Alberta politicians have wrapped up what could be the final sitting of the current legislature, with all eyes now turning to a provincial election in the spring.
Premier Rachel Notley has committed to holding the election sometime next March, April or May, as mandated in legislation, meaning the campaign could begin as early as February.
But she isn’t saying whether a spring sitting will be held or a budget introduced before voters go to the polls.
“I will commit to ensuring that we consider all the options that are available to us to ensure that Albertans have a good understanding of what their options are before we go into the next election,” Notley said Thursday prior to heading off to Montreal for a first ministers meeting.
“The election will be held within the times that the current legislation suggests.”
Opposition United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney said Notley’s policies are damaging Alberta’s economy and that the sooner the vote comes the better.
“This is a government that has lost massively the support of Albertans,” said Kenney.
“It would be, I think, a huge mistake for them to try to foist on Albertans as a lame duck government a budget when their entire fiscal plan is in tatters.”
Alberta party house leader Greg Clark agreed the sooner the better.
But he said he wants to make sure voters see the state of the province’s finances when the third quarter update on the current budget is due to be presented in late February.
“I think (the update) is going to show the impact of the oil downturn, and the government shouldn’t use that as (political) cover,” said Clark.
“Albertans should be given full information with which to make a decision at the ballot box.”
Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan said he wants to see a spring sitting or at the very least a budget. He said Notley needs to show her plans before seeking a renewed mandate.
“One of the big problems is they (the NDP) have not had a real plan to reduce the deficit at all really, and the debt keeps ballooning,” said Khan.
Alberta’s fragile oil economy has been buffeted by stalled pipelines and transport bottlenecks in recent months, forcing the province this week to mandate oil production cuts to keep prices from bottoming out.
The province’s economy has been slowly rebounding, but government house leader Brian Mason said he understands hard times have ripple effects
“There’s no question that when times are tough, people are a little harder on their governments,” said Mason.
“We know that. And it’s just going to make us work that much harder.”
Mason said the government had a successful sitting by capping tuitions, hiking payments to the disabled, improving protections for patients to prevent sexual misconduct by doctors, and passing a new long-term funding deal for Edmonton and Calgary.
© 2018 The Canadian Press