Posted on Mar 29, 2018

Albertans want this recovery to be built to last

In Strathcona County, many hard-working and highly-skilled Albertans lost their jobs as a result of the oil price shock of 2014. These hard-working Albertans tell me they’re tired of the boom-and-bust cycle. They want and deserve stability and security — just as Peter Lougheed envisioned when he began the process of diversifying Alberta’s energy sector decades ago. They want this current recovery to be built to last.

Sherwood Park News - March 29, 2018

The United Conservative Party would have our province stuck on the royalty revenue roller coaster, while Albertans wait for the price of oil to return to $100 a barrel rather than diversifying our economy and creating good jobs.

I have been vocal about the need to incentivize partial upgrading and value-added processing within our oil and gas sector. By investing $500-million in royalty credits to initiate a second phase of the successful Petrochemicals Diversification Program, we’re providing incentives to help petrochemical facilities upgrade raw resources into higher value products. It’s important to add value to the products that are made from our resources instead of shipping it out and then buying back the refined product at a premium. We need to keep our jobs and resources in Alberta and then ship it to market at top dollar.

We will continue to promote diversification and support job creation across sectors where Alberta has a competitive advantage and the potential for growth. That is why Budget 2018 supports the expansion and introduction of tax credits available to business, like the Investor and Capital Investment Tax Credits, along with the new Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit.

Businesses in our community are already seeing the benefits of these tax credits. Companies like Nutraponics are leveraging the funds from the Investor Tax Credit to expand their business.

As our population ages there is concern among residents that they will not have access to stable, quality healthcare through their retirement. They have lived through the boom-and-bust cycles. During times of economic downturn, they saw previous governments balance the budget by slashing frontline services.

I advocate for providing stable funding that protects frontline services such as the healthcare Albertans depend on. I will continue to be a strong voice for a measured approach in reducing costs. Our government is helping cut spending and waste by cutting salaries and eliminating bonuses for the highest paid executives of Alberta’s agencies, boards and commissions, reaching practical agreements with public servant workers, and freezing salaries for managers and non-union employees in the public sector.

We know there’s still a lot more work to do to ensure that all Albertans feel the economic recovery. That’s why it’s shocking that Jason Kenney and the UCP are proposing cuts to the services Albertans rely on while giving a massive tax cut to the top earners in Alberta. It just doesn’t make sense.

Our government will continue to protect public services — like health care and education. My focus is ensuring that all Albertans feel the economic recovery, while working on a path to balance.

Our path shows our plan returning to balance in 2023. It will take time until Alberta fully recovers from the recession, yet our books are still the strongest in Canada. Alberta has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio across the board. 

We have already reduced the deficit by $1.5-billion without have to fire thousands of teachers and nurses. We chose to invest in Alberta during the recession and now Alberta’s economy is leading the country. 

The investments made in Albertans are working. The economy grew by 4.5-per-cent last year and we will be leading the country again this year at 2.7-per-cent. We have presented a path to balance that will ensure Alberta remains competitive with no sales tax, no health premiums and no payroll taxes. These actions are what Albertans expect from their government and we are delivering.

Estefania Cortes-Vargas is the Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Strathcona-Sherwood Park Constituency. If you have any comments or questions concerning this column or other provincial government issues, please contact Estefania at her constituency office located at #19 – 99 Wye Rd., Sherwood Park, T8B 1M1. Telephone: 780-416-2492 or e-mail: strathcona.sherwoodpark@assembly.ab.ca.