Alberta’s deficit is expected to rise by about $500-million this year because of the Fort McMurray wildfire. Finance Minister Joe Ceci says that brings the projected deficit to $10.9-billion from $10.4-billion.
Ceci says the $500-million represents recovery costs and about $300-million in lost revenues in oil and forestry production in northern Alberta. Ceci says the fire, along with persistent low oil prices, will continue to depress Alberta’s fortunes this year, but things are expected to improve in 2017. He made the comments in Edmonton Tuesday during a first quarter fiscal update.
“These are difficult times,” Ceci told reporters, but says if they stick to the plan outlined earlier this year, the province will emerge from the recession stronger. He also reiterated a common phrase from the NDP, about how they won’t be making “knee-jerk cuts” in an effort to balance the books.
Opposition parties were quick to pounce on the bad news. Alberta Party leader Greg Clark says the NDP government has to shoulder some responsibility for raising taxes and not reducing spending. “The ND’s don’t have any ability to take responsibility for their own choices, their own actions. They always seem to be blaming external factors, be it the previous government or world oil prices or devastating natural disasters.”
The Wildrose says Albertans will be paying higher taxes, investors will stay away and the province will see more credit downgrades unless the NDP comes up with a serious plan to control spending. Wildrose MLA Glenn Van Dijken says the NDP has ignored modest spending reductions proposed by his party. “Two billion dollars–two cents on every dollar the government is spending, essentially. In order to get a budget under control you have to start. If you don’t start, you will never get there.” The Wildrose proposal would include a hiring and wage freeze for public sector workers.
Interim PC leader Ric McIver says the NDP’s constant criticism of the previous tory governent is getting old. “They’re now a year and a half into governing and they haven’t talk about anything that they’ve done. And little wonder because they really done nothing but make bad mistakes and make the situation worse.”
Alberta’s debt is now at $32 billion and is on track to reach $58 billion in four years. Ceci continues to expect Alberta to be back in the black by 2024.