Horner focuses on budget, not race

If Doug Horner has aspirations to become premier of Alberta, he kept them to himself on Thursday.

If Doug Horner has aspirations to become premier of Alberta, he kept them to himself on Thursday.

The province’s finance minister made no mention of the pending leadership race during a presentation at a Red Deer Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

When he was later asked by media about his plans, Horner confirmed that he’s been urged by a number of people to seek Alison Redford’s former job and discussed the possibility with his wife.

“We have to pass this budget in the legislature and I think it’s important that I steer that through,” he said, referring to the financial plan that his Progressive Conservative government tabled on March 6. “At the appropriate time we’ll make the decision.”

Horner added that he expects it to be business as usual in cabinet between now and the leadership vote in September.

“I don’t anticipate that (acting) Premier (Dave) Hancock is going to make any kind of drastic changes to any of the lineup. We’ll wait and see what happens with anybody who might want to step out to run in the race, but my focus right now is on the budget.”

Horner spent most of his time at the Chamber gathering, which attracted more than 100 people, pitching that budget.

He described Alberta’s rapid growth, noting how 105,000 people moved into the province last year. Three hurdles stand in the way of continued prosperity, said Horner: market access limitations, skilled labour shortages and inadequate infrastructure.

The third, he suggested, was the most worrisome.

“If we don’t build the infrastructure to allow people to get to work, to get home, to enjoy recreation, to get to school, to get a post-secondary education, to have the health care that they and their family are going to need, they’re not going to come.

“And if they don’t come, nobody fills the jobs, the jobs go somewhere else; and if the jobs go somewhere else, the investment goes somewhere else; and if the investment goes somewhere else, guess what happens to our economy? It goes south.”

The proposed budget seeks to address the infrastructure problem through heavy capital spending on schools, post-secondary institutions, health care facilities and roadwork, said Horner.

Although Alberta’s debt load is projected to grow from its current $14 billion to $21 billion by 2017, Horner defended his government’s fiscal strategy. The cost of borrowing is currently very low, he said, the assets being financed will last for decades and a plan is in place to repay the debt.

Horner pointed out that the Alberta government’s operational spending is slated to rise just 3.7 per cent this year — down sharply from the 7.3 per cent average increase in recent years.

“You can’t keep doing that,” he said. “It’s not sustainable.”

Alberta’s operational revenue is projected to rise by 5.4 per cent, netting out a surplus of $2.6 billion.

Horner also said that the province’s exposure to fluctuating energy markets is diminishing.

“Twenty-one per cent of our operational revenue is non-renewable resource revenue,” he said of the decreasing share of royalty revenues. “That’s a trend that is in the right way.”

Horner also pointed out that the province has budgeted for the discounted price that Alberta crude is subject to because of the difficulty getting it to coastal ports — the so-called bitumen bubble.

“We’re not planning on this going away.”


Just Posted

Women’s marches underway in Canadian cities, a year after Trump inauguration

Women are gathering in dozens of communities across the country today to… Continue reading

Red Deer councillor balks at city getting stuck with more funding responsibilities

Volunteer Central seeks municipal funding after being cut off by government

Olds chicken barn burns to the ground, no livestock harmed

More than 100,000 chickens were saved as fire crews prevent the blaze from spreading

Bear video meant to promote conservation: zoo owner

Discovery Wildlife Park says it will look at other ways to promote its conservation message

WATCH: Setters Place grand opening in Red Deer

Red Deer’s Setters Place officially opened to the public Saturday afternoon.… Continue reading

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month