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Premier's first annual economic summit held at Mount Royal University
Published Saturday, February 9, 2013 5:42PM MST
Last Updated Saturday, February 9, 2013 6:21PM MST
Higher taxes, lower salaries, additional pipelines and fewer perks for politicians, were just a few of the ideas floated at the Premier's Economic Summit held Saturday at Mount Royal University.
The event was designed to encourage suggestions on how to improve the state of Alberta's finances, but many say the need for a summit was created by the government.
Critics say they want to make one thing very clear, the economic challenges this summit is trying to address could have been avoided.
“It's not something to do with oil prices, it's not something to do with pipelines or the lack of a sales tax, this crisis has been created by the PC government of this province,” says NDP leader Brian Mason.
Premier Alison Redford says she arranged the summit to hear ideas on how to improve Alberta's bottom line, in the wake of low oil prices.
Redford's opponents maintain reckless government spending put the province in the red and until that's acknowledged, events like the economic summit are rather pointless.
“There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of honesty about why we are here today,” says Wildrose leader Danielle Smith. “It’s because we have a government that's spending is out of control for at least the last decade.”
“They are coming into this with a preconceived notion that they just need more money so they can spend even more,” says Derek Fildebrandt, Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “Obviously we just disagree with the premise of a lot of the questions being asked.”
A recurring theme throughout the summit was the possible need for a provincial sales tax.
Redford has already said that won't happen in the next budget but some economists say it should be considered for the next one.
The government also says the summit is important because even if the ideas aren't new, the perspectives are.
“I think there has been a couple of concepts thrown out there that we don't talk enough about,” says Finance Minister Doug Horner. “The balance of getting the value out of what we spend, what are the tradeoffs and what is the impact of those tradeoffs.”
“For those who say this won't have a direct impact on what happens tomorrow, or even in the budget, I think they're missing the point,” says MRU political science instructor Duane Bratt. “It's about the circulation of ideas for future budgets.”
Redford says the summit, which Albertans could watch in person or online, was a huge success.
"It brought 70,000 people to a public conversation about fiscal policy, about fiscal framework," says Redford. "It was an opportunity for people across the province to be able to see what discussions are going on."
"The opportunity of bringing everyone together where they can actually share their ideas and debate a a bit publically, changes the way Albertans think about the issues we are dealing with."
The premier says the economic summit will be an annual event. This year's provincial budget is still being finalized and will be released on March 7.