June 06, 2012

PCs should deal with budget Plan 'B', fundraising scandal

CALGARY, AB (June 6, 2012): The PC caucus should emerge from its meetings today with a real plan to deal with falling energy prices and a concrete commitment to remove the gag law on Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer.  Wildrose Official Opposition Leader Danielle Smith says Albertans are looking for leadership to guide the province through a brewing economic storm and address what has become a full-blown political fundraising scandal. 

The government caucus wraps up a two-day meeting in Calgary this afternoon. “I hope they will come out of these meetings with some kind of plan to tackle these issues head on,” Smith said. “I think a lot of Albertans are having buyer’s remorse at giving the PCs another majority government. The basic issues of fiscal mismanagement and ethical government have not been resolved.”  At today’s price of $85.59 a barrel, the price of oil is well off the government’s $99-projection and it threatens to blow a major hole in this year’s budget. If today’s price holds as the average for the remainder of the year, it will add $2.52 billion to the $3.1 billion cash deficit.  Wildrose Finance Critic Rob Anderson said a bigger deficit will eat further into Alberta’s Sustainability Fund and put core government services like health care and education at risk.  “By basing their budget on the hope of record high oil prices, Premier Redford is going to have to explain to Alberta families why she won’t be able to deliver on her billions in spending promises made during the campaign,” Anderson said. “What’s Plan B, here? How is she going to balance the budget, not raise taxes and keep her spending commitments? Something has got to give and Albertans want to know what gives first.”  In the Legislature last week, Justice Minister Jonathan Denis also committed to have legislation tabled in the fall that will allow Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer to fully disclose the results of his investigations into the PC party’s acceptance of illegal contributions.  As Justice Minister in 2010, Redford passed the current law preventing the Chief Electoral Officer from releasing information about parties found to have violated fundraising laws. To date, he has completed 59 investigations – 28 of which have resulted in fines.  “This is a matter of ethics. The Redford gag law must be lifted,” Wildrose Justice Critic Shayne Saskiw said. “It’s unacceptable in a democracy that this information is kept secret. Albertans deserve to know which parties are violating elections laws and to what extent.”  BACKGROUNDER:  If today’s oil, gas, and exchange rates held as the average for the rest of the year: * - in millions

  2012 Estimate June 6, 2012 Sensitivity Change Net Impact* Deficit/Surplus* June 1-March 31
Crude Oil WTI ($US/bbl) 99.25 85.59 $1 -$223 ($2,538)
Natural Gas Alberta reference price ($CDN/GJ) 3.28 1.83 $0.10 -$28 ($338)
Exchange rate ($US/$CDN) 98.40 96 $0.01 -$247   $494
                                                           *Total projected (June-March):                              ($2,382)                                                            *April-May:                                                                      ($137)                                                            *Total projected additional revenue shortfall:  ($2,519)

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