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Alberta’s new deficit is a record $24.2 billion; debt approaches $100 billion

Albertans have experienced losses of more than 170,000 jobs and a 13 per cent unemployment rate.

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Alberta’s UCP government says that the fiscal deficit for 2020-21 will a staggering $24.2 billion. The province now sits on a debt burden of $99.6 billion, or $22,400 per Albertan.

Albertans have experienced losses of more than 170,000 jobs and a 13 per cent unemployment rate.

The government claims that the record deficit was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and oil price crash, however several analysts believe that the province was unlikely to meet its balanced budget promises even before the pandemic and downturn in oil.

“The first-quarter projections show a significant increase to the deficit reaching $24.2 billion – $16.8 billion higher than estimated in Budget 2020. Almost 70 per cent of this increase is due to a sharp decline in revenue with non-renewable resource revenue down $3.9 billion. Total revenue is estimated to be $38.4 billion, down $11.5 billion, or 23 per cent from Budget 2020,” the government said in a release.

“These numbers are incredibly sobering to all of us. If left unchecked, they predict a grim reality for Albertans. We are facing the most significant economic challenge of our generation. To deal with this challenge, our government is developing a path forward – a path of economic recovery that will see job creation, diversification and stability restored to Alberta’s finances,” said Travis Toews, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance.

“The reality is balancing the budget will almost certainly need to be necessarily delayed,”

“We need to deliver the most cost-effective government services possible,” Toews said.

The UCP government’s budget cuts just $1 billion over four years from NDP levels of spending when they took office.

“That’s absolutely essential. Alberta can no longer afford to be an outlier in terms of the cost of delivering services to Albertans.”

“An updated economic forecast shows the pandemic has negatively affected business investment, oil production and consumer spending. Although 2020 began with a strong investment market, the fallout of COVID-19 has sidelined that expected growth. Alberta’s economy is expected to contract by 8.8 per cent in 2020, the largest decline in modern-day history and a decrease of 11.3 percentage points from the budget forecast,” the government said in a release.

Wednesday, the Conference Board of Canada predicted Alberta’s economy would shrink by 11.3 per cent.

In April, the price of Western Canada Select actually went into negative territory as global prices hit an 18-year low. Price were also hit by an oil war between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Toews said the economy should rebound by 4.6 per cent next year but employment will not recover until the end of 2021.

 The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling on the Alberta government to tackle its spending problem..

“For years, politicians have been hitting the snooze button while the government’s spending has been skyrocketing and our finances have been deteriorating,” said Franco Terrazzano, the CTF’s Alberta Director.

“Today’s fiscal update and the $100-billion debt tab is a loud wake-up call for the politicians and interest groups who think we can keep racking up charges on the taxpayer credit card. It’s time for Alberta politicians to stop procrastinating and tackle the government’s overspending problem.”

The CTF said interest costs on the debt are expected to be $2.5 billion this year, which is more than $500 per Albertan.

The Alberta government has the highest per person spending in Canada, according to the Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s finances. The panel also found that Alberta would spend $10.4 billion less every year if its per person spending was in line with B.C., Ontario and Quebec.

“Alberta’s in fiscal quicksand and we’ll need quick action to get out before we are up to our necks in debt,” said Terrazzano.

“Struggling Alberta families and businesses can’t afford to keep paying for a high-cost provincial government, so Premier Jason Kenney needs to cut spending and grow the economy.”

The NDP also blasted the Kenney government.

“The UCP’s plan was failing before the pandemic and it’s failing now. All they’ve managed to do is make a bad situation worse,” said NDP Finance Critic Shannon Phillips.

“While the UCP continues to give handouts to CEOs and shareholders, Albertans continue to fall further behind.

“Today’s update has no plan for Calgary, it has no plan for getting people back to work, it has no plan for an economic recovery at all.”

Quick facts – First Quarter Fiscal Update

  • The deficit is forecast at $24.2 billion for 2020-21
  • Taxpayer-supported debt is forecast to be $99.6 billion on March 31, 2021
  • Total forecasted revenue is $38.4 billion which is down $11.5 billion from budget
  • Total forecasted expense is $62.6 billion, which is an increase of $5.3 billion from budget
  • $1.4 billion has been added to the 2020-21 Capital Plan, with total capital plan spending for the year now at $8.4 billion. The majority of these increases reflect economic stimulus and support for municipalities as part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan
  • As part of the recovery plan, government added a $1.5 billion commitment to the Keystone XL pipeline, bringing Alberta’s total commitment to infrastructure in 2020-21 to nearly $10 billion

….More to come

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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Liberals considering an extra $34 million CBC bailout

The broadcaster’s advertising revenue is falling as quickly as its ratings – its 27 stations across Canada combined to an average of 319,000 viewers, 12,000 per city, for their dinner-hour news.

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The federal Liberals are considering giving the CBC another $34 million in taxpayer cash as part of a COVID-19 bailout.

The proposed bailout is found in documents from the Treasury Board released this week.

The proposed increase — $33.733 million — is described as an “internal reallocation of resources for the COVID-19 impact to advertising revenues and operating costs” reported the Toronto Sun.

CBC has reported a revenue loss of 13% in their first quarter – blaming a drop in advertising dollars because of the pandemic.

The broadcaster’s advertising revenue is falling as quickly as its ratings – its 27 stations across Canada combined to an average of 319,000 viewers, 12,000 per city, for their dinner-hour news.

Treasury Board president Jean-Yves Duclos, Supplementary Estimates (B), 2020–21 shows $79.2 billion in budgetary spending, $58 billion in estimated statutory expenditures and nearly $21 billion in spending needing Parliament’s approval.

The CBC already receives more than $1-billion each year of taxpayer’s money.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Alberta agriculture minister hit by rural crime

Devin Dreeshen, the UCP MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, tweeted he was at home last week when the criminals hit.

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Alberta’s agriculture minister has become the latest victim of rural crime.

Devin Dreeshen, the UCP MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, tweeted he was at home last week when the criminals hit.

“Woke up at 4am to the sound of my truck being stolen. Criminals were in the process of stealing quads from the shed but were scared off. Needs to be fixed – rural Albertans shouldn’t have to put up with this,” Dreeshen tweeted.

A pick-up truck belonging to the agriculture minister was taken and reportedly used in a crime spree across Alberta before being dumped and set on fire near Cold Lake.

RCMP recovered the vehicle on Thursday.

“Appropriate steps were taken immediately following the incident, involving all concerned ministries. For example, any electronic devices that may have been compromised by this incident were successfully remotely wiped by government officials,” said a government statement to Rebel News.

“Furthermore, the Government of Alberta has significant security measures in place for all of its information. Cabinet-level documents are accessed digitally through a secure, password-protected cloud-based app. Drives are password-protected and encrypted so they cannot be accessed simply by removing the drive and plugging it into another computer.”

Rural Alberta has been hit with a plague or rural crime the past two years.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Edmonton NDP MP slammed for asking feds to stop health transfers to Alberta

Heather McPherson, NDP MP for Edmonton Strathcona, said in the House of Commons Kenney’s changes has put the health system “under attack” with women disproportionally affected.

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An Edmonton NDP MP is being blasted for asking the feds if they would withhold health transfers to Alberta in the wake of Premier Jason Kenney’s moves to shake up the health care system in the province.

Heather McPherson, NDP MP for Edmonton Strathcona, said in the House of Commons Kenney’s changes has put the health system “under attack” with women disproportionally affected.

“Will the minister commit to protecting women in Alberta and the rest of Canada,” McPherson asked.

“Will she withhold transfer payments if Jason Kenney refuses to adhere to the Canada Health Act?”

But that move is being slammed by prominent Edmonton businessman and Tory candidate in Edmonton Strathcona, Rick Peterson.

“It is totally fine that @HMcPhersonMP disagrees with @jkenney, but asking for federal health transfers to be withheld from Alberta is unacceptable. No level of disagreement justifies threats to Albertans’ healthcare funding, especially from the #EdmontonStrathcona MP,” said Peterson, who ran for the federal Tory leadership earlier this year.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced earlier this month that Alberta Health Services was shedding 9,700 hundred jobs by shifting them to the private sector.

The UCP has also asked the AHS to remove 100 managers.

Most of the 9,700 other jobs will now be outsourced in labs, housekeeping, food services, and laundry.

There will be 2,000 laboratory jobs, 4,000 housekeeping jobs, 3,000 food service jobs, and 400 laundry jobs cut.

The province said about 70 per cent of lab results are already contracted out, as is 68 per cent of laundry.

AHS has 3,300 employees in management, with 68 senior leaders and 14 on the executive teams.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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