By Trevor Busch
The provincial NDP will be charting a path toward a balanced budget for fall 2015, but numbers are not expected to be officially back in the black during the current fiscal year.
“The legislature will reconvene in October, likely on Oct. 26. We will present a provincial budget that restores stability to our hospitals, and to our schools,” said Premier Rachel Notley, speaking during a press conference in Edmonton earlier this month.
“Our budget will also set out a road map to a balanced budget, without self-defeating, unnecessary, and damaging cutbacks to health care and education, that Albertans need and want.”
Plummeting prices for oil, still hovering well below $50 per barrel, should remain instructive in helping educate Albertans about the need for significant diversification of the provincial economy, according to Notley.
“As we all know, there has been a significant drop in the international price of oil. Albertans have seen price booms and busts many times before, and we’ve all seen the price that we pay for being too dependent on one commodity and one price, and for failing to save for a rainy day.”
Notley promised far-reaching economic tactics to address the looming fiscal crisis facing the province.
“The government of Alberta will therefore be setting out a job creation and economic development plan this fall. Our plan will address the infrastructure Alberta needs for a more modern and diversified economy, our plan will address how we can support small and medium sized business and manufacturing, our plan will promote trade development and trade diversification, and our plan will promote innovation, diversification, and employment options. The details will be presented during the session.”
The premier was careful to note changes to the province’s royalty structure would be incumbent upon a significant recovery in the price of oil.
“Finally, we’ll be acting on the challenges we face on climate change, and we will be considering what our royalty structure should look like, as international prices recover.”
Challenged on her party’s approach to the provincial budget, Notley was quick to fire back that none of the provincial parties that contested the May election had promised a balanced budget for 2015.
“I said we would be tabling a budget that maps out a path to a balanced budget. We are not planning on tabling a balanced budget this fall — I think we’ve been quite clear about that, it’s been clear in our campaign platform, and quite frankly, there was not a single party in the last election that proposed to table a balanced budget this fall — or this spring.”