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Jim Prentice promotes plan to put Alberta back on track

Jim Prentice

Jim Prentice, Progressive Conservative Party leader, with Livingstone-Macleod candidate Evan Berger.

Jim Prentice has a plan to get Alberta back on track.
That plan involves balancing the budget, protecting front-line services and eliminating waste and mismanagement in government.
“This is an important election because our province is really at a turning point,” Prentice said. “It starts with what has happened with oil prices.”
Prentice was at Claresholm on Saturday afternoon during a tour of parts of the Livingstone-Macleod riding.
The 58-year-old Prentice was elected as a Conservative MP in 2005, 2006 and 2008, serving as minister of Indian affairs and northern development and later as environment minister.
Prentice resigned in November 2010 as MP for Calgary Centre-North and in September 2014 won the provincial Progressive Conservative Party leadership.
“I watched what was happening in our province for several years and I was disappointed,” Prentice said. “I came back because like you I was disappointed in what I saw in our government.”
“It’s time for us to set thing right and get our province back on track.”
Prentice said plummeting oil prices revealed cracks in Alberta’s finances as a $7-billion revenue shortfall.
That $7-billion shortfall represents 20 per cent of government revenue.
“Really what we need more than anything else right now is a long-term plan,” Prentice said. “We’ve got some short-term issues we’re going to manage our way through. This province is determined, and it’s resilient and it’s entrepreneurial.”
Prentice told party faithful at Livingstone-Macleod candidate Evan Berger’s headquarters that Alberta needs a stable financial plan.
“Everywhere I go Albertans tell me they have had enough of the ups and downs,” Prentice said. “It’s enough of the rollercoaster.”
Although oil prices will remain integral to government revenue in Alberta, Prentice said a change is needed in budgeting.
“We’re long past the time in Alberta where people should be watching OPEC meetings on television to decide if we’re going to finish construction of a hospital or hire teachers and make those kinds of decisions.”
“We have to deal with this, and Albertans are smart and they know that. They know we need a realistic plan to get through this and that’s what we’ve put forward.”
Prentice said his government has a 10-year plan to develop the needed stability in public finances.
“In the immediate term, the challenge is how to get back in balance,” Prentice said. “When you face a $7-billion hole in your finances you‘ve got to get your revenue up a little bit, you’ve got to get your expenses down. We have to do all of that without putting the province into a recession.”
Economists who were consulted warned the government against trying to accomplish all that in one year.
The government was warned it would tip the province into a recession if it tried to accomplish those goals in one year.
“The recommendation was to do it over three years,” Prentice said. “That’s the balanced and the smart way to deal with something as challenging as this.”
People have urged the government to protect front-line services.
“We know what happens when we cut and slash our way though our civil services, whether it’s teaching or health care or taking care of senior citizens,” Prentice said. “We pay for that. The services that matter so much to us as Albertans get compromised. That’s not what Albertans want.”
The third priority is to make government more efficient by reducing waste and mismanagement.
“We’ve got to meet the expectations of Albertans,” Prentice said. “That’s a tall order.”
Longer-term goals are to rebuild the Heritage Fund and diversify the economy.
Prentice is energized by the challenge facing Alberta.
Low oil prices are expected for three budget cycles before they start to edge up towards $80 a barrel.
“We’ve got three tough years together as Albertans to deal with this,” Prentice said.

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