Alberta Gov't Projects Budget Deficit Of $6.8 Billion

01 Mars, 2020, 01:43 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • Premier Jason Kenney and Finance Minister Travis Toews present the 2020 Budget A Plan for Jobs and the Economy

The Alberta budget is counting on oil and gas bouncing back while recognizing it's time to put more money and effort into areas such as high-tech and tourism.

"We need to work together with our excellent, world-class post secondary institutions to bring that cost curve down", said Alberta finance minister Travis Toews, speaking to media at the release of Alberta's Budget 2020 fiscal plan on Thursday.

"While we've had a jobs focus from Day 1 as a government, we will be putting an even finer focus on job creation going forward". We are on track to balance the budget by 2022-23 and Alberta's surplus in that year is expected to be higher than that projected in Budget 2019. Debt is expected to rise to nearly $77 billion by the spring of 2021. However, the provincial government of Premier Jason Kenney predicts better times ahead in the oil sector as pipeline projects come online and exports increase. It continues to forecast a return to surplus in 2022-23, anticipating that non-renewable resource revenue will rise almost 70% from the level it projects for the upcoming fiscal year.

The budget's revenues assume oil prices will average WTI $61.50/barrel. It is now hovering at about $50 due mainly to the novel coronavirus outbreak that is reducing demand in China. Of course, if oil-and-gas critic Bernie Sanders, the Democratic frontrunner, is elected president later this year, we'll reach peak chaos in the industry across North America.

Alberta's corporate tax rate has already been reduced from 12% to 10% as part of the Job Creation Tax Cut, and there are two more reductions scheduled.

Cuts to the public sector will see an estimated 684 jobs lost, with the majority coming from a 277 job hit to the Agriculture and Forestry department.

While Alberta's unemployment rate remains higher than seven per cent, the UCP government expects it to fall gradually to 5.1 per cent by 2023.

Fewer provincial operational dollars will also flow to Alberta museums, including the Royal Alberta Museum, Royal Tyrrell Museum and Glenbow Museum, in addition to other heritage-based programs in the province.

On the expense side, the government continues to follow the advice of a third-party panel chaired by former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice MacKinnon.

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The education property tax will be increased by population growth plus inflation.

"Government policies can spur and support growth - and they can impede it -but they cannot create it", reads the plan, entitled A Blueprint for Jobs.

With Alberta's volatility, that is the most sensible stance of all.

The government is forecasting it will spend $26.7 billion on public-sector compensation with continued tight controls on salaries and compensation.

A total of 684 full-time equivalent positions with the government are set to be cut this year.

Guy Smith, head of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, said the budget is more fuel for the smouldering dispute between its members and the government.

"Albertans are going to notice it when they try to get services from the province".

Jonathan Bilodeau, executive director of the Alberta Students Executive Council, said the budget was an improvement from the fall budget, but is anxious about increased costs for students.

Alberta will maintain the government's current level of spending on physicians at $5.4 billion and implement a new funding framework to avoid $2 billion in cost overruns by 2022-23.

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