By Tim Kalinowski on July 29, 2021.
Two very different interpretations of Alberta’s prospects for post-pandemic economic recovery were on display in Lethbridge yesterday with Finance Minister Travis Toews telling attendees at the Lethbridge and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon he believed Alberta was turning the corner while a stone’s throw away at the Galt Museum, Official Opposition Finance Critic Shannon Phillips said Alberta was dragging behind the rest of country, and would for the foreseeable future.
“We certainly have a great fiscal challenge here in the Province of Alberta that remains,” acknowledged Toews.
“But a big part of dealing with that fiscal challenge is really seeing economic recovery and growth. And so, I am confident and very hopeful for the next two to three years in the province of Alberta. Many leading Canadian think tanks, most of the major Canadian banks, are all predicting Alberta to lead the nation in terms of economic recovery and growth.
‘And based on what we are beginning to see in the economy, I would agree with their assessment.”
Phillips called these statements by Toews merely “cherry-picking.”
“We are forecast to have the slowest economic recovery and the highest unemployment in the country,” she rebutted. “And that situation is going to persist for the foreseeable future. There is the odd study the Finance Minister cherry-picks, and that’s fine for him. The fact of the matter is we have the highest youth unemployment in the country, and 228,000 unemployed Albertans. And last month alone, while other provinces were adding jobs, we lost 37,000 full time jobs.”
Toews also stated he believed cuts to nurses salaries and other cost cutting measures are necessary to help get Alberta’s fiscal house, which has a $16 billion deficit this year, back in order.
“We are working to thoughtfully, carefully, compassionately bring our costs of delivering government services down to be in line with other provinces,” he stated.
“I am pretty hopeful AHS and UNA will be able to reach a mutually acceptable agreement that fully respects Alberta nurses, and is fair for Alberta nurses, but also an agreement that respects our economic and fiscal realities, and Alberta taxpayers.”
Phillips said it’s hard to accept such statements from the minister when the Kenney government has repeatedly proved its priorities do not line up with the beliefs and values of everyday Albertans.
“Here we have a premier who gave away $4.7 billion in tax cut for very large corporations who did not create a single job with that money,” she said. “They took that money outside of Alberta to do other things with it … And yet, now he is asking to take money out of the bank accounts of the people who just served us through a generation-defining pandemic. This reveals a fundamental failure of priorities. No wonder Albertans do not trust his leadership either on the economy or the management of the pandemic.”
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter