Excerpts of the Provincial Leader’s Address at PCAA AGM in Calgary on March 31, 1984 [Continued from Part IV]

Now let me discuss about where we are at as a province! Let’s remember a basic reality. Alberta is a commodity resource producing area. What happens in Riyadh, Peking, London, New York and various parts of the world affect you today. We are part of the world scene. We are going to have our ups and downs. But, even with the variables we mentioned in our Budget – 1984 will be a year of economic recovery for Alberta. It is a year in which our oil and gas industry is poised for expansion. We should move ahead in terms of marketing our natural gas both domestically and in the United States. Many things are happening on the oil side that are exciting. I think the explorers are taking a second look at being dragged into the frontier area on 80¢ dollars. They are beginning to take another close look at the heavy oils, enhanced recovery projects and the oil sands here in Alberta. These things are happening. The entrepreneurship of this industry and the talented people are a tremendous asset.

Premier Lougheed

Premier Peter Lougheed

We also have a strong and stable agriculture industry. Yes, there are ups and downs but, the high productivity is there. This is so in a number of other industries as well. We have a highly competitive petrochemical industry and new opportunities in terms of high technology. We have many things going for us in terms of our Alberta economy.

What about unemployment? We have had an excessive immigration from other parts of Canada. It was far too rapid. We have also had overbuilding in the construction industry. We must adjust to this reality. We will therefore have unemployment at the national average for a period of time until we absorb the overbuilding in construction. Remember when people argue about construction jobs, let’s keep in mind what our budget of March 27 provides – we have, with only 2.3 million people, a $3 billion capital construction program. We lead the nation in terms of providing jobs in the construction industry. We have a budget that is responsive to the current economic realities.

What about Alberta’s medium term outlook? I liked Provincial Treasurer Lou Hyndman’s comment, “Alberta’s best days are ahead of us”. I really like it because I believe it so much. Just ask people who live in other parts of Canada and in other parts of the world. You take the resources, entrepreneurship, stability and you take the drive and the education system we have here – it is unparalleled in the world. Alberta’s best days are ahead of us!

Then, there is the budget of last week. I think it was a budget of balance. I want to just read the last paragraph. “In conclusion, this budget represents a sound financial strategy for Alberta, a strategy of balance. It balances the need to maintain essential people services with the need to constrain operating expenditure. It balances the desire to encourage steady economic recovery and employment growth with the recognition that lasting jobs are created by the private sector. It meets these objectives while at the same time holding down taxes, reducing significantly the deficit and our borrowing requirements. The result is a budget in tune with the times and with the aspirations, needs and expectations of Albertans”. I think it is one heck of a good budget.

Three supplementary comments about our Budget. Hidden in the small print there are some very caring items. We brought in a home care program in stages. The first part of the home care program helped the senior citizens who needed medical help in their home. The next step now is for other seniors in the home. Even if you cannot get a doctors certificate to the effect that you need medical care. So we have a major increase in our home care program to help the people who are frail and elderly. I believe that is an important example of a caring government.

It has always troubled us that we have year after year looked at our budget increases and wanted to reduce the total expenditure authorized. I am proud that for the first time in forty years, we have been able to reduce the aggregate amount of money that we ask the Legislature to approve. However, the Budget will only work if public sector wage settlements follow and do not lead settlements in the private sector. That is essential to the budget.

I just want to say one other word about the budget. Do you know that the income from the Heritage Savings Trust Fund will pay two of twelve months of the total government bill. Two out of twelve months in this coming fiscal year are paid from the income of the Heritage Savings Trust Fund. Did you know that the accumulated federal deficit, now in terms of their budget requires approximately 20% to 23% of the total revenue to service their debt? We are in a enviable position in our province of servicing our provincial debt with 1.8% of our revenues. We also have left for those who have come after us a lot of tax room for the future.

Let me now deal with a couple of current concerns. The expectations of people in this province were out of sight in 1980 – 1981. We have made some headway – expectations are being reduced. That is good but we have more work to do.

Continued in Part VI