Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Faces $5.9B Deficit; Minister Says That May Grow If Oil Stays Low

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Faces $5.9B Deficit; Minister Says That May Grow If Oil Stays Low

Article excerpt

Alberta on track for $5.9B deficit: fiscal update

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EDMONTON - Alberta's finance minister says the province is on track for a record $5.9-billion deficit this year as the oil crunch hits families and businesses.

And Joe Ceci says the worst may not be over if low oil prices persist and the province continues in recession.

"If current conditions continue, the final deficit will be in the range of $6.5 billion," Ceci said Monday as he released first-quarter figures for the 2015-16 fiscal year which began April 1.

Ceci said the NDP government will continue to look for efficiencies, but will not engage in large-scale layoffs or deep cuts to erase the red ink.

"We are laser focused on taking positive steps toward economic recovery."

Opposition Wildrose finance critic Derek Fildebrandt calculated the hit to Alberta's treasury is actually $9 billion when $3 billion drained from the contingency fund and new borrowing for capital projects are added in.

"This is the largest hit that our province has taken to its net wealth in the history of the province, and that should be concerning," said Fildebrandt.

Monday's numbers are based on the budget introduced, but never passed, by former Progressive Conservative premier Jim Prentice's government before it was defeated by Rachel Notley and the NDP in May. That budget estimated a $5-billion deficit.

The new estimates reflect changes made by the NDP, including higher corporate and personal taxes, and more than a billion dollars in new spending for health, education and social services.

Ceci is to bring in a fully revised budget after the house resumes sitting Oct. 26.

Revenue is forecast at $44.3 billion -- about $1 million higher than the Prentice budget. The increase is driven mainly by higher-than-expected oil revenue in the spring, more revenue from personal and business taxes and a lower Canadian dollar. …

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