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Prentice prepares Grande Prairie in advance of 2015 budget

Alberta will emerge from it’s current economic downturn stronger and more resilient than before.

That was the message emphasized by Premier Jim Prentice during an address to Grande Prairie business leaders during a Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday.

Prentice says his goal with the upcoming provincial budget is to provide stability and an example of fiscal responsibility to Albertans.

“We want to bring forward not just a single year budget, but the Finance Minister and I want to bring forward the 10 year Fiscal Plan of how we will manage Alberta’s finances and basically get off the roller coaster we’re on in terms of government revenue.”

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The budget is set for release on March 26, and in advance of that both Prentice and Finance Minister Robin Campbell have paid visits to Grande Prairie to discuss their strategy to navigate the next three years, during which the price of oil is not expected to exceed $80 a barrel.

Prentice says the province became comfortable managing day-to-day expenses with resource revenue and as a result Albertans have grown used to having a strong economy, limitless job opportunities and high quality public services.

“We’ve been very, very fortunate and the challenge for us is how do we now manage our finances through a difficult economic time and make sure that we sustain those high quality services for Albertans because that’s what people want to see.”

Prentice says while cutting spending is an important aspect of the province’s fiscal plan, he does want to continue to work towards correcting the infrastructure deficit he says the province has fallen into.

Alberta’s population of 4.2 million is expected to grow to more than 5 million by 2025.

Prentice says the province is already scrambling to keep up with population growth and that problem will only grow if the current infrastructure isn’t dealt with particularly when it comes to providing spaces for education.

“We’ve had to assess each school relative to the population need, but we’re committed to building those schools. There’s something like 232 school projects in various states of construction across the province, many of them are in the design and tendering phases, but we will build these schools and we will get caught up.”

Prentice says the budget will be compassionate to the needs and wants of Albertans but decisive in finding the best possible solution to the current economic situation.

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