Alberta leadership contender Jim Prentice promises term limits

Alberta leadership contender Jim Prentice has promised term limits for MLAs and the premier, among other things, at a Thursday announcement.

See a wrap of the speech below.

Here’s a mobile version of the live coverage.

Prentice’s speaking notes are below.

Prentice speaking notes:

I am going to speak frankly today about the challenges that confront our party – and will test the resolve, skill and integrity of our next leader.

This is a tough time for Progressive Conservatives in Alberta. We all know it.

The bond of trust between the government and the people of our province has been broken.

During the past few years, I watched as the government lost its way.

Over the past several months, I have learned first hand from Albertans the full scope of their dismay and frustration.

I not only understand their feelings – I share them.

Like many of you, I read with disbelief and disappointment the findings of the Auditor General.

Not having been around the cabinet table, nor in caucus, I can’t speak to why certain decisions were made – or why they weren’t challenged.

But I do know this: I don’t get angry very often – I’ve found over time that it’s not a particularly useful emotion.

But this time, reading the Auditor’s report, I got angry.

I’m sure many of you got angry, too.

There is no place in politics for those who would abuse the public trust.

There is also no point in beating around the bush when it comes to how best to fix this.

Simply put, I don’t believe this mess can be cleaned up by someone who was on the inside, sitting at the cabinet table as decisions were being made.

Our party needs a clean break and a fresh start.

It needs a new voice to chart a new course forward – a voice of experience, a proven leader with a strong record of service and sound management in both the public and private sectors.

It needs someone from the outside who can come in without any baggage or involvement, make the tough decisions and begin to regain the trust of Albertans.

In some ways, I am an unlikely choice to seek the leadership of our party.

My father was a miner. He didn’t want me to go into politics. He was a humble, hard-working man and, frankly, he would sooner have walked across the street than willingly encounter a politician.

As some of you will know, my Dad died after a long struggle with Lou Gehrig’s disease – just as my career in politics was beginning.

My mother told me that in his final months, he would cry while watching me on television. Not out of sorrow, but out of a pride he didn’t expect to feel.

He still didn’t like politicians – but he liked his politician … his son. He respected and was proud of the choice I had made.

When I first went into public life, I made my father one promise: I pledged that I would honour and always protect the family name – my name and his name.

That promise guided me during my years of service as a Member of Parliament from Calgary.

It guided me during my time at the cabinet table in the government of Stephen Harper, where I served in a number of senior portfolios, earning the Prime Minister’s trust.

It helped shape the decisions I made, the advice I gave and the policy positions I defended.

I have always been honoured that the Prime Minister described me as the “chief operating officer of the Government of Canada.”

Over the years, during my time in politics and in the private sector, I have made a point of encouraging young people to enter public life – and I’ve made a point of counseling those who choose to do so.

And I always tell them: Politics is a test of talent, of endurance, of ability and sometimes of patience.

But above all it is a test of character.

Upon entering public life, it is important to remember: You bring one thing with you when you enter into politics your integrity and your reputation. And when you leave, that is all you bring with you: your integrity and your reputation.

That state of your reputation depends on the decisions you’ve made and the path you’ve chosen while you were in public life.

To those I would counsel, I’d say: Never stop listening to your own sense of right and wrong. No benefit is worth any toll exacted on your reputation or integrity.

I tell you all this for a reason. There are lots of pressures when you are at the cabinet table but you alone are accountable to stand up publicly and speak if things are happening are wrong. Over the last 2 years Albertans have not seen that from their government and that it was they are angry.

I have already demonstrated that I will always be truthful and transparent even when some commentators claim it is not politically wise to do so.

If I am entrusted to serve as Premier, I will make the tough decisions that need to be made.

Under my leadership, my government will restore public trust by improving accountability and governance, and by changing the rules and the culture to ensure an end to entitlement.

As Premier, I will introduce clear rules to change the way things are done.

I will enforce these rules with discipline and vigor.

That is why one of my first actions if I am elected as your Premier will be to introduce an Accountability Act.

I have previously committed that the first Bill that my government will introduce will be a Bill to protect the property rights of our citizens, the second bill will be an Accountability Act that will codify my commitment to Albertans.

I will put in place – and enforce – new rules to ensure the highest ethical standards and accountability among those who serve the public

There will be term limits. A limit of two terms for the Premier and three terms for MLAs.

Cooling off periods for Ministerial staff and employees of the public service will be increased, automatic severances will be eliminated, senior public service employees will not retire one day only to be rehired the next as a consultant. I will also put an end to sole-source contracts – and to lobbyists being hired as consultants by the very same government they are trying to influence.

As Premier, I will treat the public treasury with care and common sense, and I will begin by reducing the size of cabinet.

I will make certain that people are hired based on merit, not connections.

I will work with the Auditor General to determine if it makes economic sense for the government to own airplanes. Commercial flights should be taken whenever possible. And we will examine the most cost effective way to reach rural Albertans with air service. If the economic case cannot be made those planes will be sold.

In any event I will prohibit the use of government aircraft for any purpose other than government business.

For instance, as Premier I will not be flying on a government plane between Calgary and Edmonton, and neither will anyone else in my government.

At all times I will be guided by the belief that It is called public service for a reason – and if you are part of my government you will be held to the standard of being in the service of Alberta.

Public service should not be servitude. But neither should it be a path to personal enrichment. Under my watch, principles will prevail – as they always have during my career.

Over the summer, I have received a few phone calls… yes, I’m old enough that I use my phone for talking… calls from friends asking me if I regret my decision to enter this race, given the state of our party and its current standing among the people of Alberta.

And I’ve told them what I will tell you here today:

My enthusiasm to serve as party leader and as Premier has only grown.

My determination to restore public faith in government has only grown.

My passion for helping our province and our people achieve their potential has only grown.

For me, the great thing about this campaign has been the opportunity to put my jeans and cowboy boots on and spend the summer meeting with the people that matter, the men and women of Alberta who building this province each and every day.

In every place, in every gathering, I’ve found this to be a province of honest, strong-willed, hardworking and independent-minded people. People of character.

Albertans can be pretty straight with you when it comes to what they want from their elected representatives. They want honesty and hard work. They want straight talk. They want their politicians to understand the difference between right and wrong, and behave accordingly.

Out in real Alberta, away from the legislature, people are immune to the affliction that Premier Klein called “Dome Disease”. They don’t like gotcha politics and they are sick of the negative tone coming out of the legislature.

They know what they want and they aren’t shy about sharing their feelings.

They want their voices heard.

They want their concerns addressed.

They want a return to good government – a government that acts with integrity and strives to be a role model for others across our country.

They want a Premier who reflects their values, shares their hopes and understands where the world is heading – and how Alberta can make the most of its domestic and global opportunities, in energy and in other important industries.

They understand that we are at a critical point as a province.

The decisions we make in the coming few years will help define the scope of our success in the decades ahead.

Today, thanks to the people I’ve met along the way, I’m more determined than ever to fight for this province and to serve its people.

I am never going to be someone who stands on the sidelines, making allegations and political hay. It’s just not who I am.

Instead, I will always be eager to roll up my sleeves and get to work, bringing change where change is needed.

It has always been simple to sling mud – and it’s easier than ever with today’s technology. All you need is a Twitter account, a computer and a little free time.

It’s easy to be negative. It’s harder to build. I choose to build.

It’s easy to point to a problem. It’s harder to find a solution. I choose to solve the problems that confront us.

As Progressive Conservatives, we take rightful pride in being the party of Peter Lougheed – but these are not the 1970s.

We take rightful pride in being the party of Ralph Klein – but these are not the 1990s.

The strength of our party over time has been its ability to adapt to reflect our growing province and our changing priorities.

But today, the government is out of touch. It has lost the trust of Albertans, and lost its connection with the people – with their needs, their hopes and their dreams.

The future of the Progressive Conservative party begins with the decision that you make as members on Sept. 6.

With a new voice and principled leadership, we can begin to regain the confidence of Albertans.

We can begin to regain the respect of Albertans.

We can begin to regain the trust of Albertans.

But first we must take back our party and set it right.

It is time to channel our anger into positive and lasting change.

It is time to clean things up so we can focus all of our efforts, all of our creativity and all of our passion on making Alberta the best it can be.

Voters will no longer support us out of habit or tradition – we must win back their confidence and earn every vote.

And you know what? That’s the way it should be.

We should be proud of our party’s history – but we should never rely on legacy as a substitute for good, new ideas and principled, ethical leadership.

My first day on the job, and every day that follows, I will work to strengthen the faith and confidence of Albertans in the government that represents them.

Ours will be a government not only of prudence and ethics but also of creativity and innovation. We will exercise care and common sense in the management of public funds. We will repair the bond of trust between government and public.

But we will not overlook the fact that Alberta has before it, right now, an opportunity to achieve great things.

This opportunity can be realized only with a clear plan, strong leadership, hard work and the very best of what Albertans have to offer.

I believe the Progressive Conservative party represents the best way forward for our province at a critical moment in its history.

To the role of party leader and premier, I bring experience – in the intricacies of policy, the workings of government and the importance of foresight, planning and vigilance.

I bring a personal ethic of responsible management – some may go so far as to call it frugality.

From my time in the private sector, I bring knowledge – of this province and the challenges it faces; and of the wider world, and the trends that will influence our economy in the years ahead.

And I bring something else – I bring a sense of optimism.

We are, today, a province of such great possibility.

Travelling our province this summer, I have met so many people – and young people in particular – who are eager to engage and help build our province for the better.

Alberta has always been a natural home for bold new approaches. We can and should be bold. We can and will be the most dynamic, most creative and most successful province in the land.

That is the path to lasting prosperity, for today and tomorrow alike.

Thank you.

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