Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals  “working against” her administration is the biggest impediment to her long-term goals for the province.

In an interview with BNN Bloomberg’s Amanda Lang airing Friday, Smith said Alberta has been able to work collaboratively with the federal government “on some things,” but criticized Ottawa for overstepping with certain environmental policies.

“The policies that keep on coming out of thin air from Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault are not constructive,” she said, pointing to the proposed oil and gas emissions cap and plans to create a net-zero electrical grid by 2035.

“This is not the way that you build a vast country like Canada. This is not the way that you build national unity. I think that there are ways that we can collaborate with the federal government, but they've got to stay in their own lane.”

Smith said that while she’s struggled to find common ground with Guilbeault, she has developed good relationships with other cabinet members, including Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne.

“Champagne is such a champion of industry, no matter where they're located, whether it's in Quebec or Ontario or Alberta, and I just wish that more of that attitude was pervasive in all of the departments of government,” she said.

Smith said she’ll continue to oppose any of Guilbeault’s “devastating” policies she believes are aimed at completely phasing out fossil fuels and shutting down the industry’s production.

“We're going to fight back against that,” Smith said, “he's got no constitutional authority to do that.”

Smith said she recognizes the need to reduce emissions and ultimately achieve a net-zero target, but argued it will take more time to successfully reach that goal than the federal government suggests.

“We've aligned around the target of being net zero by 2050; I think that's achievable. Our big companies are working along those lines… but it does take time,” she said.

Smith said she also recognizes that investors across the world are shifting their capital towards credible plans to reduce emissions, and added that Alberta’s big industry players understand that too.

“But we also need a cost-effective supply of energy in order to maintain living standards,” she said. “We can't sacrifice reliability or affordability, we've got to do all three.”

Balancing the books

Smith said one of her biggest long-term goals is to achieve a provincial net debt of zero while running balanced budgets as premier, which she said was the number one promise she made to Albertans when campaigning for the job.

She said that in recent years, Alberta’s government revenues have failed to keep up with inflation and population growth – an issue Smith said will need to be adjusted for in budgets going forward.

An income tax cut promised by Smith in her election campaign was initially set to take effect next year but was pushed back until 2026 by the provincial government last month. Smith cited lower-than-anticipated revenues from the oil and gas sector as the main reason for the delay.

Smith said in a televised address to Albertans on Feb. 21 that the cuts “will have to wait a year and be phased in responsibly.”

The tax measure was officially introduced in Alberta's 2024 budget and will include a new bracket on the first $60,000 of personal income. It will save Albertans an estimated maximum of $760 a year.

Smith said she’s challenging her ministers to find budget savings this year in order to deliver the cut on schedule without going into a deficit to pay for it. The cut is expected to cost the government $1.4 billion annually.

“I'm hoping that Albertans are seeing that we're taking a measured approach because we know that we have to do it all, but you can't necessarily do it all at once,” she said.

“We've got to pace some of the decisions that we're making.”

Reviving the Heritage Savings Trust Fund

Smith said another one of her goals is to revive Alberta’s Heritage Savings Trust Fund, which has seen its founding vision “stall” in recent decades.

The fund was established in 1976 with the goal of saving and investing a portion of the province’s resource revenues in order to strengthen and diversify Alberta’s economy for current and future generations.

Smith said the fund started with around $12 billion worth of deposits, but provincial governments over the years have taken money out of the fund to pay for operating costs and other expenses.

She said her United Conservative Party’s commitment to keeping investment income in the fund has seen it grow to more than $20 billion in assets, and the fund is set to reach $25 billion by the end of this year.

“As it grows, it's really going to be able to sustain its own growth, and I've seen some projections that we could quite easily make it to $200 (billion) to $250 (billion) by 2050 just by keeping the investment income in the fund,” Smith said.

“That decision’s already been made, and if we can also have surpluses and we put a certain portion into savings, it'll just accelerate that growth.”

Smith said that when it comes to growing revenues in the province, Alberta has done well to attract diversified business investment with tax credits and incentives, which has led to significant increases in international and interprovincial migration.

“We want to make sure that it keeps going because as you attract businesses, you also attract the different supply chains to be able to support them, and you attract the workers, which generates additional personal income tax revenue,” she added.

“I think that we're finally beginning to see some important diversification in the economy.”  

Smith’s full interview on Taking Stock with Amanda Lang will air on Friday, March 15 at 6 p.m. on BNN Bloomberg, 9 p.m. on CP24 and 10:30 p.m. on CTV News Channel.