Jobs and families to be focus of spring sitting of Alberta legislature

by Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press Posted Mar 1, 2017 12:00 pm MDT Last Updated Mar 1, 2017 at 3:40 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Jobs and families to be focus of spring sitting of Alberta legislature EDMONTON – The Alberta government will focus on jobs and families in the spring legislature sitting, but the opposition says it’s about time Premier Rachel Notley gets serious about saving money in an improving economy.The session begins Thursday with a throne speech that will outline the government’s goals and priorities.Finance Minister Joe Ceci is to bring in the 2017-18 budget on March 16.The province is running a $10.8-billion deficit this year. The NDP government has opted to keep operational spending steady and increase capital investments to avoid aggravating an economy battered by low oil prices.Richard Gotfried of the Progressive Conservatives noted the province brought in an extra $1.5 billion in the current fiscal year due to higher oil prices, but still spent all of it — and more.“I’m worried that we will go forward in that same path where we’ll see revenue improvements but no control of government spending to balance this budget,” Gotfried said Wednesday.“If we push (the debt and deficit) off to future generations … that’s irresponsible.”Ceci has promised to get the deficit tamed by 2023, but Opposition Wildrose house leader Nathan Cooper suggested the government is signalling it will spend heavily in good times and bad.“We’ve seen the price of oil increase over the last little while and we’ve also seen the government increase spending over the last little while,” said Cooper.“All indications thus far are that they aren’t interested in saving and only interesting in spending — and obviously that’s a concern to us and it’s a concern to many Albertans.”Alberta’s debt will surpass $32 billion this year, debt payments are now over $1 billion a year and the province has been hit with multiple credit downgrades.Ceci has noted the government has strong financial underpinnings, including a low tax regime and almost $20 billion in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund.Earlier this week, Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark said hard decisions are needed to stem the red ink, including a possible provincial sales tax.But Clark said any PST can’t be part of an NDP government.“I don’t trust the NDP with a PST,” he said.“The NDP have shown that they’re unwilling and unable to constrain government spending.”While details of the budget have yet to be released, government house leader Brian Mason reiterated Wednesday that the province will continue to invest in infrastructure and “protect the public services that Albertans rely on.”Mason said 15 bills will be introduced with measures to build on job creation, maintain front-line public services and help families save money.“I like the stuff that actually focuses on people’s pocketbooks, on their ability to cover the basic costs of their family and have a little money left over in difficult times,” said Mason.“Just because the economy is recovering this year doesn’t mean everybody is going to be back to work.”Mason said the sitting’s flagship legislation, Bill 1, will be introduced Thursday. He would not say what it will address.