May 28th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 21
Jim Prentice coming home to campaign
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Jim Prentice
Pass Herald Reporter
On May 21, Jim Prentice launched his bid to lead Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party.
The Pass Herald caught up with Prentice before the onetime Crowsnest resident gave a speech at Calgary’s Stampede grounds to talk about working under the bins, provincial debt and oil pipelines.
Q: How were your experiences in the Crowsnest Pass?
A: I lived in the Crowsnest Pass when I was a university student. My parents moved to Coleman, so for seven summers I would work at Coleman Colliers and later Byron Creek Colliers. That would have been from 1974 to 1981.
For most of those summers I worked under the bins, which was one of the toughest and dirtiest jobs in coal mining in those years. I always tell people; that’s where I learned hard work and how to relate to people.
I look back on those years with nothing but special memories. Many of the friends I made during those years remain some of my best friends. My mother and father have both passed away but they continued to live in the Crowsnest Pass and my sister Lori is a teacher in the high school.
Q: What was the place like in the 1970s and 80s?
A: It’s still a very wonderful, welcoming community but there was a little more economic activity back then.
Coleman Colliers was still functioning. The economy was probably stronger, so we have some work to do there, but it’s always been a friendly community.
The Crowsnest Pass also has a special place in Alberta history. It was the first industrial part of the province and I think it was one of the first and richest multicultural parts of the province and it still carries that tradition.
So for me as an Albertan, it’s a special place. It’s definitely a big part of my roots and my life. I plan to campaign down there over the course of the leadership race, can’t tell you today when that’s going to be.
Q: You plan on paying off the provincial debt in 15 or 20 years, instead of the projected 30. What’s your strategy on that?
A: The real question here is ‘what do we do about the infrastructure deficit in our province?’
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Everywhere you go in Alberta we need new schools, new hospitals, new roads, new public facilities – including senior facilities – and the reason is our population growth has been triple the national average.
Remarkably, Alberta has over 4 million people; we’ll be over 5 million people within ten years. We have an enormous deficit in terms of the public infrastructure that needs to be built.
I’ve made it very clear that in an Alberta that I lead, we will not have our children educated in makeshift schools and second-rate facilities. So, we need to get about the business of building this infrastructure.
It needs to be built over the next five years. Nobody has a mattress with $15-20 billion underneath it. So, this will have to be paid, to some extent, relying on debt markets. That’s how all governments deal with burgeoning infrastructure needs.
We can repay the cost of building all these facilities but we have to keep up with the growth and we’re not doing a good job of that at this point.
Q: Former premier Peter Lougheed publically argued that the oil sands are developing too quickly to be socially beneficial to Albertans. What do you think about that?
A: I don’t think the problem right now is too much energy development.
The risk for us as a province at the moment is if we don’t get some of these pipelines built, to Eastern Canada, into the United States or to the west coast, it will begin to slow activity in this province. That’s the real issue right now.
Q: How has your work with Enbridge Pipelines been going?
A: It’s gone very well.
This whole issue of Alberta getting pipeline access to tidewater off the West Coast of Canada is critical to our future.
Most of the new demand for oil specifically, and natural gas, is in the Asia-Pacific basin. The fastest and most economic way to get our product there is from the West Coast. This is perhaps the single most critical issue we face as a province.
Q: Has your stance changed on this now that China and Russia have signed a $400 billion deal for natural gas?
A: That’s an important signal because it shows the rest of the world is not standing still.
So, we should never think there are no alternatives to our resources. But Canada has a strategic opportunity and we need to pursue this aggressively.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
May 28th ~ Vol. 84 No. 21
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