Danielle In QP, November 21: Capital Infrastructure Financing

Ms Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. “Debt is the trap that has caught so many struggling governments. Debt has proven the death of countless dreams.” I love that quote. Those words stand as a stark warning to governments that think that borrowing is the way to prosperity, and those words should be etched into the collective minds of governments that think deficit financing is a wise choice. This is good advice that Alberta would do well to follow. Does the Finance minister agree?

Mr. Horner: Well, Mr. Speaker, of course I do. The ability for us to use all of the tools that are available to us is sound financial management. It’s responsible financial management. That’s what Albertans elected us to do for them, to be responsible managers of their finances. Debt is one piece or one tool in the tool box, no different than P3s, no different than cash. It’s no different than deferring it to a future date, when it’ll cost more. That’s a tool that we can use too. We’re not saying that we’re going to use one to the exclusion of any other. We’re going to use the entire tool box.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Ms Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’m sure the Finance minister didn’t actually hear the quote, so I’ll read it again. “Debt is the trap that has caught so many struggling governments. Debt has proven the death of countless dreams.” I quote that because it was spoken in this Assembly in October of last year by this Premier. Why won’t the Finance minister heed the Premier’s warning?

Mr. Horner: Mr. Speaker, we have a financial management act in this province that precludes the Minister of Finance from borrowing for operating, and we intend to adhere to that financial management act and that piece of that act. The fact that we will not borrow to cover any operating deficit is clear. We will balance our budget. We will have a savings plan, and we will have a capital plan. There is no doubt in my mind that the world economy is suffering. In Canada, in fact, the federal government has deferred their balancing by another year. We will use all the tools necessary to provide Albertans with what they need.

Ms Smith: Mr. Speaker, capital debt is still debt. Roads and schools are the basics. We should look after these needs out of our regular spending, but this government has made too many unsustainable promises and now insists that it has to borrow for what should be regular upkeep. Why can’t the Finance minister prioritize and budget better than this?

Mr. Horner: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member had a school recently completed in her riding. That school was built using a P3 model. It certainly shows the financial illiteracy of the other side when they can’t see that the P3 is a financial commitment of the people of Alberta for 30-plus years, similar to any debt instrument that we might issue. The reason we use the P3 is because it’s a right and sound responsible financial management decision to use. It provides the assets for Albertans today and for tomorrow. It’s not a money-in-the-mattress mentality. It’s sound financial managem