The crowd who gathered at a Sylvan Lake Chamber luncheon to listen to the finance minister’s take on Alberta’s future as oil prices continue to plunge were not given any definitive answers, but the message presented was not all doom and gloom.
Alberta Finance Minister Robin Campbell assured those in attendance at the luncheon held last Friday at Hockey Central that government officials now at the helm of the province were capable and trustworthy. He stressed that Albertans could rest assured there wouldn’t be a repeat of past mistakes such as drastic cuts to infrastructure.
“Our government’s not going to make that mistake again,” he said.
However, the finance minister stressed today’s government is looking at “sound fiscal management,” adding programs and initiatives such as the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) need to be reviewed.
“MSI has to go to communities that actually need it,’ he said.
Health care, human services, education from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and post-secondary education remain the government’s priority, he said, adding the population is continuing to expand, which means the construction of new schools will be necessary.
“We are the only province that has more assets than liabilities,” he said.
“Everyone realizes oil prices are a challenge, but Albertans are amazingly strong and resilient,” he added.
While he said neither he nor the premier are in favour of a sales tax, he noted the possibility hasn’t been eliminated, nor has bringing back health care premiums.
Campbell plans to travel across the province to speak to communities about the province’s economic future.
Sylvan Lake Mayor Sean McIntyre and town council met with Campbell after the meeting.
“He listened to our concerns and we talked in length about urgent care,” said McIntyre, noting he is expecting the health minister to visit Sylvan Lake to talk about ensuing plans before spring.
McIntyre said he was encouraged by the meeting, noting that although the minster has stressed a no-frills budget was forthcoming, it didn’t appear projects planned for Sylvan Lake were in jeopardy.
He said he is confident a school planned to be constructed on Beacon Hill is on schedule, the MSI grant for 2015 should be intact and there are no planned changes to a CFEP grant.
Funding for the Water for Life program should also continue, he said.
“There didn’t seem to be any bad news for Sylvan Lake,” he said.