Premier Notley sets a "new and better course" for Alberta
In today's State of the Province address, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley called on every Albertan to help the province diversify its economy away from crude oil exports. The premier reiterated a number of previously announced initiatives to help grow the petrochemicals industry, small businesses and other non-energy sectors of the economy.
Notley says the crash in oil prices has created a "serious fiscal crisis" but that laying off teachers and nurses won't help improve the price of oil. The premier denounced "socialism for the rich and austerity for everyone else," insisting the NDP government will not go down that path. Minimum wage in the province will rise to $15/hour as promised during the last election, despite heavy opposition from business groups. The government also extended a tuition freeze for students for a third year in a row.
The premier thinks the worst of the oil price shock is largely over, but remains cautiously optimistic going forward. However, Notley reminded Albertans that government revenues are down 15% and the government will be looking to bring the budget into balance as the economy improves. That means no room for new spending and much smaller increases in public sector salaries. However, the government will follow through on its promise to fund $34 billion in infrastructure projects over the next 5 years.
Notley blamed the previous government's inaction over climate change as the key reason for pipeline opposition, insisting Alberta now has the social licence in place to build pipelines to tidewater. Later this year, the government will confirm the cost to taxpayers for shutting down coal plants across the province and building new renewable energy facilities.