May – MLA Craig Coolahan’s Report

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Investing in Albertans

Occasionally, constituents tell me they’re concerned about the state of Alberta’s finances. The fact is that Alberta is set to lead the country in economic growth this year, and has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio of all Canadian provinces. Given this outlook, there are several important arguments for maintaining the state of our front-line services.

The moral argument is the one I find most compelling: Albertans shouldn’t be made to pay or suffer for fluctuations in the price of oil and the lack of foresight of previous governments. Since oil was discovered in Alberta, governments have used non-renewable resource revenues to fund schools, hospitals, roads and infrastructure. When oil prices were high, previous governments pretended to be wise fiscal managers, and when oil prices were low, they slashed and burned front-line services Albertans rely on. This isn’t fair to Albertans. People shouldn’t be made to line up for hospital care, or put their child in a classroom with 50 others, just because the price of oil fluctuates.

There’s also a strong economic argument to be made for maintaining funding levels for health and education while investing in infrastructure. As Alberta’s economy recovers, we want to be an attractive place to move to, start a business, and invest. This means building the infrastructure we need while prices are relatively low, and maintaining the state of our front-line services. Companies rarely start new branches or move employees to places that throw their health and education systems into crisis. Maintaining stable funding to services helps Alberta remain competitive on the world stage.

The role of any government should be to make life better for Albertans, and that’s the role I see myself and my New Democrat colleagues accomplishing. Yes, serious conversations need to happen regarding the responsible management of revenues in Alberta. But when a world-wide oil price shock hurts working Albertans and their families, the first priority of government is to support Albertans as they weather the economic storm.

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