2014 was a year of change for Alberta’s Tory leadership.
Premier Jim Prentice was voted in to replace Allison Redford in September, followed by 11 members of the Wildrose party crossing the floor to join the PCs in November and December.
Grande Prairie Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale says Prentice’s election was his highlight for 2014.
“I’m just really happy where things ended up with our new Premier. I think he’s going to be a great leader and he’s going to rank up there with Peter Lougheed as one of the greats. I’m really happy to be in his cabinet and in a caucus with a leader who has such integrity and vision.”
However, it’s looking more and more like Prentice’s first year on the job won’t be a particularly flashy one, as the PC Party braces itself for tight budgeting amid falling oil prices.
“Oil royalties drive a big part of our revenue, and everybody know that $50 oil is going to hurt our budget. In fact, we have to find a way to cover about a $6.5 Billion dollar hole.” Drysdale says.
The price of oil dropped below $50 a barrel this week.
Drysdale also says he has had to scale back his 2015 plans for infrastructure projects around the province.
“Hopefully we can keep as much of our operating and maintenance budget as possible. If we can’t look after the roads we’ve got, there’s no sense in building new ones. We may take a cut on some of our capital plans, so don’t expect a lot of big new projects this year, from any department.”
The Infrastructure Minister says despite all that, the governing Tories still intend to do their job, making sure things like education, health care, and seniors care don’t fall by the wayside.
It’s not going to business as usual, Drysdale says, but he believes Premier Prentice is more than up to the task of managing Alberta’s finances despite the prospect of economic instability on the horizon.