Edmonton Journal: Opposition fears credit rating downgrade in wake of red-ink budget

“Acting Liberal leader David Swann said he generally agrees with the government’s reasoning on why it has to run deficits, but he wants to see a clear plan on how to get back to balance. That’s something the ratings agency will also be looking for, he said.

“There’s no question we’re going to see more questions about our spending as it’s going up and up with no plan to reduce it,” said Swann.”

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Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann responds to Budget 2017

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to Budget 2017:

“I would like to applaud the government on investing in public services and infrastructure, eliminating school fees, and committing to address climate change and protect the environment. These are priorities that Alberta Liberals share.

“However, like many Albertans, I am concerned about the increasing deficits and debt our province is accumulating as a result of government borrowing for operational costs. This budget sees the NDP government borrowing $15.2 billion for operating costs this year – the beginning of a steady upward trajectory towards $30 billion in 2019-2020. In the past, we have compared this approach to paying the mortgage with a credit card or selling the family farm to pay the monthly bills. It simply does not make financial sense.

“Of course, anything is possible when you’re paying by credit, but this is not sustainable in the long-term. In this budget, as with every previous budget since this government took power, we see more spending with no plan to pay it back. Alberta’s total liabilities now sit at $85.7 billion, and higher interest rates associated with further credit rating downgrades will make this task even more difficult. I have no confidence that the NDP approach will do anything but add to the $1.4 billion in debt servicing costs Albertans are already paying.

“Fairness to future generations is a Liberal value. The NDP legacy of debt is anything but fair. We need to have an adult conversation about spending and revenue. The government cannot continue to spend at this rate while relying on volatile resource revenue.

“We would like to see the government make strategic decisions and targeted investments in areas that will reduce costs in the long run. Getting ahead of the cost curve is preferable to bending it.

“This is particularly the case for our province’s health care system. We need massive investments in home care, disease and injury prevention, wellness and mental health. This will not only save money and lower wait times by reducing the strain on the acute care system, but it will also improve quality of care and patient outcomes.

“Alberta’s legal system also needs an injection of cash to remove barriers and improve access to justice. Alberta Liberals have championed increasing funding to Legal Aid Alberta. Chronic underfunding has led to unnecessary backlogs, delays, and slower trial process when people try to self-represent. The government has committed some money to this program, but not enough to bring it out of its $10-million deficit.

“Alberta Liberals also support expanding the Drug Treatment Court program, which received no mention in this budget. The program badly underfunded for the valuable results it delivers in terms of keeping addicts out of prison and getting them back on the road to recovery.

“The Metta Clinic, which is the only specialized clinic for transgender youth, only receives enough funding to operate for half a day per month. This is totally unacceptable. We urge the government to increase funding so that these vulnerable youth can get the services they so desperately need.

“Finally, we need a savings plan. Over the last number of years, we have seen our trust and contingency funds depleted at an alarming rate – the contingency account will be gone by this time next year. We need to reverse this trend today and start saving for tomorrow.

“Overall, Alberta Liberals support the government’s attempt at protecting public goods and services, but we are calling on the NDP to show more fiscal restraint, make better investments and savings, and produce a plan to diversify our revenue and pay down the debt.”


Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann welcomes US executive order advancing Keystone XL pipeline

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann welcomed today’s decision in the United States to advance Keystone XL.

“Alberta Liberals have long been in support of pipelines to get the province’s energy resources to international markets, so long as the best environmental protections are included and First Nations communities are properly consulted.

“In light of the significant challenges Alberta has faced relative to the prolonged slump in oil prices, the importance of this project proceeding cannot be overstated. Today’s decision is a positive development for both our province and our country.”


David Swann calls for a pause on energy changes in Alberta until intentions of new administration in America are better understood

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann made this statement to the Alberta Legislature on November 10, 2016:

“Thank you Mr. Speaker,

“I stand today to speak on a very difficult issue for all who believe the science of climate change. Those who know me, know I’ve lobbied for, and some might say crusaded for, environmental change here in Alberta. I’ve felt that strong leadership was long overdue and all of us must share in the cost of reducing emissions.

“Above all, I knew this was never going to be easy. It is even less easy following the election of an unpredictable US president who denies man-made climate change.

“Strong leadership will be needed now, more than ever.

“While I support the targets and timelines for cleaner energy development with its triple benefit for climate, new jobs and alternate economy, the Alberta government must hit pause on other parts of its energy-focused agenda. Given Alberta’s deep dependence on oil and gas, our current economic weakness and the new economic threat from the United States, I see merit in pausing and allowing the new reality and expert views to further inform our decision on the bills we have before us.

“Not stop, just pause.

“I’ve heard the premier say that her Carbon Plan was developed independently and that the actions of our biggest customer – and competitor – will have no effect. Even so, I don’t believe that anyone planned for the United States to go full speed in reverse. Proposals announced by Trump in his truth-challenged campaign have already begun to unfetter the US fossil fuel industry and may drastically alter the investment climate here in Alberta.

“The ramifications of his election are sending shock waves through the Canadian economy. From free trade to softwood lumber to energy, US policies that seemed relatively stable are now in doubt.

“We have no idea what economic effect these changes will have on Alberta. We, in opposition, have not yet been adequately informed as to what effects our own carbon policies might have.

“Much is being taken on faith.

“Here in this house, we serve Albertans. We are mandated to craft for them the best possible laws, policies and regulations after a comprehensive analysis. Our already struggling economy and uncertain investment climate are now faced with an unpredictability that will be better understood in the New Year.

“Sometimes, the strongest leadership is shown by patience and the wisdom to realize that circumstance can alter even the best laid plans.”