WATCH ABOVE: Alberta’s premier is facing a fire storm after comments he made during a radio interview Wednesday. Tom Vernon explains.
EDMONTON — Comments made by Premier Jim Prentice have not gone over very well with some Albertans, who took to social media to express their disbelief.
While speaking with a radio station on Wednesday, Prentice said all Albertans are responsible for getting the province into a financial mess and everyone has to help clean it up.
“Collectively, we got into this as Albertans and collectively we’re going to get out of it, and everybody is going to have to shoulder some share of the responsibility.”
Those remarks sparked a firestorm on social media, prompting the hashtag #PrenticeBlamesAlbertans — which became the top trending Twitter hashtag in Edmonton, and the second most popular in Canada. It also garnered plenty of reaction on Facebook, and prompted lively debate on Edmonton’s Reddit page.
Scroll down to view some of the most popular tweets.
WATCH: Hear from Marty Chan, the man behind the #PrenticeBlamesAlbertans frenzy
“I think that is a profoundly insulting comment to all Albertans,” said NDP leader Rachel Notley. “If Jim Prentice were to look in the mirror what he’d see is the leader of a very tired 43-year-old government, a government that is completely and totally and solely responsible for the fiscal crisis that we are in right now.
“He’d also see a government that has given away billions of dollars in corporate tax give-aways and tax give-aways to wealthy Albertans and that that is the heart of why we’re in the situation we’re in right now.”
Notley is calling on Prentice to issue an apology to Albertans. She said the Tories need to take responsibilities for their choices.
“These guys are the ones that have made the decisions. It’s their decisions that have put us here.
“How dare they blame the families who are struggling to make ends meet under the circumstances that these folks have created.”
Wildrose leader Heather Forsyth said Prentice’s comments are another example of “talking down to Albertans.”
“At a time many Albertans are worried about the value of their home plummeting, keeping their job or being able to make ends meet, Mr. Prentice’s comments blaming Albertans for being directly at fault for the PC government’s gross fiscal mismanagement shows how deeply out-of-touch this 44-year-old government has become,” said Forsyth.
“It is his government who overspent by over $40 billion for the past decade, it is his government that has failed to ensure we could withstand $50 oil, it is his government that has made Alberta’s politicians and government the most expensive in Canada.”
The Wildrose party is also demanding an apology from the premier for what it calls “condescending comments to all Albertans.”
So, what do Albertans think of his “look in the mirror” comment?
“He’s right,” said Edmontonian Bill Tracy.
“They’ve been in power for that long and they are responsible for our financial situation. How many times have we heard the government say ‘we need to diversify’ and then the price of oil works its way back up again, everybody forgets about diversification, and then it falls and we say ‘we need to diversify.'”
“I think the government needs to look in the mirror,” added Tracy, “every one of them.”
At a news conference in Calgary Thursday afternoon, the finance minister and health minister defended Prentice.
“I think the premier’s comments were that we have a vision,” said Robin Campbell. “We’re going to move forward and everybody’s going to have to pitch in.”
“The premier’s got a vision for the province,” added the finance minister. “I don’t think anyone can take away his passion for the province of Alberta.”
Stephen Mandel feels the comments may have been taken out of context. He interprets them as all of Alberta being in this together.
“When you look in the mirror and say, ‘how can I help?… How do we work as a team to fix this?’ I think that’s what the premier was after,” said the health minister.
“He’s been out in public and working incredibly hard…I think he’s doing a wonderful job in trying to explain to Albertans the challenges we face. I think one of his big messages is we’re all in this together.”
Neither Campbell nor Mandel said they’d heard the interview.
Here are some of the most popular tweets:
Later Thursday afternoon, the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour said Albertans didn’t create the fiscal shortfall. Gil McGowan blames PC tax cuts and royalty rates.
“We’re not facing a budget crunch because of anything individual Albertans did,” McGowan said. “The real problem is that successive PC governments have blown holes in the revenue base we need to fund education, health care and other services that Albertans rely on.”
The premier’s office released a statement Thursday afternoon:
“Yesterday the Premier echoed something he has been communicating to Albertans for a couple of months now: Alberta is going through tough financial times and there will be challenges ahead for all Albertans. We’ve all been fortunate to live in this great province and enjoy the benefits of it. At the same time, we’ve been overspending as a province, and have not had the revenue to put aside for future Albertans-for our children, grandchildren and Albertans not yet born.
“In our current financial situation, the Premier believes the only way we’ll move forward is if we come together. The Premier is laying out a long-term financial plan to fix this problem-for good. The Budget which will be released on March 26, 2015 will detail the problems and our decisive action to address them over the long-term. Every Albertan will know where we are, where we are going and how we will get there-together.”