says Alberta has lost too much money under the past PC government

Things have hardly improved since then, with the oil price collapse reducing revenues to the province by 36% since 2014.

Still, some in Alberta are not convinced.

So Marston took to the podium at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Friday to argue that the downturn has been more severe because the Tories had a surplus in 2013-14 and then borrowed to cover a lost year.

“We have a surplus this year, even when you consider those deficits we have been recording,” he said.

Image copyright Dan Balilty/AP Image caption Kenney campaigned on a similar theme to Mr Marston

By removing subsidies for other energy projects like wind farms and hydro plants, the new Progressive Conservative government intends to end Alberta’s reliance on oil.

Mr Marston appealed to voters to give him a chance. He argued the Tories could change the status quo by becoming more business-friendly.

But he seemed to seek universal support too, saying Alberta needed to become a more inclusive province, to end racial profiling and to do more to support refugees.

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