Premier tells party faithful that province will once again head pack

CALGARY — Premier Ed Stelmach says Alberta’s best days are yet to come.

CALGARY — Premier Ed Stelmach says Alberta’s best days are yet to come.

He told party members at his annual premier’s dinner Thursday night that while 2008 and 2009 were difficult years, Alberta is on the road to greater prosperity.

He added Alberta was better prepared for the recession than any other jurisdiction in the western world.

Stelmach also said the province’s budget will be balanced in three years “without raising taxes or raiding the Heritage Savings Trust Fund.”

It will be done by cuts to administration, programs, and reviewing departmental spending.

But the premier said he won’t sacrifice the infrastructure that Albertans need.

“If we want to balance the budget today, a very simple approach would be to cancel, mothball or defer school, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure projects,” he said.

“If I wanted to generate some headlines, I certainly could do just that but I won’t — it’s not the right thing to do.”

As well, he said health care remains the top priority for Albertans and improvements are still needed.

“We know that once Albertans are in the system, their experiences reflect the excellent care that health system professionals provide,” he said.

“Our challenge is making sure that access is quicker.”

Stelmach also discussed the oilsands and the environment, saying steps need to be taken to ensure the province’s products attract global customers.

“Industry and government must seek a solution to tailings ponds — our single largest threat to our international reputation,” he said.

“The same innovation and technology that has allowed us to extract our oil sands resources must also be applied to those issues of greatest environmental concern.”