Rachel Notley uses TV address to scold feds, downplay expectations for spending hikes

With a new budget being unveiled in a week, the Alberta premier stressed now is not the time to open the purse strings in a significant way, serving notice to public sector workers that the province must show some restraint.

Albertans aren’t looking for big hikes in spending, premier says

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley delivered her pre-taped televised address from the table of her Edmonton home. (CBC)

Premier Rachel Notley used a televised address Thursday to downplay expectations for big spending hikes amid the economic downturn.

With a new budget being unveiled in a week, Notley stressed now is not the time to open the purse strings in a significant way, serving notice to public sector workers that the province must show some restraint.

"Please remember that Albertans want us to live within our means," she told government workers, whose unions are soon heading to the bargaining table. "Albertans aren't looking for any significant increases in public spending in times like these."

In a 15-minute address taped in the kitchen of her Edmonton home, Notley also said the government will roll out details of the Alberta jobs program in next week's budget.

"The Alberta jobs plan invests in Alberta's infrastructure," she said. "The Alberta jobs plan diversifies our energy markets and our energy industry."

Much of the speech was made up of points she's made before.

Notley scolded the federal government for leaving Edmonton out of recent EI changes.

"The decision to exclude Edmonton and surrounding communities from EI improvements needs to be fixed," she said, urging the government "to do better."

'Everybody loses' with stalled pipelines

She urged Ottawa to help push ahead with approvals for building pipelines so Alberta's crude can get to tankers on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, allowing the best price on world markets.

"We must get this done, or everybody loses," she said. "Let's leave the divisive battles of the past in the past, and keep working together."

Notley's speech comes a week before her government tables its second budget. She acknowledged the deficit will be in excess of $10 billion, as the government has been projecting,  and said royalty revenues will drop by 90 per cent next year.

Notley asked anyone who is suffering from job losses or reduced income to apply for new Alberta and federal child benefits, take advantage of the extension of EI benefits and provincial training programs.

Notley encouraged private sector businesses to watch the budget for "important new initiatives to promote job creation and economic diversification" in the province.

"And talk to us about how you can fit into Alberta's capital plan, our business lending and investment programs, and the new job creation steps we'll be setting out next week," she said.

Notley said the government will not make cuts to frontline services and the government will control costs, create jobs and diversify the economy.

Official Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean gave a brief reaction prior to his more formal video address that will come early next week.

TV address offers 'troubling vision'

He said he had hoped Notley would outline a new plan for strengthening Alberta's economy. But he only saw more of her party's 'troubling vision."

He criticized the premier for allowing other provinces to "demonize" Alberta's oil and gas industry and for not having a strong voice on pipelines and equalization.

The debt the province will incur with its infrastructure building program will require higher interest payments, which will eat into money available for teachers, nurses, hospitals and schools, Jean said.

"I can't help but think that Albertans sitting around their kitchen tables, wondering what to do, expected so much more."

Interim PC leader Ric McIver said Notley's agenda shows a lack of imagination and her job creation plan rests on spending $34 billion in infrastructure over five years.

"She has no plan for a new economy. The new economy that she promises is a fantasy," he said. "It's unicorns and rainbows that no one can identify."

He said Notley has driven businesses out of the province.

"She continues to be a damaging force for Alberta," he said.

The cost to produce and air the address is now estimated at $85,000. CBC Television is airing the video at no cost to the Alberta government.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean was disappointed in Notley's television address. (CBC)


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