He says it all started Dec. 17, 2014 when seven Wildrose Party members – including then-leader Danielle Smith – crossed the floor to sit with the then-governing Progressive Conservatives.
“I think it’s interesting; Dec. 17, (2014) was that day that will live in infamy, so when you look back to think about all that’s happened in the last year, it’s a real roller-coaster for politics, from the floor crossing to the rise and fall of Jim Prentice to the Opposition’s revival,” he said during an interview with the Albertan.
Cooper said the election last May that turfed out the Progressive Conservatives after roughly 40 years in power and resulted in a majority NDP government was a massive change.
In addition, he said, big changes introduced by the new government over the past year such as the royalty review, carbon tax and Bill 6 have “attacked” the oil industry and rural Alberta, resulting in a revitalized Wildrose Party Opposition.
“Basically, the Opposition was believed to be finished in early January last year. No one ever would have believed that what could have happened happened,” he said.
“Even my journey in the last 12 months has been surprising – to go from actively involved in the Edmonton operations to an elected official and now as the house leader. I consider it a real honour and privilege. So it’s been a real roller-coaster.”
“We’ve seen the government in the last six months just implement so many concerning policies for many Albertans,” Cooper said. “We see them in Bill 4 changing the law that allows them to borrow for operational spending, we see a fiscal management plan that at the end of it includes a $50-billion deficit (by the end of the decade).
“We see them introducing a carbon tax (expected to raise $3 billion for green infrastructure and public transit).
Cooper said when the NDP government introduced the carbon tax they said it will be revenue neutral.
The government argued the plan is revenue neutral because all proceeds raised by the plan will be reinvested in the province. However analysts say only part of the revenue raised will go into efforts to reduce pollution.
“Revenue neutral means if you raise taxes by $3 billion, you lower taxes by $3 billion somewhere else,” Cooper said.
“Their definition of revenue neutral is ‘we’re going to spend all of the $3 billion and reinvest it if you will, back into economic diversification,’” he added.
“Well, we’ve seen in the past the successes that governments have had when they reinvest and try to pick winners and losers in business and providing resources to what can sometimes be risky experiments.”
“It had been my hope that the government would not be as ideological as they seemingly are, and so I think in the next six months we can see more of the same,” Cooper said.
Cooper noted the provincial government passed its first budget at the end of November and will already have to introduce a new one by the end of March.
He predicted the carbon tax will officially be introduced in that budget.
“The government likes to say ‘you can’t blame us for the price of oil and you’re right – you can’t,” Cooper said.
“But what’s happening is the government is making all of these what some would say are risky ideological experiments all at a time when our industry is being absolutely crippled. There are job losses clear across the province.
“So what’s happening is our government is making the situation worse instead of trying to do everything they can to stabilize the situation during a very unstable period.”
Cooper said if, during the election, the government had given people a clearer idea of all the changes they were going to introduce, “the election results probably would have been significantly different.”
“When you look back to think about all that’s happened in the last year, it’s a real roller-coaster for politics, from the floor crossing to the rise and fall of Jim Prentice to the Opposition’s revival.”NATHAN COOPER OLDS-DIDSBURY-THREE HILLS MLA