Former Premier Ralph Klein once spoke of an Alberta so fundamentally strong, with such a prosperous economy, that it often appeared government was on autopilot.
These words were often used to ridicule the four-term premier, citing a perceived lack of vision for Alberta. I believe history will give Premier Klein the benefit of the doubt. His government eliminated a $3.2 billion deficit and paid down $23 billion in debt, making Alberta the most prosperous jurisdiction in North America.
Autopilot may be a useful tool when you’re flying high, but it is not meant to replace a pilot altogether; certainly not when there are storm clouds on the horizon.
If the Alberta Government’s 1st Quarter Fiscal Update is any indication, a full-blown hurricane has arrived.
According to the update, the government’s consolidated deficit is poised to reach $9.1 billion. The NDP is increasing total spending to a record $50.2 billion, and increasing our province’s debt by 50 per cent to $18.3 billion.
With this crisis reaching a boiling point, one would expect the government to be taking clear steps to address the situation.
Unfortunately, all indications are this government remains on autopilot. A firm date for the introduction of the provincial budget has not been set. Rather, members of the government have opted to take the summer off, allowing them to campaign with their federal NDP counterparts. For instance, Jobs Minister Lori Sigurdson was in BC campaigning for Tom Mulcair at a time when mass layoffs have spiked Alberta’s unemployment.
It’s not just this government’s disregard for the economy that is worrisome. While the NDP siesta continues, important day-to-day business is being ignored.
In August, the government nearly blew off a delegation of leading U.S. policy makers, who travelled to Alberta to tour oilsands operations near Fort McMurray. Only after the Official Opposition offered to host the delegation did the government send Environment Minister Shannon Phillips.
Meanwhile, the government is ignoring basic transparency rules. Under a Treasury Board directive issue last fall, the government must disclose details regarding certain sole-source contracts on a quarterly basis. The NDP has yet to comply with this directive, which is particularly concerning to me in my role as Official Opposition Shadow Minister for Democracy and Accountability.
When it comes to addressing the economic crisis, as well as the day-to-day business of government, our Official Opposition stands ready to help.
It’s time to get to work for all Albertans.
Step one: Turn off the autopilot.