Rachel Notley says fiscal challenges bigger than expected
Premier gives update as Alberta's new cabinet ministers hold first 2-day meeting in Calgary
Alberta's budgetary predicament is more dire than expected, Premier Rachel Notley told media in Calgary as the NDP's first cabinet meeting got underway Wednesday.
"There's no question that as we get briefed we're starting to find the challenges are bigger than may have been featured in the [PC leader Jim ] Prentice campaign," said Notley.
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"Our plan is built off of their plan; now we're looking at the fact their plan was not as fulsome as Albertans may have expected."
Notley, a former labour lawyer, led her party to a 54-seat majority government earlier this month, ending the 44-year Progressive Conservative dynasty in Alberta.
She was sworn in as the province's 17th premier on Sunday, along with the other 11 men and women she appointed to her cabinet — the smallest in decades.
Announcements coming soon
Notley promised several announcements, including plans for a royalty review, health-care restructuring and a new cancer centre in Calgary in the coming days — but not before she and her cabinet are thoroughly briefed, she said.
"We've got new information now that we're behind the curtain," said Notley.
During the short spring sitting, the government will ask the legislature to approve an interim supply bill to finance the operations of government.
A full budget will be tabled during a fall sitting of the legislature.
"It's always a question of projections," said Notley. "There's going to be some challenges, but there's also going to be some upticks."
Royalty review coming
"Rushed decisions can be bad decisions," she said.
Notley promised her government will approach the issue of a royalty review with transparency in "a careful considered approach that takes into account the fulsome contribution of our industry partners."
"We have an obligation to the people of this province to test periodically that we're doing the best we can for them in the royalty regime," she said.
Notley also talked about whether there was a plan to restructure Alberta Health Services.
"Regardless of the merits, what's becoming a new merit is stability," she said. "Health-care reorganization is something that is a longer-term issue."
Progressive taxes on the way
As Finance Minister Joe Ceci arrived at the McDougall Centre for the meeting, he reiterated the new government's pledge to repeal Alberta's flat tax and replace it with a progressive model.
"That's going to change with this government. And you know, every province and territory across the country has a progressive income tax and we haven't," he said.
"That's meant that some things haven't been able to take place in this province. And I want to be part of the group that changes that."
The Progressive Conservatives had proposed changes to Alberta's 10 per cent flat tax in the party's last budget unveiled before the election, which was never passed.