CALGARY — Premier Jason Kenney has launched a campaign to attract skilled workers from Toronto and Vancouver as he doubled down on his criticism of the so-called Alberta Sovereignty Act put forward by one of the candidates running to replace him.
Kenney held a news conference Monday to announce the United Conservative government’s new program, dubbed “Alberta is Calling,” to recruit skilled workers with a marketing campaign touting the province’s lowest taxes, affordable housing, shorter commutes and proximity to the Rocky Mountains. The $2.6 million effort is to include social media, radio, and billboard ads in high-traffic areas.
“What did the Albertan say to the Vancouverite? You are hired”, reads one of the screens.
“It’s mountain weather somewhere,” says one addressed to the Greater Toronto Area.
“Alberta is back in a big way, but one of the biggest challenges in sustaining that incredible growth is having enough people fill the jobs that are being created,” Kenney said.
“As far as problems go, he’s pretty good to have.”
The campaign launch comes after Kenney said on his weekend radio show that a key promise in one of the candidates’ platform to succeed him as leader and prime minister was “crazy”.
Candidate Danielle Smith has said that if she wins the leadership, she will introduce a bill this fall to give Alberta the power to ignore federal laws and court rulings deemed not in the province’s interest. Legal scholars say such a bill would be illegal, unenforceable and a dangerous derogation from respect for the rule of law.
“A government or legislature that pursues this de facto plan for separatism would end the huge economic momentum in this province,” Kenney said.
Kenney said he is certain that even if the legislature passed the law, the lieutenant governor would refuse to give it royal approval and Alberta would become a “laughing stock.”
Smith reprimanded Kenney in a statement Sunday for “interfering” in the leadership race, saying his comments were “misinformed and disrespectful to a large and growing majority of PCU members who support this important initiative.”
Kenney said Monday that he is not interfering with the leadership campaign, but simply asserting his position on an important public policy issue.
“This government was elected with a commitment to create jobs, grow the economy and build pipelines,” he said. “This supposed sovereignty law would be a serious blow to all three things.
Kenney said the proposed law goes against what the provincial government was elected to do by driving investment away and driving people away, as well as hurting the campaign to bring people to Alberta.
“Here we are launching a campaign for Canadians to move to another part of Canada,” he said. “If Alberta did decide to launch a separatist project, I think it would automatically exclude a lot of Canadians.
“On the contrary, instead of being able to attract people, we would start to bleed to death.”
He said that is not theoretical because of what happened in Quebec in 1976 when René Levesque and the Parti Quebecois were elected on a separatist platform.
“Overnight, Quebec began to hemorrhage people, money and investments,” Kenney said.
Kenney also sent a message to concerned Albertans about a plan to bring in more workers: Most Albertans have come from other parts of Canada or the world and the new workers would benefit the province.
Kenney said he understands that some may feel resentful.
“I think we’re welcoming, but sometimes I hear that complaint: ‘I can’t find a job. Why do you give away our works? I’ll tell you there are plenty of jobs available in Alberta right now.”