What I Believe
At a young age, I decided to devote my life to public service. I was driven by a passion to renew Canada's promise as a land of opportunity, so that every one of us - especially those who are least fortunate - can realize their God-given potential.
It is because we are the inheritors of a great tradition of ordered liberty based on the dignity of the human person, incarnated in certain institutions and customs like:
- The rule of law
- Limited government
- The sanctity of property and contract
From these principles have come the brilliant achievements of free markets, free enterprise, and democratic capitalism. Of innovation and prosperity. All of which have allowed human freedom to flourish, to lift countless women and men out of poverty and despair, to realize the greatness of their potential.
In politics we may forget what we are about, and we may lose track of the first principles that move us towards public service.
Still, the rule of law, limited government, and the sanctity of property & contract remain my first principles.
I am a conservative because I believe we have an obligation to transmit and renew the traditions of ordered liberty help to make Canada the envy of the world.
Fighting for These Principles
This is what I have worked to do since first arriving here in Alberta some twenty-five years ago as a wet behind-the-ears youngster, to help start the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF).
During this time, government was growing and freedom was shrinking.
Governments at all levels were raising taxes, running huge and growing deficits, racking up massive debts on future generations.
The CTF gave voice to the silent majority of Albertans who were fed up with governments taking nearly half of their families' incomes.
Similarly, the Reform Party did the unthinkable at the federal level, and openly campaigned on spending restraint to balance the budget, and reduce the tax burden.
And then, lo and behold, the most remarkable leader emerged right here in Alberta: our late, great Ralph Klein.
Ralph did the impossible. In the space of just two years he eliminated the biggest provincial deficit in Canada. He then eliminated the debt, brought in the flat tax, and gave Albertans more choice and convenience in their public services.
And he did much of this while oil was as low as $10 a barrel!
As a young twenty-something head of the Taxpayers Federation, those were heady days.
Ralph and I famously squared off in front of the TV cameras on more than one occasion. But when he was wrong, he admitted it. And on issue after issue, he listened, took my advice and turned it into sound government policy.
One morning I held a news conference and called for "No More Boondoggles" legislation to ban government grants to private businesses. Ralph called me up that afternoon, and said, "come see me at my condo." Over a beer or two, I outlined my proposal. He said, "It makes sense to me." And our proposal became law within weeks.
The same thing happened with my suggestions for Taxpayer Protection Legislation, Balanced Budget Legislation, pension reform, and the flat tax.
I learned then that if you had a good idea backed by the people it could be unstoppable.
Especially when you had a Premier with a surplus of common sense who truly governed for the people.
As President of the Taxpayers Federation, I went on to fight the same fight at the national level, pressing the Chretien government to stop Canada from going over the fiscal cliff in the mid 1990s.
When the Liberals released trial balloons about major tax increases, I sprang into action with a series of "No More Taxes" rallies across Canada. And in what now seems like a political miracle, the Liberals listened to Canadians, by cutting spending, balancing the budget, and, eventually, reducing taxes.
The Liberals deserved credit, but so too did Ralph Klein by demonstrating that Canadians would reward rather than punish politicians who put our finances in order.
I was emboldened by these experiences when I decided to take the fight for more freedom to the front lines in Parliament.
I did so in part because I wanted to promote unity amongst federal conservatives, so that vote splitting between the Reform and PC parties would not lead to permanent Liberal governments.
Preston Manning asked me to head-up the United Alternative project, crisscrossing the country trying to find common ground for unity between Tories and Reformers.
I learned that no amount of goodwill at the local level could overcome obstinate leadership. Thousands of grassroots Tories wanted to stop the division, but a small group of insiders shut them down at every turn.
Eventually two courageous leaders stepped forward: Peter MacKay and Stephen Harper.
Both had the vision to look forward with confidence, rather than backward with bitterness.
They focused on what united us, rather than what divided us.
These two realized that the future of Canadian conservatism, and in some ways the vitality of our democracy, demanded unity through strong leadership. Leadership which led to the creation of the Conservative Party of Canada thirteen years ago, and to the longest-serving Conservative government in the twentieth century!
I was honoured to join a government:
- That cut the federal tax burden to its lowest level in six decades.
- That gave Canada the strongest economy in the G7 through the global crisis
- That restored balance to the justice system
- That gave Canada a strong and principled voice in world affairs
- That gave prairie farmers marketing freedom, scrapped the long gun registry, and did so much else to expand human freedom
I was honoured to serve as Canada's longest-serving Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, implementing fundamental reforms to help new Canadians succeed, while strengthening the fairness and integrity of the system.
I was honoured to serve as Minister of Employment, where I launched a skills agenda to boost trades training, and implemented the Canada Jobs Grant; and
And I was honoured to serve as Minister of National Defence, working with our brave men and women in uniform, and deploying the Canadian Armed Forces to take the fight to ISIL in the Middle East, and to Ukraine to strengthen that country's defenses.
But perhaps the most enriching challenge during the past decade has been working with a remarkable team to reach out to new Canadians, and members of our cultural communities, turning hundreds of thousands of natural small-c conservatives into big-C Conservatives.
I was constantly inspired by the stories of so many new Canadians who had overcome adversity to make Canada their new home.
I am also proud to say that over three elections we doubled the Conservative vote amongst new Canadians, and became the only centre-right party in the developed world to win a higher percentage of votes from immigrants than native-born citizens!
After months of consultation, I have come to the conclusion that there is only one way to eliminate the risk of a second NDP term.
There is only one way to ensure that we defeat the NDP in 2019, get this province back on the right track, and restore the Alberta Advantage.
We must unite Albertans around a common cause--around a united, principled, compassionate, and diverse free-enterprise party.
We must unite Alberta. Will you join me?