Premier Jim Prentice warns of consequences of low oil in State of the Province Address
Breanna Karstens-Smith, CTV Edmotnon
Published Tuesday, December 9, 2014 4:43PM MST
In a nearly 45 minute speech in front of 700 people, Premier Jim Prentice gave his first State of the Province Address Tuesday.
Prentice began his speech at the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce luncheon by acknowledging the fact oil has hit record lows lately, sitting around $63 a barrel Tuesday compared to just months ago when it was going for $100 a barrel.
“The economic viability, the sustainability, the strength of our energy industry in this province is not in question,” Prentice told the room.
“This is a price trough. This is a price trough, to be clear, of uncertain duration. Longer, I think, than many people realize,” he added.
The Premier blamed the issues on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), saying the group is over producing and imposing market share discipline on its members and other higher cost producers.
He insisted Alberta can not wait to see what OPEC does before deciding to build schools and fill hospitals with nurses.
“If this persists, the change in Alberta’s finances from the beginning of this year to where we are today, extrapolated going forward is in the range $6-7 billion. This is not business as usual,” the Premier said.
Prentice added that because it is not business as usual, long-term changes must be made. He stated deep cuts to all government departments was not the answer but instead said there needs to be a spending limit.
“Clearly it makes it more challenging to balance the budget even in this fiscal year let alone the fiscal year we are facing,” he admitted.
In terms of a provincial sales tax, Prentice vowed he has no plans to introduce one or move away from competitive tax advantages to turn things around.
Opposition members said the speech wasn’t good enough.
“The number one important thing to do is to make sure we preserving resources to the front line. and sadly often makes these tough decisions they often cut in the wrong places,” Wildrose leader Danielle Smith said.
“This government has had 43 years to plan for volatility in the energy market and it hasn't.” NDP leader Rachel Notley told the media.
Still, the Premier ended his speech on a positive note.
“If we get it right, the challenges we face today will not be carried over to the next generation of Albertans,” he said before a large round of applause.
With files from Serena Mah