Alberta's budget pledges more aid for COVID-19 with hard deficit

Canada's Alberta sees budget deficit narrowing to C$18 bln as oil prices recover

Canada's Alberta sees budget deficit narrowing to C$18 bln as oil prices recover

Alberta's revenue fell to a forecasted $42.3 billion in 2020, $7.7 billion less than the government had budgeted for last February.

"Budget 2021 ensures health-care funding to see all Albertans through the COVID-19 pandemic".

Finance minister Travis Toews said Alberta will set aside C$1.25 billion in contingency funding to fight COVID-19.

"(But) Albertans continue to face one of the most hard times in our history.

"Budget 2021 will provide funding ... to ensure Albertans have a competitive edge, as economies reopen, growth restarts and opportunities reappear", Toews said in his budget address. The province also plans to invest almost C$21 billion over three years in construction projects to create new jobs and support economic recovery.

Toews and Premier Jason Kenney have called Alberta's economic bludgeoning a rare "triple black swan" caused by the pandemic, the resulting global recession and an oil-price war that further depressed prices.

"The economic outlook is slightly more positive than in previous reports".

Taxpayer-supported debt is at $98.3 billion and is expected to hit $115.8 billion by the end of 2021-22 - number $21.4 billion and $32.9 billion higher, respectively, than expected in last year's budget, in part due to the higher deficit. Annual debt interest charges nearly $3 billion.

The plan of the premier of Alberta was simple: to return to a balanced budget in a few years, he would slash public spending to bring it back to the level of other large provinces and stimulate the economy with a lower tax on businesses.

- Spending on COVID-19 to be $1.1 billion.

Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said the budget fails on multiple fronts.

AstraZeneca to miss European Union vaccine delivery target in second quarter
The same sources said the leaders decided on a tougher approach on vaccines export ban for companies not respecting commitments. Meanwhile, EU anti-fraud agency OLAF has confirmed EURACTIV reports about a vast black market of COVID-19 vaccines.

"It's a little bit of a deer in the headlights budget".

"We know they've requested rollbacks at the bargaining table and we believe that the bargaining process should continue". That includes $1.5 billion for key economic sectors such as energy agriculture and forestry.

Notley suggested the budget continues to undermine services across the board - either through direct reductions or by failing to fund for population growth and inflation.

Alberta's revenues could recover to pre-pandemic levels within a couple years, rising to $47.4 billion next year and $50.9 billion the following year.

Oil prices have rebounded in recent weeks to above US$60 a barrel for the benchmark West Texas Intermediate, but Toews said the province can't count on or budget for renewed boom times.

The Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta's finances found that the Alberta government would spend $10 billion less every single year if it brought its per person spending in line with comparable provinces, such as British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

One way the province is aiming to get its fiscal house in order is through accountability, with a bright spotlight shining on public sector compensation and getting Alberta's public sector spending in line with other provinces. The unemployment rate in the province is expected to decline by one-and-a-half percentage points in the year ahead, to 9.9 per cent.

He said even with the reduced spending as planned by 2022, the government will need to find billions of dollars of new money.

But he noted the budget's most optimistic scenario - West Texas Intermediate oil averaging U.S. $64.50 a barrel by 2023 - could reduce the deficit to as little as $3.4 billion and give the government a chance to balance the books while avoiding dreaded tax hikes in an election year.

"Will the government send [dans ce budget] a signal that he is ready to start a discussion on tough choices, rather than just hoping that a rise in oil prices will fix itAsks Trevor Tombe".

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