Jim Prentice says budget will focus on ‘economic diversification’
CALGARY – Alberta Premier Jim Prentice said the budget would be a “10-year fiscal plan” in a media availability after his address at the Rotary Club of Calgary Tuesday afternoon.
“It will be markedly different from what Albertans have seen previously,” said Prentice.
“It will essentially be a financial plan and a business plan that will pave the way for where this province will go in the next 10 years.”
Prentice said economic diversification will be one of the main issues the budget will focus on, “to eliminate our dependency on a single commodity.”
He emphasized online input from a government survey open to Albertans has been taken into consideration, and that he and Finance Minister Robin Campbell are continuing to “solicit everybody’s point of view.”
“The truth is that the cracks in Alberta’s fiscal foundations run deeper than is generally acknowledged,” Prentice said in the speech.
“Yes, we have a revenue problem, but we also have a spending problem. It has been overlooked for too long.”
He again mentioned a $7-billion hole in the coming fiscal year, given that oil prices have been cut in half from a high of more than US$100 a barrel last summer.
In recent weeks, Prentice and members of his cabinet have floated several ideas to raise revenue and cut spending, but have only committed to not increasing corporate taxes or raising oil royalties.
At this point, despite dire predictions about Alberta being plunged into a recession, Prentice believes the province’s pristine credit rating is safe.
“I’m not worried about it in the sense that if we do what we are recommending, we will be fine. If we pursue another path which involves doing nothing, running up $7-billion deficits … this province will lose its triple-A credit rating very quickly,” he said.
“Nobody should be under any doubt that we’ve gone from the highest growth rate in Canada to somewhere near the bottom, so it’s going to be a tougher year for all of us.”
With files from The Canadian Press
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