‘Getting back on our feet’: Rachel Notley talks energy, health care, education in state-of-the-province address
Premier Rachel delivered her state-of-the-province address in Calgary on Wednesday, focusing on a the diversification of the province’s energy economy and continued investment in health care and education.
On Jim Prentice:
Notley started her speech on a sombre note, addressing the sudden passing of former premier Jim Prentice last week.
“My family knows the pain the Prentice family and the families of other crash victims are going through,” Notley said, in an apparent reference to her father, who also died in a plane crash.
Notley also spoke highly about advice and support Prentice provided in her transition to becoming premier following the last provincial election, his relationship with indigenous people across the country, and his expansion of Canada’s national parks system.
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley opened her State of Alberta address by thanking Albertans, Canadians, and offering condolences after the death of former premier Jim Prentice.
“Nobody knocks Alberta down for long. We’re getting back on our feet.”
Notley spoke at length about the impact the price of oil has had on Albertans and a need to diversify the economy and the types of energy the province produces.
“Being so heavily dependent on one product, sold at one price, to one market – leaves us far too vulnerable to the ups and downs of an international oil market over which we have exactly zero control.”
Last February the province announced a $500-million incentives program for would-be petrochemical facilities in Alberta’s industrial heartland. The idea was to offset Alberta’s high construction costs by offering royalty credits for petrochemical plant operators.
She stood by her decision to introduce provincial carbon taxes, a move which takes effect Jan. 1, only days after a federal decision on pricing carbon is expected.
A statement issued by Wildrose leader Brian Jean Wednesday afternoon said, “Alberta should be scrapping its plans for a carbon tax that will come into place in just over two months. This tax will do serious damage to Alberta’s economy and our ability to compete with other jurisdictions.”
WATCH ABOVE: During her State of the Province address, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said “we need to take control of the climate change issue, before it takes control of us” when speaking on the Climate Leadership Plan.
She said her government would be “spelling out a framework” for a conversion from a coal-dependent system to a cleaner power production model this fall.
Notley also spoke of the importance of securing new overseas trading partners for Alberta and getting access to tidewater. She suggested she is waiting on decisions around pipelines from the federal government.
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley spoke to ending Alberta’s landlock when it comes to being able to sell to a global market.
On heath care and education:
Notley said her government is managing the province’s economic losses without cutbacks to public services like health care and education.
“When someone in a family is diagnosed with a serious illness, they don’t want a lecture about the price of oil.”
Notley referenced the construction of Calgary’s new Tom Baker Cancer Centre, slated for next year, as an example of her government’s commitment to improving care. She also suggested the construction would provide hundreds of jobs as the unemployment rate continues to skyrocket.
She spoke highly about the government’s agreement last week with the Alberta Medical Association to hold spending increases to about two per cent through 2018.
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says her government will not make Alberta’s situation worse by making kneejerk cutbacks to public services.
She also suggested that Albertans’ access to good education “is arguably the single most important investment the government of Alberta cane make in the cause of building a better, more diversified, more value-added and more resilient economy.”
Earlier Wednesday, the NDP announced an extension to Alberta’s tuition freeze until the fall of 2018. The freeze started in 2015.
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says Alberta’s education system needs “careful, focused attention on building on our strengths… and doing a better job” during her State of the Province address.
On managing the budget:
Notley said provincial revenues have dropped by almost 15 per cent.
While she suggested the government could act as a “shock absorber” for a time, she also noted that the provincial budget would have to eventually come back into balance.
“We are very unlikely to have headroom for major new spending proposals until recovery arrives.”
Notley also suggested her government’s increases to borrowing limits will support employment and growth.
She promised legislation would be coming soon to support tax credits that would help entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized businesses get access to capital.
In response, the leader of the opposition called the NDP’s budget unsustainable and said it would lead to higher tax increases for families.
“Instead of focusing on how to make government more expensive and unsustainable, Alberta needs to take serious steps to reduce our deficit and skyrocketing levels of debt,” Jean said.
Notley stood by her decision to increase Alberta’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018, “so that better times will be widely shared, and no one will be left behind.” The move has been highly criticized by some Alberta business owners.
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says her government is going to set a new and better course for the province, in her State of the Province Address Wednesday.
On Fort McMurray:
Notley used Fort McMurray’s ongoing recovery from a massive wildfire last May as an example of the province’s resiliency.
“When, in dark economic times, we need to look for inspiration, we can find it in the incredible heroism and dedication of our first responders, of the volunteers in Fort McMurray and throughout the province, and in the resilience of the people of Fort McMurray themselves,” Notley said.
Notley called Calgary “a city that drives our national economy and doesn’t back down from any challenge.”
Speaking from the city’s Jack Singer Concert Hall, Notley said Calgary and the province are facing “a very significant economic shock together.”
She promised the development of Calgary’s southwest ring road will support over 8,500 person-years of employment over the next five years.
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley ends her State of Alberta address by saying Alberta will lead again.