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Kenney: Opposition, unions treating budget cuts like the 'the apocalypse'

FILE PHOTO - Alberta Premier Jason Kenney delivers his State of the Province address to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce in Edmonton on October 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

CALGARY — Alberta’s premier says the Opposition and union leaders are treating public sector cuts as though they are the arrival of the apocalypse.

But Jason Kenney says his United Conservative government is taking a much more measured approach to trimming its budget than former premier Ralph Klein did in the 1990s.

He says the Klein-era cuts were based on arbitrary targets and many had to be undone later.

The premier was speaking to reporters at the close of the UCP’s first annual general meeting since it took power this spring.

A day earlier hundreds of protesters gathered in the cold outside the airport hotel to speak out against education and health-care job losses.

Some in the crowd were chanting about a general strike, but Kenney says he doubts Albertans would take kindly to such a move when public sector workers have fared relatively well in recent years.

The United Conservatives aim to cut overall operating spending by 2.8 per cent over four years — $1.3 billion out of a $55-billion budget.

In a speech to party faithful on Saturday night, Kenney noted the Klein government cut spending by 20 per cent over two years.

“They’re making this out to be the arrival of the apocalypse,” Kenney said of his critics at the Sunday news conference.

“This is ridiculous. This is by modern Canadian fiscal standards one of the most modest periods of fiscal restraint. So I just wish everybody would be a little more objective in their language around this.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2019.

The Canadian Press