By Jasmine Franklin
Progressive Conservative MLAs from across the province met April 29 for the Lacombe-Ponoka PC Association’s annual meeting where Finance Minister Ted Morton was scheduled to speak.
The minister however was not in attendance due to illness, but that didn’t stop him from getting his message across concerning the provincial 2010 budget.
MLA Ray Prins read a speech to area party members on behalf of the minister.
“The budget clearly doesn’t satisfy everyone,” Prins read on behalf of Morton. “But it’s all about spending money in the right places and that’s what the 2010 budget does.”
The budget is part of a three-year-plan aimed to return the provincial treasury to surplus by 2012/2013.
The 2010 budget was presented by the end of March — earlier than most years and puts the province at a $4.7 billion deficit. Prins said next year there are hopes the deficit will be reduced to $1.3 billon.
“We are transitioning out of recession,” Prins said. “I really believe we have struck our proper balance by taking advantage of the low times to get us back to the good times.”
Prins was pleased to report that early signs of economic recovery can been seen in five new oilsands projects announced in the last three months, higher oil prices and that Alberta now has the third lowest unemployment rate in the nation.
This year’s budget reduced funding from 15 out of 23 government departments. Prins said only $8 billion of provincial revenue comes from individual income tax each year, not even enough to cover health care. Funding is made up from corporate taxes and education taxes, among others.
Prins said benefits were protected for AISH recipients, seniors and people with disabilities.
“People who need money in those special situations are and will continue to be protected,” Prins said.
The budget eliminates Alberta Health Services’ debt, Prins said, by adding six per cent additional funding into the health care budget. The budget for schools and universities was increased by $250 million to $5.4 billion, and the biggest part of this year’s budget is for infrastructure with $7.2 billion set aside.
“Infrastructure is a big part of our sustainability fund,” Prins said. “If we (now) spend the money that have saved, when costs are down, we could save up to 50 per cent in costs.”
Joining Prins at the meeting were Anita Gillard, mayor of Clive; Lacombe councillors Steve Christie, Bill Knight and Cliff Soper; and MLA’s George VanderBurg representing Whitecourt-St. Anne region, George Rogers for Leduc-Beaumont-Devon, Broyce Jacobs, Cardston-Taber-Warner and Verlyn Olson, Wetaskiwin-Camrose.
Ponoka representatives include Mayor Larry Henkelman, councillors John Jacobs and Jack Surbey, CAO, Brad Watson and Reeve Gordon Svenningsen.
At the general meeting, Dave Pfau was elected as president, Jackie Northey, Kevin Engel, Linda Steinmann and Cliff Soper were elected as vice-president and directors remained the same from the previous year, with the addition of Cliff Soper.