Redford vows no tax increase, hints at doctor pay cuts
Premier says Alberta is facing a $6B budget crunch after oil revenues fall
Alberta Premier Alison Redford hinted that health care may be cut as part of the government's strategy to rein-in spending in the face of an "unprecedented" slump in oil revenue.
Redford delivered a video address this week to outline her government's plan to tackle Alberta's finances in the face of severely diminished revenues.
For the first time in many years, the province is facing a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall, which could turn into a deficit of around $6 billion if not addressed in the March 7 budget.
On Sunday, Redford told CBC News that the spending revision arose out of a difference between and oil price forecasts and reality.
"We've seen across the country, unfortunately, in the last four months, something quite unprecedented in terms of the price that Alberta is able to sell its oil for, and the world price of oil," she said.
"There's always a slight difference in terms of market variations but the federal Conservatives, Saskatchewan, and us all banked on a higher price and in the middle of October we saw a marked deterioration in that."
Redford said Alberta can no longer afford all the services that it currently offers its residents, and she hinted that cuts could be coming to health care and education.
"We're in the middle, right now, of some pretty interesting negotiations with our teachers and with our doctors, many of which have taken place across the country, but you'll know, for example, in Alberta, our doctors make 20 to 29 per cent more than the national average," Redford said.
"We can't afford that anymore, and we're going to have to look at some of those tough choices to really make sure we're delivering services to those Albertans who need the services paid for."
While the market conditions will make it tough for the government to carry on business-as-usual, the outlook isn't entirely gloomy, she said.
"We still have a strong economy in Alberta. We still have the lowest taxes in the country," she said.
"We have 100,000 people coming here every year, and so we have to keep building the province and investing in the province and investing in infrastructure — building schools and building health-care facilities, but we have to do it in a responsible and a sustainable way."
The premier also vowed to make all possible cuts before any effort is put toward raising taxes, something that Redford has repeatedly promised not to do.
"I have clearly stated over and over again that we will not be increasing taxes in this budget," she said.
Ontario energy strategy in the works
Redford also congratulated Kathleen Wynne, Ontario's new premier-designate, and said that both she and Wynne are already in agreement that they need to work together to get the economies of both of their provinces growing, together.
"One of the ways that we do that is we find ways to export our resources," Redford said.
She said the new Canadian energy strategy could see pipelines heading east to ports in Quebec and more refining capacity built in Ontario, possibly in Sarnia.
"I'll continue to make the case that what's good for the energy industry in Alberta is critical to economic growth across the country."
Redford said that a close economic partnership already exists between her and Wynne's provinces, and that over the next 25 years Alberta's oilsands are expected to send $63 billion in sales into Ontario's manufacturing sector.
Redford also offered some advice for the provincial leader — make your mark, but act thoughtfully.
"People will automatically say, 'well, you said you were going to bring change: It's Wednesday morning, how come you haven't brought that change yet?'
"And what I would say is simply because you're in government, when you become a leader, take the time to do it thoughtfully and do it right.
"Make sure that you're putting your mark on the future agenda that makes sense for the long-term."