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by Trevor Prosser

A convention in Red Deer on Jan. 20 and 21 may, one day, be remembered as the start of something big in Alberta.

The founding convention for the Alberta Independence Party was held that weekend.

Although the party still stands a few hundred signatures short of the required 5,400 names to make them a recognized party in the province, interest in the fledgling party has grown tremendously in the short time since the its inception. Over two hundred people attended the founding convention, much to the delight of Cory Morgan.

Morgan, the interim leader, is a geophysical surveyor employed in Calgary, and a former SAIT student, who had previously been a member of the Reform Party and the Alberta Party.

Morgan knows the road to Alberta independence won't be an easy one to follow, or a quick one.

"We won't separate tomorrow, or next year," Morgan was quoted as saying in the Jan. 21 Calgary Herald. "Perhaps we can negotiate a new union with Canada, but we're going to negotiate a harsh one. We're talking about a whole new role in Confederation, but I'm not here to be soft. We're separatists. We're the Alberta Independence Party."

To that end, the AIP has put together a draft of the party policies, subject to change after the party becomes registered. If elected, the AIP plans to "collect all taxes, provincial and federal and remit to the Federal Government the appropriate amount." They say the province pays "far more than its share into Canada's revenue" but is largely ignored in favour of the politics of Ontario and Quebec. The party also says they are against the Goods and Services Tax, unless the Federal Government starts using the revenues from the GST to pay down the federal debt.

The party also wants to revamp the education system in the province, lowering post-secondary fees for Alberta residents in Alberta schools, and lobbying against GST on textbooks. For younger children, they plan on implementing a voucher system for students. Under this system, the funding would follow the particular student, and the parents would then be free to choose the type of schooling they feel would best benefit them. The party also wants a return to the phonetic system of literacy training, in place of the "whole language" system currently in place.

Other economic points of the draft include the implementation of an Alberta Employment Plan, indirectly inferring that the existing plans are "just another tax." Other taxes, such as personal provincial income tax, are on the chopping block as well. The party also plans to "offset federal disincentives" for any parent who stays home to raise their children, because the AIP feels that "family is the backbone to any society."

The AIP also plans to opt out of the Canada Pension Plan, and implement a provincial substitute that they say will protect the CPP contributions that Albertans have paid so far. There are also plans to set up a Central Bank of Alberta.

Health care policies include the building of more hospitals, and reduced waiting lists in the health care system. To promote direct democracy, citizen initiated referenda and recall of MLAs will be available, and election dates will be preset.

Environmentally, the party wants to promote research into alternative energy sources.

A revamping of the Criminal Justice System would see those people convicted of crimes providing financial compensation to their victims and the removal of some of the "luxuries" provided within the prison system. The party would also like to introduce of a "Two Strikes" law for violent crimes, revamp the Young Offender's Act, and compose Alberta's own Constitution.