Q: The Wildrose have already come out against this budget. What most concerns you about what the government has presented?
A: Hands down the debt. With the NDP’s own projections – we are looking at $71 billion in debt by the next election. Those projections are based on the price of oil being higher then it already is. It is quite feasible that we will end up at the 2019 election with more then $71 billion in debt, which is staggering. There is nothing within the budget that showed the government will take any steps to get our spending under control. We are borrowing against our children’s futures and it is troubling.
Q: The NDP has said this budget creates jobs and improves infrastructure. Why do you believe this is untrue?
A: They have shown no detailed plan about how they will create jobs. The NDP has been saying that for the last two years but with their current mandate – we have over 100,000 people on EI in our province, not counting all the contractors that have lost work. Communities like mine – Rimbey, Rocky Mountain House, Sundre – are being devastated right now. People are struggling to make ends meet and there has been no concrete action on jobs from what we have seen and there is nothing within the budget that shows the NDP will be changing their biggest issue, which is to bring a stable investment market to our province. They have created more instability. I suspect we will see another credit downgrade and all these things bode well for bringing in investment to create jobs in our communities.
Q: How would the Wildrose go about improving infrastructure and creating jobs?
A: The concern with this budget is not creating infrastructure – it is that no where else are we trying to find efficiencies within our system. A system that has been spending more per capita then any other place in the country. For example, under the PC’s – we spent $2,000 more per capita then in B.C., per person and now under the NDP we are over $2,600 more per capita then our neighbors to the west in B.C. The fact is that we are not finding efficiencies under the current operating system and we continue to borrow money to pay our electricity bills. We can put money into infrastructure – we need to be able to finance our communities and get money to the people who need it so it can be put to work but we also need to find efficiencies in our system where there is waste. Lastly, we need to create a stable investment market and we need to stop the ongoing attack on our largest industry with things like the royalty review and the carbon tax, which have slowed down investment. We have to work on tax policy to attract more small business. We need to focus our time on these things, not on making our province one of the most expensive places in the country to live.
Q: The Wildrose released a statement regarding creditors concerned with this budget. Why does this matter to Albertans?
A: We already saw one credit downgrade under the NDP and I suspect we will see another one unfortunately due to the large debt. This does two things. It increases interest payments and the second being the investment component. It makes Alberta less attractive and less secure for investors to put money into our economy. On the interest payment side, with the debt that the NDP intends to carry – we could run five to six major departments of government just on the interest payments alone. This means we will continue to pay for the NDP’s debt. That is a lot of hospitals, that is a lot of infrastructure and that is a lot of jobs.
Q: The government has pointed out that their budget removes excesses like golf memberships for government agency CEOs and the freezing of salaries for public service management. Is this something that is a more agreeable part of the budget for the Wildrose Party?
A: Certainly. We have pushed for the elimination of perks within government for a long time. We are glad to see the NDP moving on it. We were glad to see the reduction in politicians’ wages and the wage freezes until the end of the term. Those are good steps but unfortunately that is a very small component of the budget. We need to focus on the larger portions in order to get our spending under control. At some point we won’t be able to afford to keep paying our bills.
Q: A new courthouse is being built in Red Deer, something that many have said was badly needed in Central Alberta. Is this one of the better parts of this budget?
A: We have a major problem with our justice system across the province. It is certainly affecting communities like ours. We are seeing a crime epidemic and a revolving door where we are seeing serious cases like DUIs and assaults kicked out because there isn’t enough space, judges or staff to proceed with them. The courthouse is a good first step but there are so many more problems within the system. One is getting judges appointed, which we have been pushing the provinces to work with the feds on. That said, we need to get the right amount of clerks in there to operate the courthouses and we also need to make sure we have proper laws. One of the things I see in my constituency is frustration over individuals who are doing serious crimes in our communities and are being let out in two days. It seems like a revolving door. This is a good step forward but we need the government to make a lot more action on the justice system. Unfortunately because of the economy, it is amplified even more but we have had problems in our communities with the justice system for a long time.
Q: A Wildrose release has said that this budget racks up $72 billion in debt. How can you provide infrastructure and services without running deficits and building debt?
A: The Wildrose plan during the last election was that we knew we would have to run a couple years of deficits. You don’t want to crash the economy with that. The difference is that we have a plan back to a balanced budget. The NDP say they have a plan to get back to balance by 2024, but they haven’t taken the steps to do it and they would need the price of oil to go way back up close to $100 per barrel again. That is not going to happen according to every expert. Sometimes you have to run deficits, we would have had to run a couple of years of deficits if we were in government, but we would begin to immediately reduce spending in areas where we see excess in order to see a balanced budget as fast as possible. I think it is fundamentally wrong to ask Albertans for more money and to borrow money on their behalf without tackling where we know there is spending problems. The government continues to throw money into a black hole without a plan to get us back to a balanced budget. That is not how you run a business and that’s not how you should run a province.
Q: How does the carbon levy affect this budget?
A: I am fundamentally against the carbon tax period. The problem on the budget side is not clear where it is going to go, there are no parameters how to spend the money and there is no clear way to evaluate the success of that money. The exact impact it will have on the economy is hard to predict fully because there is no clear established plan for what the government is doing with it. What I do know is this: it is costing families in excess of $2,000 per year out of there pockets. That is less money that will be spent in our communities and will cause small business owners concerns with their expenses. It will cause municipalities to increase property taxes which will in turn go back onto the people and it will cause trouble for our school boards and charities. The effect that we can tell for sure is going to be negative and it will lower the amount of money that everyday Albertans will be able to spend in our community.
Q: How will the Wildrose work with the government on this budget?
A: The budget process has already started. In two weeks, it will be the estimate process so we will be going over the budget in great detail ministry by ministry to try and show the government ways that we can save money and get our spending under control. We will try to figure out what the government is up to with the budget and pass that information on to Albertans. Ultimately the government has the most votes so they will push through this budget and our job needs to be to come up with a proper solution for the next election to get our province back on track.