‘Spender bender’ must end: Smith

Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith says Alberta government’s 20-year “spender bender” has to end.

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith

Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith says Alberta government’s 20-year “spender bender” has to end.

Smith said Alberta is in big trouble — worse than during the 1986-87 recession — with workers leaving the province, a bad international investment reputation, a gaping and under-reported deficit and a long-term devaluation of Alberta’s main commodity, oil.

But the governing Progressive Conservatives are unwilling to admit their mistakes, said the Wildrose leader.

“We are once again being told we have a revenue problem when we really have a spending problem,” said Smith as guest speaker at a Central Alberta Canadian Home Builders’ Association dinner at the Holiday Inn on 67th Street on Tuesday night.

Government’s spending has doubled in the last decade, with top-heavy bureaucracy that’s thwarting the delivery of frontline health care, education and social services. Last year $44 million in bonuses went out to 6,700 civil service managers, she said.

“We have 30,000 civil servants so we’ve got one manager for every four or five employees. If we squeeze some of that layer of management we will be able to save salaries, save bureaucracy, save red tape and save a little bit of money and not impact front line services at all.”

Instead, the Conservative government is pouring more money into health care only to see wait times for care grow longer, she said.

“Are we really going to see any structural changes in health care out of a government that has spent 40 years making it more and more centralized, more and more bureaucratized. They first have to admit the past 10 years of moves towards greater and greater centralization has been a mistake.”

The Wildrose party has a plan to protect oilsand profits that are expected to grow in the next 35 years to add $285 billion worth of GDP to Alberta and 47,000 jobs annually, she said.

That plan involves reducing the royalty rates to attract investment, cancelling the $2-billion carbon capture fund, instituting a spending freeze, stimulating the demand for natural gas in Alberta, and encouraging the scientific debate into the impact of man-made CO2 emissions which may or may not be dangerous, Smith said.

“(The Conservatives) have blown two booms. I don’t think we should give them the opportunity to blow a third boom.”