Danielle In QP, October 30: Provincial Borrowing

Ms Smith: Mr. Speaker, the Finance minister likes to compare the provincial budget to a family budget, and he’s trying to soft-pedal a $3 billion budget deficit by comparing . . . [interjections]

The Speaker: Hon. members, please. The Leader of the Opposition has the floor, and I think she is abundantly familiar with most of the rules by now. I’d ask her to please abide by them and please rephrase.

Ms Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Finance minister likes to compare the provincial budget to a family budget. He’s trying to soft-pedal a $3 billion budget deficit by comparing it to a household mortgage. It’s a ludicrous comparison because if a family’s income drops, they don’t spend more, they don’t take expensive trips to London, they don’t eat at fancy restaurants, and they certainly don’t book hotel rooms that they don’t use. But here, with projected revenues down, way down, we see no evidence of anything except more borrowing. What real adjustments is the government family going to make to its spending?

Mr. Horner: Well, Mr. Speaker, I’m not exactly sure how all of that connected in terms of what I may have been comparing to the family’s budget. I think it’s important to note that the ridiculous statements of the opposition Finance critic and the opposition leader that suggested that we would have a budget that would be balanced without putting the mortgage payment in it: I’ve never said any such thing. In fact, what we’ve said is that we will balance the budget, and included in that budget will be the funding of our capital plan like any responsible financial manager would do. We will do that. In addition, if they had been paying attention when we gave the first-quarter update, they would have heard . . .

The Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

Ms Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Given that the Finance minister seems to be justifying the potential for additional borrowing by crowing about the province having no net debt – this is an apparent reference to the heritage fund – is he saying that borrowing is okay as long as it stays under $15 billion? How deep into debt is the minister planning to take us?

Mr. Horner: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the hon. Member might want to have a discussion with some of the financial experts in our community and in our province, because I have. Over the last six months I’ve been talking with a number of those financial experts. I’ve also been talking to Albertans, and Albertans want us to do things like highway 63 now, not defer it till some point in the future. Albertans want us to build the postsecondary spaces that they need today, not defer it till sometime in the future. Albertans want us to build the schools in their cities, like Airdrie, like Edmonton, now, not defer them to sometime in the future.

Ms Smith: Mr. Speaker, Albertans want this government to live within our means. The minister has told us that revenue projections were based upon average prices established by multiple outside experts, but if the experts are proven wrong, as they have been, the minister doesn’t seem to have a real plan for reducing spending. If oil prices go up, they spend. If prices go down, they borrow. When will this government stop blowing through our savings?

Mr. Horner: Mr. Speaker, again, I would ask the hon. Members opposite to pay attention when we do the first-quarter update or when I do the second-quarter update. They would know that we did announce further increases in in-year savings for this year. I would also suggest that it’s incredible that a party that’s talking about this would stand up, most of their members, over the last few days and talk about nothing but more spending in their constituencies, more than a billion dollars. Where’s the balance there? Where’s the priority?