Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Redford Says with Falling Oil Revenue, March 7 Budget Will Be Transformational

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Redford Says with Falling Oil Revenue, March 7 Budget Will Be Transformational

Article excerpt

Redford says March 7 budget transformational

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EDMONTON - With Alberta's bottom line being gutted by falling oil revenue, the March 7 budget will embody a "once in a generation" transformation in how the province builds and sustains its spending, Premier Alison Redford said Friday.

"It's about this being a new reality and us having to face that," said Redford in an interview.

"(It's a plan to) think about what kind of a province we want to live in, how we're going to plan long term and not sort of sit back and cross our fingers and hope the price of oil goes up.

"You don't do that every year. You do it once in a generation. And this is the time for us to do it now."

Redford made the comments one day after telling Albertans in a provincewide TV address that soft energy prices will slash the expected oil and natural gas revenue in the 2013-14 budget from $13 billion to $7 billion.

She said Alberta is caught in a price vise: growing oil production in the U.S. and Alberta access tied to markets south of the border means a yawning gap in the benchmark North American price for oil versus what Alberta's oilsands bitumen is fetching.

That won't change, she said, until pipelines are extended to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast and to B.C. for shipment to markets in Asia.

The current budget pegs spending at a record $41 billion. Redford said she will hold that line while making changes to programs and services to improve value for money while not sacrificing priorities.

"If you don't have a long-term vision, then you end up being shortsighted and getting into pitfalls," she said.

Redford declined to get into specifics of what projects or programs could be on the chopping block. She said which capital projects will proceed depends on their priority and how much work has already been invested.

"If they make sense for Albertans and they fit within the priorities that Albertans set for us in the last election, we're going to continue to invest in those things," she said. …

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