Alberta Premier Jason Kenney discussed the accomplishments of his government in its first 100 days in office and made an announcement that will benefit Indigenous Peoples in Alberta, outside the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019.
Larry Wong / POSTMEDIA NETWORK
Premier Jason Kenney says every aspect of government will be asked to participate in “fiscal restraint” following the release of the blue-ribbon panel report in September.He repeatedly declined to answer questions from reporters Wednesday on whether there will be public sector cuts, but said the NDP left behind a deteriorating economy.“We haven’t made final decisions on anything,” he said at a news conference where he touted the UCP’s first 100 days in office. “We are waiting for Dr. MacKinnon’s panel to tell us exactly how bad the situation is, and we will have to respond accordingly.”The panel of experts, headed by former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice MacKinnon, was tasked with reviewing Alberta’s finances ahead of a fall budget.Kenney reiterated that the UCP promised to maintain or increase spending in both health care and education, and said it’s not the government’s “preference” to reduce public sector jobs or salaries.“It has, however, become clear since we came to office that the fiscal situation of the province is much worse than the NDP told us,” he said.Alberta’s deficit was $2.1 billion less in 2018-19 than estimated in the last provincial budget, according to the latest government numbers.The $6.7-billion deficit is significantly lower than in the budget laid out by the NDP in March 2018. It was the last budget tabled before the April provincial election that saw the UCP win a majority victory.‘Full-frontal attack’Kenney’s statements mark a shift since February, when he said a plan to cut MLA salaries by five per cent and the premier’s by 10 per cent didn’t signal public sector cuts.“To be clear, this show of leadership does not mean that a future UCP government will be seeking salary rollbacks in the broader public sector,” he said in a Feb. 17 statement.MLAs unanimously voted to slash their own pay and that of the premier during an intense committee meeting Tuesday. Kenney said the government is leading by example.But Opposition house leader Deron Bilous said the UCP is celebrating “68 bad ideas” while in office.“It’s not just what the premier has said … it’s what he didn’t say,” Bilous said. “I think it’s pretty clear that we’re going to see a full-frontal attack on the public sector.”Bill 9 battleKenney also answered questions about the ongoing battle between the province and public sector unions after a court ruling temporarily halted Bill 9, controversial legislation to delay wage talks.Last week, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), which represents 95,000 workers, successfully sought an injunction against the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act. That bill delays wage negotiations for about 70,000 public sector workers, and was touted by the UCP government as a necessary step until Alberta’s fiscal house is in order.After the court ruling — which the province is appealing — union leaders said public workers won’t trust the Alberta government heading into labour negotiations. They called on the UCP government to pledge that no more legislation to delay wage talks would be introduced.When asked Wednesday whether he would give that assurance to union leaders, Kenney said the province is waiting on the appeal decision and “there has absolutely been no discussion” about further legislation.“The real betrayal came from the NDP,” he said.“I would say to public sector union members that the best way to preserve the services that they deliver … is to stop the reckless dive into debt because every extra dollar that goes to the bankers to finance the debt is a dollar that’s not going to support public services.”During Wednesday’s news conference, Kenney outlined the 13 pieces of legislation passed during session, ranging from scrapping the carbon tax to reviving senate nominee elections.He also announced a $10-million Indigenous litigation fund, where people can apply for grants to help with legal costs while advancing energy development. It was part of the UCP’s election email@example.com/clareclancy