Mr. Fraser: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Last week Edmonton’s chief economist spoke about how the unemployment rate in Edmonton was dropping but that it was dropping for the wrong reasons. What he was referring to is the fact that some Albertans have been out of work for so long that they’re actually leaving the labour force altogether, this in spite of this government spending millions of tax dollars to try to retain and retrain these workers and consistent messaging from the government about the strength of the economy. Premier, we want to see this province succeed, but if things are as good as your government is saying, why are workers continuing to leave the workforce and the province?

The Speaker: The hon. Premier.

Ms Notley: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I don’t think that they’re actually leaving the province. It’s interesting. One of the other things that was in that report by the city of Edmonton’s chief economist was that one of the things that has helped make the problem not as bad as it would have been – we all know that we have a very serious problem and that people are suffering – is the fact that our government chose to continue to invest in important public services and that if the plan put forward by the Official Opposition were to go in place, the city of Edmonton would struggle mightily with respect to jobs and economic growth. Thankfully, that’s not what is in place, but we know that we have more to do to deal with the very people that that member opposite . . .

The Speaker: Thank you.

Mr. Fraser: Our caucus believes in the value of public investment in the economy, but we must always ensure that there’s a good return on investment when we’re using public dollars. This is especially true when we’re talking about programs aimed at job creation. Unless there is a measurable impact on job numbers, these programs often amount to paying public dollars to companies for jobs that would have been created anyway. To the Premier: what specific measures is your government using to make sure that the tax dollars that you’re using for job creation are actually delivering value for Albertans?

The Speaker: The hon. Premier.

Ms Notley: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. As the member opposite knows, last year alone our province created roughly 90,000 new jobs. That’s exactly the kind of progress that we need to make after one of the worst recessions that the province of Alberta has ever felt in history. We know that we have more work to do, but we know that we’re taking a multidimensional approach and that we also need to focus on diversification. We need to not just talk about economic diversification, but we need to start delivering on that. That is work that our government will continue to do.

Mr. Fraser: Thank you, Premier, for the answer. This government has focused on tax credits for specific industries, with the goal of diversifying the economy. The problem with that approach is that most economists agree that Alberta’s economy is well diversified but that the real lack of diversity is in the government’s revenue. We can see this in the government’s plan for a balanced budget, which relies almost exclusively on royalty revenue to come close to balance. To the Premier: if the government continues to offer industry-specific tax credits, aren’t government revenues going to become even less diversified and more reliant on resource revenue?

The Speaker: The hon. Premier.

Ms Notley: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. In fact, while our path to balance does continue to rely to some degree on resource revenue, it does so with relatively conservative assumptions around the price of oil and the differential and all those things. In fact, if we continue to perform in the long term above those conservative assumptions, we actually will be in a position to apply that money to other projects. Meanwhile we’ll continue to focus on diversification, and we will, of course, measure the effectiveness of different programs as we go, because we know we share the same objective, diversifying the economy and getting people back to work.


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