The Progressive Conservatives may have announced when the 2015 budget will be unveiled Thursday, but two of Alberta’s top officials mostly played defense during a press conference with reporters over recent comments made by the premier.
Finance Minister Robin Campbell and Health Minister Stephen Mandel faced tons of questions regarding Jim Prentice’s commentary, as the government announced the budget will be tabled March 26th.
During a radio interview Wednesday, Prentice said when it comes to who is responsible for the fiscal crisis, he said all Albertans have to look in the mirror, as everyone has “had the best of everything and have not had to pay for what it costs.”
It also prompted #PrenticeBlamesAlbertans to trend nationally on Twitter and the opposition parties to issue statements, but Campbell said he had only just heard of the controversy.
“I didn’t listen to the interview, the first I heard about it is you people talking today about it,” he said.
He was also asked if Prentice should apologize since Albertans are offended.
“I don’t know if Albertans are offended or not, nobody’s told me they’re offended,” Campbell responded. “The premier has a vision, he’s made it very clear that we’re bringing a 10-year plan, he’s made it very clear that we’re going to change the fiscal framework going forward.”
Campbell also downplayed the significance of the attention the comments have garnered.
“I think it’s blown out of proportion and I think that the premier has made it very clear what he wants to do, he’s passionate about this province, he’s passionate about his kids and he’s passionate about the future of this province.”
But when Campbell was asked if he thinks the fiscal crisis is the fault of Albertans, he didn’t say they were.
“Oil’s low right now, we’ve got to get our spending under control, we’ve made that very clear since September,” he said.
Mandel also defended Prentice, saying his comments reflected Albertans being in this together.
“This is about how we’re going to solve it as a team, as in a province and I think that’s what his goal is and I think for people to take it further than that is going beyond what he’s done,” he said. “I think people are taking this out of context.”
Mandel added he doesn’t think Prentice meant to say that Albertans are to blame and he was also asked about the online attention.
“I can’t help what Twitter feeds do or don’t do, I just know the reality of what this premier does, what he cares about and the passion he has for Albertans in making sure all of us have a great future in this wonderful province,” he said, reiterating Campbell’s comment that he has no sense of uproar from the public because this was the first he had seen of it.
“Those are people that are making their comments vocal on a situation, they have every right, this is a free country,” Mandel said.