In the midst of trying to rebuild Alberta’s trust in the Progressive Conservatives, Premier Jim Prentice vowed a no nonsense and common sense government as he delivered his speech at the Leader’s Dinner.
Postponing the originally planned October dinner to run in a byelection, Prentice headlined the annual leader’s dinner at the Sheraton Wednesday evening.
Speaking to the 450 or so in attendance, Prentice focused on re-building trust in government and how he intended to do so through good policy and good government. But above all he spoke of the party will not take constituency for granted.
He conceded that oil prices below $80 a barrel have financial implications that Albertan’s need to be cautious and prudent about.
“The long term strength of Alberta’s energy industry is not in question, whatsoever,” said Prentice.
“There will be low price environments, there will be high price environments. We need to be cautious because we don’t know how long this low price environment is going to continue. As a government we can’t control international oil prices, what we can control is access to markets to make sure we get world prices.
“Secondly we can control our public finances and make sure we’re prudent, disciplined and careful.”
In two weeks, he and finance minister Doug Horner will deliver a fiscal update, which could address some of the issues Alberta faces with lower oil prices.
“If oil prices continue below $80 or $75 a barrel, this is not a business as usual environment.”
Factors including the province’s continual rapid growth and need for infrastructure will also weigh heavily on future budgeting decisions.
“We will operate the government, day-to-day, in the black ink,” said Prentice. “Dealing with the capital issues we have, relative to our population growth, is another discussion.”
Fresh off a sweep of four byelections, including his own victory in Calgary-Foothills, Prentice smiled a little as he said that no one expected the PCs to win all four but “one of the parties is going to spend it’s convention weekend” coming to terms with their loss – referring to the Wildrose.
“We were pleased with the byelection outcomes,” said Prentice. “But I don’t want anyone in my party to take anything away from them other than, in the humblest of terms, we have an obligation to keep working hard.”
Prentice also said a climate change strategy, something Alberta currently lacks, was in the works and the framework of one will be publicly available before the end of the year.
“I’ve made it clear we need a strategic framework that is visionary, that has a 25-year lifespan in terms of how Alberta deals with environment, energy and climate change.”
Prentice will face his first legislative session as an MLA starting on Nov. 17.