It’s a case of getting kicked while we’re down.
In his First Quarter fiscal update, Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci says the Fort McMurray wildfire is adding roughly $500 million to Alberta’s deficit. It now stands at $10.9 billion.
That’s when you take into account the cost of disaster assistance, and the estimated $300 million in lost revenues from income tax and royalties due to the fire. This on top of the stress the economy had already been facing from the oil price shock.
“While there are other changes from our budget plan reflected in this report,” Ceci says, “essentially, were it not for the Wood Buffalo wildfire, the deficit projection this year would be on track.”
Ceci says spending has stayed mostly in line, with the exception of some healthcare programs.
“At this point in the year, we’re projecting that operating expenses will rise by $122 million or 0.3% on a $44 million budget.” he says.
Alberta’s debt will reach $32 billion by the end of this year, and could be as high as $58 billion by the end of the decade. However, Ceci says the Government is sticking to its action plan, and won’t resort to cuts and austerity programming.
“‘Sticking to it’ means that, unlike the opposition, you don’t throw things overboard when times get tough.” Ceci says. “Previous governments did that. They caused a lot of pain. And we’re going to be shouldering the difficulties through the downturn. We’re going to be assisting Albertans to come out of it in a stronger way, when our economy improves as soon as 2017.” (ms, bg)