CALGARY -- Alberta's premier says the Official Opposition is exaggerating the significance of his government's budget cuts by equating them to the apocalypse.

Jason Kenney made the comments following the end of the United Conservative Party's three-day annual general meeting in Calgary on Sunday.

The day before, nearly 1,000 people gathered outside the event venue to voice their displeasure with the UCP government's fiscal plans.

The Alberta government is looking to reduce operational spending by $1.5 billion over the next four years, and cuts have been anticipated in the health and education sectors.

"Obviously in a period of fiscal restraint any government is going to face protests and opposition from government unions," Kenney responded to critics on Sunday.  

However he blamed the NDP for stoking the fire and pushback.

"They're making this out to be the arrival of the apocalypse. This is ridiculous," he told media.

When asked during a question-and-answer session during the conference, he said his government was willing to work with unions.

"If they are prepared to put on the table some of the benefits that are not typical in the private sector, I think we can retain some of those positions," said Kenney.

UCP covers Trans Mountain, City of Calgary taxes at first AGM since forming government

The convention drew more than 1,600 party members, a smaller crowd than the 2,600 that were counted at the UCP's first general meeting in 2018.

Sunday morning, Kenney and cabinet ministers took questions from party members about the future of the province in what was dubbed a "government bear pit session."

Questions ranged from what the province would need to do to deliver an Alberta provincial police service, and updates on the Trans Mountain pipeline. Kenney said 2,000 people are currently working on the project.

UCP Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu was critical of Calgary City Council's move to shift some tax burden off of businesses and onto residents last week, which is expected to equal about $10 per month for the average resident.

"I would say that it's disingenuous of them to accuse the provincial government of being responsible for what they are going to arrive and when. In fact, they have been on this particular road of reckless spending without any accountability for several years," Madu said.

Kenney echoed: "This is not just this year. This is over a decade. Tax and revenue increases that have far outstripped population growth, economic growth, and inflation."

The AGM was the party's first since forming government.

The United Conservatives have set several urgent priorities for the government, which include:

Getting guarantees on construction and completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline;

Repealing Bill C-48 and seeing significant mitigation of Bill C-69; and

Getting clear support for future liquefied natural gas projects.

On Dec. 9, Kenney will lead a delegation from Alberta to Ottawa to discuss these priorities with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.