EDMONTON – Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne came to Alberta to talk environment but instead found herself publicly ridiculed on the floor of the legislature as the leader of a failed, debt-ridden enterprise.
As Wynne looked on from the Speaker’s gallery during question period Thursday, the opposition Wildrose party demanded to know why Wynne, a Liberal, was invited while right-centrist and next-door-neighbour Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was not.
“Invite Premier Wall here! Invite Premier Wall,” Wildrose finance critic Derek Fildebrandt shouted at Premier Rachel Notley as she tried to answer a question.
At one point government house leader Brian Mason looked across the aisle at Fildebrandt and said matter-of-factly, “you are so tacky.”
Fildebrandt held up Ontario as an example of what not to do in government given that Alberta is now moving to rack up high debt loads to pay for capital and operating spending.
“Currently Ontario has the largest subnational sovereign debt on the planet,” Fildebrandt told the house.
“They’re now even receiving equalization payments. It’s an example of what happens when a government fails to get its spending under control.”
Fildebrandt labelled Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions plan a failure and demanded to know if Notley supported it.
“For power consumers it’s meant skyrocketing power bills, massive subsidies to unprofitable initiatives, and auditor general reports into billions of wasted tax dollars,” he said.
Fildebrandt’s comments had NDP members visibly seething on their side of the house. Wynne, for the most part, sat expressionless, save for the occasional wry smile.
Notley eventually had enough.
“In the past, when Alberta has actually been able to play a leadership role in the country, they have done so by being grown ups,” she said.
“Just today we have had demonstrated to all Albertans very clearly why these folks over there (the Wildrose) are simply not ready to govern.”
Wynne also sat through a stirring tribute to former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, delivered by Wildrose member Jason Nixon.
“Stephen Harper is a man of integrity and history will remember that,” Nixon told the house, throwing occasional glances up to Wynne.
“Prime Minister Harper has dedicated his life to serving Canadians. “I humbly thank prime minister Harper for his service to this great country.”
Earlier in the question period, when Wynne was introduced to the house, the NDP and the Progressive Conservatives, along with Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark, stood to applaud her.
About half the 22-member Wildrose caucus stood to applaud as well. The rest, including Leader Brian Jean, chose to sit and pound on their desks to express their welcome.
Progressive Conservative Leader Ric McIver was not in the house. The lone Liberal, David Swann, arrived late and missed Wynne’s introduction.
Earlier Thursday, Wynne met with Notley and later, to reporters, praised Notley’s climate change plan.
Wynne said Notley’s blueprint to reduce Alberta’s carbon footprint gives the province more social licence to pitch for more energy infrastructure such as pipelines.
Wynne said Alberta’s actions also benefit the rest of the country as it wrestles with issues surrounding environmentally responsible development.
Ontario is soon rolling out its own climate change plan.
The premiers also announced a plan to pursue joint initiatives in areas such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ramping up renewable energy use.
Notley’s government is implementing a climate plan that includes a broad-based carbon tax, a cap on oilsands emissions and the phase out of coal-fired electricity.