Excerpts of the Provincial Leader’s Address at PCAA AGM in Calgary on March 31, 1984 [Continued from Part VI]

What are these current issues? I see them as seven challenges I want to conclude by setting them forth. The first one is to sustain sound financial management. You may think that is ho-hum but just look at the serious problem of government deficits and of peoples’ expectations. Figure out how hard it is going to be. We have to manage better with less! We have got to get away from this, “I am alright Jack point of view”. On one hand people urge us to spend more money on their favorite program but, on the other hand tell us to cut down on total government expenditures.

A key is public sector wage and salary settlements. Decisions have to be made in a way that recognizes what’s going on in the private sector. We have to constrain both now and in the future, wage and salary settlements in the public sector.

Keep in mind those two out of twelve months funded by the income from the Heritage Savings Trust Fund. Let’s preserve the capital of the Heritage Savings Trust Fund! So, sound financial management, that is the first challenge.

Federal-Provincial Conference of First Ministers

Federal-Provincial Conference of First Ministers

The second challenge is tied directly to a leadership role in Canada. It isn’t just Alberta on this one because we can have a strong financial position. I tell you, if we keep going the way this country is going in terms of health care costs, Canada is going to end up a financial basket-case! We are going to have to show leadership. Yes, it is tough to show leadership when you are isolated at times but we have been there before. To show leadership in constraining health care costs in a multitude of ways, is a challenge not only for the immediate year, but for the years ahead. It requires the cooperation not only of the public, but of all of the people that are involved in the system. Do you know what is at stake? Just make a trip over to the United Kingdom and take a look at how their medical care system is working out. They now have two systems. Friends of Medicare – that is a bunch of nonsense. The real friends of medicare are the people that are trying to make sure that it is a financially sound system. The other Friends of Medicare just want to have a blank cheque. Do you know what’s going to happen, what is happening in the United Kingdom on that issue. Yes, you will have private insurance for those who can afford it and then you will have a less effective, less superior service for those who are involved in the system and can’t afford it. That is not what medicare is all about and I hope we will take that position.

The third challenge involves working with the private sector. Working together on new national economic policies. New national energy policies so that the crucial job producing oil and gas sector faces a tax system not more onerous than other industries in Canada. New national policies involving the marketing of our natural gas. It requires new freight rate approaches and strategies. It involves new ways of encouraging equity financing.

Another challenge is encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit in the province. We have to cut out unnecessary regulations. We have to privatize public services that can be done better by the private sector and we have got to continue to have more dialogue and more good ideas and suggestions from the business groups in this province.

Another challenge is to make a major effort to involve more volunteers. To modify some of the bureaucratic ways, which have discouraged the volunteers, by cutting out the red tape – to challenge some of the existing community groups to become involved in more specific ways – to give them some ideas as to how they could help out, to find new roles for the volunteer in our government and its programs. So, another important challenge is a major effort in our past to get back to where the volunteers are the heart of the community.

The sixth challenge will be controversial. We must modify our school curriculum so the graduates of our educational system are able to compete in the new world marketplace. We have to change fifty years of the accepted view that the major decisions in the educational field should be made by the experts and not the public. That doesn’t mean we are not going to work closely with the people who work in the classroom. But, the ultimate decision making has to rest with the public at large through their elected legislators.

The final challenge of our country. There is only one real future potential for Canada in terms of jobs and prosperity and thus preserving our standard of living. We have to become not the fifth best traders in the world – we have to be the best traders in the whole world. Alberta has a role of leadership to play. This isn’t the sort of thing that is easy to explain but it can be realized for Canada. I don’t know any group in the world that travels more than Albertans. You run into them everywhere. Let’s harness all of this talent, input and knowledge, including from newcomers who have come here and from entrepreneurs who have travelled throughout various parts of the world. Canada has a great opportunity to be the effective traders. We have to change our educational programs in a way that focuses upon training people to be involved in international marketing. We have to find new approaches for business consortium. We have to find new approaches for selling not just our products but our services. We have to say to ourselves, we like those Americans but in the grain trade they are our keen competitors. We have to understand we like those Australians but they are our competitors. We have to go out there in the worlds and sell. Why is a provincial Premier talking about this? I’ll tell you why I am talking about it – because the challenge of the years ahead is a challenge that is going to require some leadership and I believe Alberta, not just myself, not just our government, not just our Party, but the whole province can provide that leadership. We can show the rest of the country how to be the best salesmen in the world.

So, let’s meet these new challenges with good spirit, with confidence and with determination. But, with better communication by all of us of our ideas, the reasons for our decisions and the facts to back them up. Let’s not forget how we got here as a Party – how we sustained the public confidence and how we need to remember our basic concepts and fundamentals in order to further sustain the confidence. We can do so if we remain an open Party, a democratic Party; if we respond pragmatically to the circumstances that we face. If we seek consensus and don’t force confrontation or polarization and if we keep moving – not away from – but towards the mainstream of Canadian life. Finally, we can do so if we as a Party stand behind something that is very dear to me as a principle, the principle of free enterprise, yes, but free enterprise that cares.

E. Peter Lougheed, Calgary, Alberta, March 31, 1984