Finance Minister Joe Ceci addressed more than 500 at an Edmonton Chamber of Commerce luncheon Friday, one day after he delivered the provincial budget.
Before the address, the board of the chamber met with Ceci, and asked that the province undergo a full program spending review, to see if some efficiencies can be found.
“What we’re in danger of is leaving an unmanageable legacy for future generations,” chamber CEO Janet Riopel told reporters after the meeting. “As this grows, how do you pay it back? We’ve all identified that. How do you begin to pay back $71 billion?”
“The faster that you have a plan and reduce, the better off that we’re going to be.”
READ MORE: Highlights from Alberta Budget 2017
Ceci, however, doesn’t want to go into a full review, but is willing to talk.
“I’m going to look at the kinds of things that she’s talked about, but I did say that rather than getting into another review at this point in time let’s talk about where some targeted focus discussions could occur, focused at government but perhaps not get into a full-fledged review,” he said.
— Edmonton Chamber (@EdmontonChamber) March 17, 2017
His reluctance comes from the fact the province of Alberta has already undergone a zero based budgeting exercise that he said is now in the reporting stage.
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Ceci believes the deficit will eventually dwindle down to balanced by the 2022-2023 fiscal year, and then the debt will begin to be paid off. He said, in the interim, Alberta’s GDP will continually grow and the extra revenue generated will get Alberta producing again after suffering through an oil slump induced recession.
“With regard to financials, I can tell you we have the best balance sheet of any province, we have amongst the lowest debt to GDP and as we go forward we will address our debt servicing and the debt we will accumulate.”
Alberta’s debt to GDP ratio is at 9.6 per cent.
“We’re doing the necessary things to keep life affordable for Albertans, make life better for Albertans across this province,” he said in his speech to the luncheon, a theme that was prominent in Thursday’s budget.
Riopel said the chamber is doing a similar review of City of Edmonton operations, and that they believe in the process.