Finance Minister Travis Toews, left, delivers the provincial budget as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney looks on, in Edmonton, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Finance Minister Travis Toews, left, delivers the provincial budget as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney looks on, in Edmonton, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta must juggle sluggish economy, big deficits, lost jobs in upcoming budget

Premier Jason Kenney won last spring’s election on a promise to boost jobs, grow the economy

Alberta is to bring in its new budget Thursday while juggling a sluggish economy, multibillion-dollar deficits and escalating conflicts with public-sector workers.

“There continues to be heavy lifting in front of us as a province. But I will say this: we are on track,” Finance Minister Travis Toews said Wednesday.

“We will be putting a real focus on job creation,” said Toews, who added that a plan remains in place to balance the budget by 2022-23.

In keeping with tradition, Toews displayed for media the footwear he will wear for budget day. He brought out the same thing he wore last year — his size 10 cowboy boots — to signal that the work continues.

Premier Jason Kenney and his United Conservatives won last spring’s election on a promise to boost jobs, grow the economy and revitalize Alberta’s wellspring oil and gas industry.

But the province has shed about 50,000 full-time jobs. And this week Teck Resources decided not to pursue a highly anticipated $20-billion oilsands mine project in northern Alberta.

On top of that, the province has budgeted the benchmark West Texas Intermediate oil price at US$57 per barrel for this year and rising to $63 in two years.

However, global conditions, including reduced demand from China due to the novel coronavirus, have the WTI hovering around the $50 mark, well below what the government has been hoping to take in.

The NDP Opposition has noted that Canada’s six private-sector banks project Alberta’s economy will grow by 1.7 per cent in 2020, a full percentage point lower than the prediction in the UCP’s first budget last fall.

Toews acknowledged the situation. “What we see today out there in the global economy represents the volatility risk that we have in Alberta.

“It just further reinforces the rationale to manage and control what we can control.”

Part of that is an ongoing effort to redirect or reduce spending to get more value for money, particularly in big-budget areas such as health and education.

It’s a fight that’s been met with rising anger as the government looks for wage cuts from some public-sector workers, wage freezes and benefit cuts from nurses, and changes to doctors fees and benefits.

NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips, in her prebudget media conference Wednesday, also trotted out footwear: a nurse’s sneakers, a teacher’s high heels, a child’s runners and the work boots of a laid-off oilfield services worker.

Phillips said the footwear represents Albertans who will continue to feel the effects of Kenney’s cuts while the government helps its business friends with a corporate tax cut that will soon be down to eight per cent from 12 per cent.

“I’m expecting to see a plan, unless they actually change direction, that blows a hole in the budget,” said Phillips, who added that less revenue will mean even deeper cuts to health and education.

Economist Trevor Tombe said Kenney’s government is in for a squeeze, particularly given that current oil prices and projections into the future are less than what it had planned.

“They’re going to need to respond to a dramatically different fiscal and economic environment than they faced even as early as last fall,” said Tombe of the University of Calgary.

The current budget projects a deficit of $8.7 billion on $50 billion in revenue, with debt projected to rise to $72 billion this spring.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Alberta Legislature

Just Posted

Alberta’a chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday that there are more than 328,000 vaccine appointments booked over the next seven days. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta surpasses 2 million doses administered of COVID-19 vaccine

Red Deer down to 835 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.
‘We did not unite around blind loyalty to one man’:Kenney faces internal call to quit

Senior backbench member Todd Loewen, in a letter posted on Facebook, called on Kenney to resign

Alberta continues to wrestle with high COVID-19 case numbers. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer up to 858 active cases of COVID-19

Province reports additional 1,799 cases of the virus

(Photo Courtesy of Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools will not pilot draft curriculum

RDCRS is one of many divisions in the area to opt out of the pilot of the K-6 draft curriculum

Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via video conference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The committee is looking into Government Spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity, watchdog says

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that former finance minister Bill Morneau did violate the rules

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
Alberta RCMP investigating possible threat to police after Mirror rally

Online images show RCMP members, vehicles in crosshairs of a rifle

An Israeli attack helicopter launches flares as he flies over the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Singh calls for halt on Canadian arms sales to Israel as violence escalates in region

Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019

New homes are built in a housing construction development in the west-end of Ottawa on Thursday, May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Budget’s foreign-homebuyers tax could bring in $509 million over 4 years, PBO says

Liberals are proposing a one per cent tax on vacant homes owned by foreign non-residents

A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier’s shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The Canadian Forces says it has charged one of its members in the death of an army reservist from British Columbia during a training exercise at a military base in Alberta last year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg
Canadian Forces member charged in death of army reservist during training exercise

Cpl. Lars Callsen has been charged with one count of negligence

A youth plays basketball in an otherwise quiet court in Toronto on Saturday April 17, 2021. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is urging the federal and provincial governments to fight COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on proven public health policy interventions including paid sick leave, and education rather than punitive enforcement measures. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Provinces issued more COVID-19 tickets during 2nd wave: CCLA report

‘A pandemic is a public health, not a public order, crisis,’ reads the report

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Trudeau is rejecting accusations from Alberta’s justice minister that his federal government is part of a trio rooting for that province’s health system to collapse due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Alberta justice minister sorry for saying feds, others rooting for COVID disaster

Earlier Tuesday, prior to Madu’s apology, Trudeau rejected the accusations

In this Monday, March 15, 2021 file photo a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is pictured in a pharmacy in Boulogne Billancourt, outside Paris. Questions remained Wednesday about the future of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in Canada, as Manitoba limited use of the shot and Ontario announced it planned to save an incoming shipment to use as second doses. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Christophe Ena, File
Questions remain about the future of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot in Canada

More than two million Canadians have received AstraZeneca and 17 have been confirmed to have VITT

Most Read