Gauntlet: What policy decisions have been forwarded this time around to help put the Liberals out in front of the Conservatives?
Kevin Taft: We're actually the first party with a comprehensive platform out there. It covers everything from affordable housing issues to environmental issues, with a particular focus on post-secondary education. One of our fundamental policies is to take a portion of royalties--30 per cent--and use some of the royalties to build up the Heritage Fund. Use another portion to build up a huge endowment for post-secondary education. A fund that could hit $10 billion, and then fifteen and then $20 billion.
G: I've also read about some smaller, more specific plans, including student housing tax cuts?
T: Yes. One of the things that contribute to student housing costs is that residences pay municipal taxes, even though they're run by universities. Our view is that they should be exempt from having to pay and that savings should be passed on to students. The challenges we hear about from students are tuition costs, housing costs, accessibility and quality, and we need to address all of those.
G: You've also talked about Mount Royal "University?"
T: Mount Royal College is within two steps of becoming a university. They need to upgrade their library, they need to make some other adjustments, but having a second university in Calgary is important. It would relieve some of the pressure on the U of C. It would give another option to students and would be a step forward for this city and the province.
G: The big banner discussion about this election has been 37 years of Conservative government. One third of voters in this province say they are undecided. At the same time, this is a province that is very "small c" conservative. How does the Liberal party of Alberta speak to those voters and sway them to their side?
T: In 2004, our campaign drew virtually 30 per cent of voters. We need to get that up into the 43-44 per cent to form a government, and we think we can. How do we do that? We need great local candidates. We also need to demonstrate a fresh energy. Any political party that governs for 37 years is going to get caught up in its internal politics. Everyone's starting to say, "just give them a time-out and let's try somebody new." We're doing everything we can to draw people towards the Alberta Liberals.
G: You present a very positive alternative for a lot of dissatisfied conservatives, but there's also another very viable party, the Alberta New Democrats, that occupy the same side of the spectrum. Would there be any consideration to working together with the New Democrats to form a new government?
T: The New Democrats and the Liberals occupy somewhat different territory. If it comes to a minority situation we'll size up the options at that time. The New Democrats, in the last year almost, have made a particular point of attacking us, over and over and over again. And they've made it pretty hard to work with them. It's hard to cozy up to a porcupine.
G: If a new government does find its way in, there's going to be 37 years of Conservative bureaucracy that's been entrenched there. How do you combat that bureaucracy that's been there forever, those deputy ministers that are so entrenched in those positions?
T: Most of Alberta's public servants are outstanding. At the very senior level, the deputy minister level, that's where positions have become more political and there would be a certain amount of housecleaning there. Everybody expects that at those very top levels.
G: Are you looking forward to a close election?
T: I think it will be a close election and, for the first time in many years, it's genuinely unpredictable. We could see, and I think right now we will see some dramatic shifts. But listen, the Tories have millions of dollars. They've got their hands on the levers of power. They remain the team to beat.
G: Depending on the results of this election, might this be your last election as Alberta Liberal leader?
T: I plan to be leading this party for years to come.