Klein admits government had no plan for boom
The Alberta government didn't have a plan to deal with the problems that came with the province's economic boom, Premier Ralph Klein says.
Klein made theadmissionat a press conference Thursday following his last day in the legislature. After leading the province for nearly 14 years, Klein is preparing to retire later this year.
The opposition parties have longclaimed the government didn't have a plan to deal with the fallout from Alberta's sudden growth.
"They were right about [us] not having a plan," Klein said."The plan is being developed, but no one could anticipate the phenomenal growth that was taking place."
'Kind of a vindication'
Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft said he's pleased with Klein's acknowledgment.
"I suppose in some way it's kind of a vindication â¦of our position, which has been:Where's the plan?"
Klein was quick tosay thathis government did what it could to deal with the province's rapid growth by tackling issues such as infrastructure and affordable housing.
"I think that we've handled as best as we possibly can," he said. "Initially, we handled it by reacting to the pressure areas like Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Brooks and so on [and] now we're putting in place very specific plans to deal with the growth."
Klein said the plans will be unveiled this fall.
Gov't should have known: economist
Todd Hirsch, chief economist for the Canada West Foundation, a Calgary-based think-tank, said the government should have known for years that the boom was on its way.
"Of course we did not know in 2004 that oil prices were going to top $75 a barrel in 2006, but even then, prices were gradually rising," Hirsch said. "We should had some forethought on the part of the government saying if prices continue to rise, what are we going to do?"
That foresight might have helped solve the labour shortage problem or the need for increased education funding, he said.
Not all the blame can be put on Klein and the provincial government, Hirsch admitted, because aches and pains come with every boom.
Leadership race heats up
Attention will now turn to the candidates jockeying for the leadership of the provincial Conservatives, and their policies on labour shortages, housing and other issues.
The premier plans to send a letter to Alberta's Conservative party in a couple of weeks to declare his intention to step down as leader. Klein will retire from politics once a new leader is picked.
Earlier this year, Klein announced he will become a fellow with the Fraser Institute, aright-leaning think-tank based in British Columbia.
The premier also has accepted an offer to be a guest lecturer at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., this fall.