Premier Jim Prentice made a stop in the City last week and spoke to 300 Central Albertans during a Red Deer Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
During his address, Prentice discussed the possibility of a spring election, the newly released provincial budget and the economy.
With the possibility of a spring election, a lawyer in Edmonton had filed an injunction to stop it but that was quashed. Former Premier Alison Redford implemented fixed election dates which would see the next provincial election take place next spring.
“The election legislation is very clear that the lieutenant governor can dissolve the legislation and move to an election if that is the recommendation of the government,” said Prentice.
As for the budget, which was announced last Thursday, Prentice said it was carefully thought out and debated.
“This budget is one that has made conscious choices to protect the future of Alberta and to make sure this remains the best place to live and to raise a family and to prosper in the future,” he said. “The long term perspective is really vital because the challenges that we face in our province right now cannot be dealt with in any other way. Albertans have been clear that they recognize the significant implications of the collapse of oil prices on our economy and on our public finances.
“In Alberta we understand boom and bust cycles. They have been a big part of our history. What we’ve heard from Albertans over the course of the last many months is it’s time to put that part of our history behind us. We’ve reached a point in this province that we need to get off the oil rollercoaster.
“We’re all touched by families and people that we know who have lost employment and by new graduates who cannot find employment. It’s going to be a challenging couple of years.”
He added the province needs a more diversified economy.
“We need to take advantage of the strength of our agricultural sector, our knowledge-based economy – tourism, forestry – and diversify and strengthen our province around those areas.”
Prentice added the government had to make some tough decisions in Budget 2015.
“These are the most serious fiscal challenges we have faced in a generation in our province. We have worked harder on this budget more than any other budget in modern times in this province,” he said. “Amongst the things it outlines is how we are going to resolve one of our biggest challenges – the gap that exists between our spending and our revenue. At the end of the day it has this simplicity about it – there are really only three levers – we can use our savings, our $6 billion contingency account as a shock absorber and we’re certainly doing that; we can restrain spending and thirdly we can increase revenue. It is about that simple. We need to use all three of these levers.”
He added the days ahead will not be easy for the province.
“I’ve often said that Alberta is under new management and I think it’s fair to say that Budget 2015 signifies a major change for our province. It has not been easy. I will not tell you that it has been easy and the days ahead will be easy. But I know this province is up to the challenge. And we will get through this. Alberta will get through this with flying colours and we’ll be tougher and stronger when we are finished.”