December’s MLA Report

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Cameron Westhead MLA Banff-Cochrane
Cameron Westhead
MLA Banff-Cochrane

Alberta is a resilient province, so at a time when we are all facing a very significant economic shock together, it is important to take stock of how our province is doing, what we’re doing together in the face of our challenges, and to talk about some of our key interests on the national stage.

We’ve seen the price of oil go up and go down before, and we will again. Our government came to office in the face of a textbook demonstration of the economic price Alberta pays for failing to diversify. And everyone in Alberta knows the consequences of that failure.

That is why Premier Peter Lougheed always argued for a much more considered, prudent and systematic energy development strategy so that we wouldn’t be robbed of the benefits of good times by the pressures and costs of unsustainable booms.

As we are all painfully aware, many areas of our economy have been adversely affected by the current crash in prices and investment capital.

As a result, far too many Alberta families are worrying today about their employment and economic security.

Thankfully, Albertans are practical, entrepreneurial, innovative, and community-minded people. So we’re going to set a new and better course for our province. We’re going to tackle our challenges with the same hopeful optimism that built Alberta and has seen it through many challenges in the past. We are going to build a province our children and grandchildren will be proud of.

The idea advanced by some is that we should deal with the drop in the international price of oil by imposing deep cutbacks to our health care and our children’s education. That was tried in the past, and it failed. There are those who want to go back to those days. But the people of Alberta don’t. And this government won’t. Health care and education are safe in our hands.

With this being said, it does not mean we don’t face a serious fiscal situation. Provincial revenues in Alberta have dropped by almost 15%. The provincial government can serve as an economic “shock absorber”… for a time.

But as our economy improves in coming years, the provincial budget is going to have to come back into balance too. That means we can protect health care and education. But that also means we are very unlikely to have headroom for major new spending proposals until recovery arrives.

So that means stability – but not big increases – in all public budgets, until better times return. Stability is the watchword.

Asking people to do more with less has been a common refrain in many sectors for years. But asking people to do that with erratic and volatile funding levels is not right and bound to fail. That’s been our history in Alberta, but it doesn’t have to be our future.

As we do this work, we remain focused on the jobs and economic diversification that will help us emerge from this downturn stronger than ever. But we’re not going to diversify our economy and make it more resilient overnight.

Our government has been speaking out clearly on these issues since we were elected. We will be working with focus and determination to get the job done. That is what the people of Alberta are looking for from their provincial government.

They want a government that keeps its promises, and works in the public interest with focus and determination to get the job done. Together, we are addressing the real issues that lie before Alberta: the need to diversify our economy, to do a better job on education, and the need to act decisively on climate change.

We’re working together to build a better future for our families, our children and our grandchildren. Building on the legacy of those who came before.

We all share a love and pride of Alberta. Our home. A cornerstone of Canada. A province that has led before, and will lead again.

Cameron Westhead
MLA for Banff-Cochrane