As we approach the festive season we are all looking forward to spending time with family and friends. We also take time to reflect on the past year and plan for the next one.
For me, the past year was exceptional. Thanks to the hard work of people like you and the support of thousands of Albertans, I was given the honour of leading our Progressive Conservative Party to success in the provincial election. We were given a strong mandate to pursue an aggressive agenda of change.
Throughout the past months every member of our PC Caucus has been involved in conversations with Albertans—not just in PC-represented constituencies but throughout the entire province. Our goal is to listen—not to direct. We intend to provide legislation, programs and services that truly reflect the vision for our province that Albertans have described to us.
We are fortunate. The economies of Alberta and Saskatchewan are an island within North America. Thanks to our resource sector we have low unemployment and we may be again entering a period where there are more jobs than people looking for work. Growth is a key factor to our healthy economy but it is a two-sided coin. The other side is the pressure it puts on our province to provide and maintain infrastructure and services with limited financial resources.
Provincial revenues continue to be negatively affected by low natural gas prices. We have a balanced operational budget but have a shortfall when it comes to capital spending. We could easily balance that part of the leger as well if we cancelled all capital projects such as critically needed hospitals and road or the many needed new schools. We have chosen to bear the criticism of having an unbalanced budget rather than abandon those needed projects. At the same time however, we are limiting spending in other areas and are working towards a balanced budget by the spring of 2013-2014.
It was pleasing to see so many of you at our recent convention. It was a time for me to say thanks and to give you a formal update on our activities, but more importantly it was an opportunity to our members to give us positive and constructive feedback—all intended to make our party and Province a better place. Thank you.
Glen, Sarah and I extend our best wishes to you. We hope the holiday season is all you would like it to be as you share it with friends and family and as you look to the New Year with enthusiasm and optimism.