The impact of Premier Jim Prentice’s comments this week may not be fully seen for some time.
Online criticism continued to be steady on Friday, two days after Prentice said during a radio call-in show that all Albertans are to blame for the financial woes the province is facing.
“In terms of who is responsible, we all need only look in the mirror. Basically, all of us have had the best of everything and have not had to pay for what it costs,” Prentice said.
Both Red Deer MLAs, Progressive Conservatives Cal Dallas and Mary Anne Jablonski, came to Prentice’s defence on Friday.
Dallas, who is stepping down from Red Deer South when the next election is called, said while he hadn’t heard the interview, the premier had subsequently commented about what he was trying to say.
“Some of the public interpretation doesn’t align with what his intent was there. I think the premier continues to speak to Albertans about the significance of the budget challenges we have in front of us, and the long-term shift in terms of the 10-year plan that he’s going to present as a part of this budget. That’s really what it’s about,” said Dallas.
“The premier’s always been very direct and upfront about the fact that this budget is going to support vulnerable Albertans. We’re going to continue to invest in core services like health, our seniors, our recipients of community supports, certainly education. .. We’re dealing with some difficult circumstances in the budget.”
Dallas is a member of the Treasury Board and has been helping to prepare the provincial budget, which will be presented on March 26.
“Is there changes with respect to the budget that will have impact for Albertans and for people in Red Deer? Yes I believe there are,” he said.
“We all have to be part of a transition that I think we all desire — a transition away from the volatility that’s associated with regards to resource revenue. Albertans have clearly said to government to find a pathway that takes them off of that roller-coaster of the ups and downs of resource revenue, that ultimately we now don’t, we can’t and we never will, control.”
Jablonski, who represents Red Deer North, said what Prentice meant was “we all need to contribute to the success of this province.”
She said like everyone else, she is nervous about the economic situation but believes that Albertans “will find a way through.”
Jablonski also won’t be seeking re-election. Both she and Dallas believe an election will come soon after the budget.
She believes that if Prentice gets a mandate in a general election, the government will move toward less dependence on oil revenue.
Red Deer College political science instructor David Baugh said that the reaction on Twitter isn’t the only barometer of what Albertans are thinking.
Trending — topics that become popular in short order on Twitter — doesn’t necessarily mean all Albertans are up in arms, Baugh said. PrenticeBlamesAlbertans was still trending on Friday morning in Alberta and across the country.
It can’t be ignored but it has to be put in context, Baugh said.
“The same party could not have remained in power since 1971 without broad public support for doing this.”
But he thinks the Prentice honeymoon is nearing its final stages. “As we get nearer to budget date, people are kind of pushing back with the old saying ‘I don’t want my ox gored.’ Don’t go after the public sector, don’t go after the flat tax, don’t go after the sales tax. … You’re going to see a less friendly tone as we get closer to the budget,” said Baugh.
Wayne Phillips, a teacher at Poplar Ridge School, said he was more concerned with the information the government is putting out there than Prentice’s comments.
“It hasn’t bothered me that much mainly because he’s a politician, what do you expect.? They kind of run off at the mouth and say things without really thinking at times.”
He’s upset with what the government has been saying regarding government employees pay in general.
Phillips says the province needs to find more options to balance the budget, rather than just saying let’s nail government employees.