Looming budget shortfall caps rocky year for Redford
From health-care inquiries to conflict-of-interest allegations, it's been a interesting year for Premier Alison Redford
The year 2012 brought Alison Redford the sweet success of extending the 40-year Tory dynasty in April's provincial election, but 2013 brings the tough work of delivering on her campaign promises in an increasingly tough financial time.
In a year-end interview with CBC News, the Alberta premier reflected on the past year and how she plans to meet her election promises.
During the spring election, Redford promised new spending on education and family care clinics.
The first female premier of Alberta also pledged to balance the provincial budget.
But pointing to a shift in the global energy economy, Redford — and her finance minister — continue to warn of a looming budget crunch in late December.
"When we set the budget going into the election, we had projections for the price of oil that were very similar to the rest of the world and the federal government and we were projecting oil to be at $100 per barrel," Redford told CBC’s Nirmala Naidoo.
"We know now at this point just because of the volatility of the market and the differential, what we’re actually getting for our oil is closer to $45 per barrel.
"That has an impact," added Redford.
Mount Royal University political science Duane Bratt predicts a tough year ahead for Redford and the Progressive Conservatives.
"She raised expectations and I don’t think she can meet them. They simply don’t have the dollars to do that," Bratt told CBC News.
Bratt also expects some tough public sector bargaining ahead with the province’s doctors, nurses and teachers.
The premier also had to deal with a number of issues, including a public inquiry into health-care queue jumping, conflict of interest allegations and a fall legislature sitting marked by relentless challenges of an aggressive opposition.
Balancing the budget a difficult challenge
"She really, I think, won the election with her campaign on education — more schools, more money for teachers — and now she’s having to backtrack on that," said Bratt.
Redford admits she doesn’t know when the province will balance its budget again.
"Ideally, we would have hoped that it was next year," she said.
"I can't say for certain whether or not it will be, we'll do everything we can within our control.
"We think it’s going to be entirely possible for us to continue to operate and provide services to Albertans."
"We’re going to have an awful lot of work to do to make sure that we’re able to continue to provide services to families and communities. I think we’ll be fine, but it’s going to be a tough year," she stressed in her sit-down interview with CBC News at Calgary’s McDougall Centre.
The PC government plans to borrow money to pay for capital projects, rejecting the approach taken by former Premier Ralph Klein.
"We think it’s important, even through these difficult economic times, to keep investing in those institutions, those buildings, those services that really matter to communities and families," Redford told CBC News.
"Whenever we've pulled back before on infrastructure, we always ended up needing it again, sooner than they thought we would," said Redford.
Bratt believes Redford is in a tough political spot because of the looming budget shortfall.
"She is going to get pilloried from left and from those people who feel betrayed that her promise were not kept — and she’s going to be pilloried from those on the right and the Wildrose opposition by wondering how you launch another large deficit again," said Bratt.