The Alberta Tories celebrated their 37 years as the governing party as rookie Finance & Enterprise Minister Iris Evans released a $37 billion "beacon of hope" budget yesterday. Not one to disappoint, I was happy to take in the show yesterday afternoon (a big thanks to Kevin Taft's office for arranging my ticket).
Overall, the 2008 Alberta PC budget looked and sounded like a confused 37-year old: still paying for the mistakes of its youth, not quite ready to settle down, almost ready to hit that mid-life crisis point (hello, Ferrari!), and not quite ready to save for the future. It felt like it could have been something out of the 10th season of Friends.
I will be elaborating on my opinions of the budget and what it means for Albertans over the next week, but until then, here are some quick thoughts on the day:
- The budget low balled the price of oil, basing the budget figures on a $78 barrel of oil, rather than the current $119 barrel.
- Bye bye, health care premiums. Alberta's health care premiums will be gone by January 1, 2009. Though this is a positive move, but I can't help but be a little cynical when I remember how many times I heard Tory candidates during the provincial election saying that it would be irresponsible to faze out health care premiums in a of less than four years...
- It's business as usual for the horse-racing industry with a $7 million increase to the now $48 million Horse Racing Subsidy Renewal Program.
- A 120% budget increase to the Alberta Environment budget is mostly a result of $52 million from the Federal government and $155 million from corporate emitter fines.
- My good friends at the Public Affairs Bureau will be getting a stiff 25% increase of $6.4 million to continue to dole out the press releases and spin. Upcoming projects include convincing Albertans that Ed Stelmach is an environmentally friendly Premier while he continues to support the tarsands and stands on the sidelines watching the potential construction of a Nuclear Power Plant in the Peace Country. More on this later.
- I had a nice chat with Dr. Raj Sherman, the Parliamentary Secretary for Health & Wellness. I made sure to encourage him not to hesitate to shake some sense into Health Minister Ron Liepert and his "health care reform."
- The best (and most insightful) quote of the day goes to Alberta Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Ken Kolby:
Ken Kobly, CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, said the government must put some revenue aside for the future while revenues are still high.
"Personally, I don't want to be known as the generation that sucked all the oil revenue out of the ground and left the bill for our kids," he said.
I couldn't agree more with Kolby. Kolby for Premier.