Alison Redford has decided to go to the airwaves to address Alberta on the dilemma facing her budget deliberations due to declining oil prices. In Redford's budget, passed prior to last year's election, the province used a $100 a barrel for a benchmark for oil revenues. This was a gross overestimate, since oil prices have only reached the $100 a barrel benchmark four times historically.
The address, which will take place at 6:52 p.m. MST on Thursday, will last eight minutes and will be broadcast on CTV Edmonton and Calgary.
. During the tenure of former Premier Ralph Klein, fireside addresses to Alberta on the state of the province were common. The practice was discontinued by Ed Stelmach, who premiered prior to Alison Redford.
Redford is expected to address rapidly dropping revenues and their effect on Alberta finances. In an e-mail message to her party members, Redford said that will start a conversation with Albertans about the challenges the province faces.
"In this year’s budget," the premier's email to the party loyalists went on, "we'll hold the line on our spending and we’ll live within our means." But she also promised "to focus our spending on the priorities that you told me were important. And that is exactly what we'll do."
In her statement Redford assured that she will continue to invest in services that support families and communities, having received a clear mandate from Albertans.
“You told us to continue building the new roads, schools and health facilities we need. And we are listening,” she said in the statement.
“Despite falling oil revenues, I give you my commitment that as we deliver our long-term economic plan for Alberta, we will be thoughtful in our approach and we will deliver on these priorities. In this year’s budget, we’ll hold the line on our spending and we’ll live within our means.”
Opposition parties were surprised by the premier's announcement, with NDP leader Brian Mason saying that Redford was trying to soften the blow ahead of her budget to be introduced on March Th. Raj Sherman. leader of the Liberal Party said that he found it troubling that the Premier would address Albertans via a television rather than at a throne speech.
The Wildrose official opposition leader, Danielle Smith, said that she was looking forward to hearing what Redford will say. The Wildrose Party has been questioning the progressive conservative government for some time on declining revenues.
While Alberta has a robust economy, compared to other provinces, declining oil revenues have had the effect of putting a lid on Redford's election promises. While holding the line on spending and living within our means, Redford may very well have to break her promise not to raise taxes. In any event there will have to be some deep cuts in some of the program spending.
According to rabble.ca
, some of the cuts have already started. The Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE) announced yesterday that it had been notified of the cut of 48 Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), which will accommodate a $3-million budget cut to Capital Care Incorporated, a directly owned long-term-care subsidiary of Alberta Health Services.
It is obvious that Redford made promises she can't keep and she should have known better than estimating $100 a barrel of oil. Alberta's bitumen oil is trading for $40 less than West Texas sweet crude. The loss of oil revenue has also affected Canada's GDP, according to Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney.
Albertans should brace themselves for cuts and possible increases in tax. This is when Alison's fantasy meets reality.