Saskiw says PCs 'trying to invent an economic crisis'
As part of a commitment to keeping the lines of communication open with Albertans about major issues, Premier Alison Redford offered a state-of-the-province address last Thursday, as a way to address concerns over lower-than-anticipated oil revenue and “difficult choices” that will have to be made.
Growing oil production in the US, which is the country’s biggest importer of Canadian oil, has resulted in what Redford referred to as a “bitumen bubble” and a loss of about $6 billion in revenue this year alone, which is equivalent to what the province spends on education in a year.
“Alberta has been a steady star in turbulent waters, but even we’re not immune to economic forces beyond our borders,” said Redford on Thursday. She added that Albertans voted in support of a PC government to lead the way in good times and in difficult times.
Local Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw felt that last week’s state-of-the-province address was a waste of taxpayer dollars, and pegged the actual cost of the televised address at $55,000.
“They’re trying to invent an economic crisis when there simply isn’t one,” said Saskiw, adding, “To say the sky has fallen since the election is just false.”
He believes most provinces would love to have the problems Alberta has, with near record revenue expected this year.
“It’s the premier that’s living in a bubble if she think0s that things have drastically changed since the election,” said Saskiw.
In her address Redford said, “Despite falling oil revenues, I give you my commitment that as we deliver our long-term economic plan for Alberta, we will be thoughtful in our approach and we will deliver on these priorities,” which are to continue building Alberta and funding core services.
Redford said it’s not good enough to take an axe to government spending because that puts the most vulnerable at risk, and it’s also not good enough to take the “easy way out” and raise taxes.
As a province, Albertans need to “live within our means” and “hold the line on our spending.” But Redford added that some programs and services will have to change.
The province must continue to fight to get oil to refineries in the US and over to Asia. Getting oil to new markets and selling it at the highest price possible are priorities for the PC government.
“We’ll work through the effects of the bitumen bubble and put Alberta on a more secure footing,” said Redford. She also announced that an economic summit would be held to get experts together, share ideas and find solutions.
Saskiw reiterated what the Wildrose has often said, in that the current PC government has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. He added that the first sacrifice the PC government must make is to roll back the pay raises they plan on giving themselves. He also believes that money for new MLA offices can wait.
“There’s so much waste that we’re seeing right now,” said Saskiw.
The local MLA said that Albertans he had spoken to don’t understand how the province could be in such a poor financial position.