Initial reaction is starting to roll in to yesterday's provincial budget, including those of area MLAs Peter Guthrie and Miranda Rosin.
Branded Protecting Lives and Livelihoods, Alberta finance minister Travis Toews said the budget was built upon three pillars of investing in health care, economic recovery, and efficient delivery of government services.
Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie said it was the type of budget he was expecting.
"We're still in a time that's got a lot of vulnerabilities to it, and a lot of uncertainty to it, so I think the focus to this budget is to make sure we can put people back to work and still leave enough money for the areas we need it most, like health care."
"We're being cautious and being conservative with our expectations, but we've been through some pretty volatile times in Alberta's economy, not only last year but the last six years. I think it's the right approach."
He says the budget continues to focus on developing infrastructure and creating jobs. Last April, the Kenny government announced an additional $2 billion in stimulus funding to front-end load capital projects.
"This budget increases the capital budget by another $1.7 billion across the province. We have a new catholic school being built here, and the 1A-22 intersection is going through its final design, so these are items that we look forward to."
Banff-Kananakis MLA Miranda Rosin believes it's a budget that every Albertan can be excited about. In particular, she points to a widespread increase in funding for our health care system as we emerge from COVID-19. There's also plenty to fuel economic recovery to help put Albertans back to work.
"This budget includes an increase in funds for economic recovery programs--$3.1 billion there--and we continue to the advancement of Alberta's largest infrastructure spend in history at $20.7 billion."
Particularly good news for her riding is the tripling of funding for the tourism industry over the next three years. The tourism and hospitality sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. At the pandemic's peak, 85 per cent of Banff's workforce was unemployed.
"It's been a really tough year for our tourism operators, and as we emerge from CVID-19 restoring that visitor confidence and consumer confidence in Alberta as a tourism destination will be the hardest hurdle to overcome. A tripling of funding in this sector shows our commitment to working with our tourism and hospitality providers to make sure they not only recover from this pandemic but that they grow and thrive."
She says the government does know it needs to get on the path to a balanced budget, and while that won't happen in their first term, it does need to happen as quickly as possible.
That means cuts that include municipalities taking a 25 per cent reduction in MSI funding over three years, asking the public sector to take a pay cut in the future, and numerous other reductions throughout the budget.
"We can't keep squandering five or six million every single day on interest payments alone. That's money that could be going to open more hospitals, hire more hospitals, invest in senior care, stimulate our economy instead of it all being squandered just to line the pocket of banks with interest payments. There are definitely reductions throughout this budget and we're just asking all Albertans to bear with us and grit their teeth and get through these difficult times."
Guthrie does see a glimmer of light on the horizon for Alberta's economy in the third and fourth quarter. He says oil prices have bounced back from negative prices last spring to today's world price of US$63/barrel and Western Canada Select of US$52/barrel.
He also believes a drop in drilling activity has decreased supplies worldwide, consequently fuelling demand for Alberta's energy products.
Alberta accessing more of the COVID-19 vaccine is another important piece of the road to recovery.
"The more vaccine that you get out to the citizens of Alberta, the more pressure you take off the health care system. So between that and a bright light with the oil and gas sector and our other resource sectors, it provides a good opportunity for us in the future."