Travis Toews, Minister of Finance, speaks to the media about the MacKinnon Panel report on Alberta’s Finances in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. Alberta’s finance minister says the province will take drastic action to ensure its financial books move from the red to the black. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

No longer the ‘rich kids on the block:’ Alberta finance minister sells restraint

The province will take drastic action to ensure its financial books move into the black

Alberta’s finance minister says the United Conservative government still aims to balance the budget by 2023 but nothing is written in stone — especially with a continued uncertainty over pipelines.

“Certainly within the realm of reasonable economic outcomes we commit to balancing the budget in our first term … recognizing we do face revenue volatility in this province. That’s a fact of life,” Travis Toews said after a speech Wednesday to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

“We will need additional market access. We will need additional revenues.”

The Federal Court of Appeal earlier Wednesday said it would hear six challenges of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which was approved by Ottawa for a second time in June and would increase the amount of Alberta oil moving to the west coast. The appeals focus on Indigenous consultations. The court dismissed several claims based on environmental concerns.

Toews said the province will take drastic action to ensure its financial books move into the black.

On Tuesday, the province released a report from a panel headed by former Saskatchewan Finance Minister Janice MacKinnon that said the province habitually overspends on services and needs to get tough on schools, have university students pay more and force doctors to charge less.

“We were awash in cash for some years. It led to increased spending and when the downturn came, spending wasn’t adjusted,” Toews told his audience.

“We can no longer afford to spend at that rate. We can no longer spend like we’re the rich kids on the block because, quite frankly, we’re not anymore.”

Toews said afterwards that although the report suggests the province cut its operating budget by $600 million a year, it could be even higher than that.

“The reality is we need to ensure that we’re reducing spending again to ensure that we have a cushion, that we have a contingency for our revenue volatility,” he said.

“My expectation is it’s going to have to be more than $600 million.”

The report also said that there needs to be salary restraint across government and legislation should be used to set public-sector wage levels.

Toews said nothing has been finalized, but the government would prefer to negotiate new contracts.

“We recognize that the public sector is a key partner in delivering high-quality programs and services to Albertans. We respect them and our first goal will always be to negotiate collectively.”

The UCP government plans to table a budget in October.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Supporting a friend with mental health issues

AHS: Do you have a friend who just doesn’t seem to be their usual self?

PHOTOS: Ponoka Curling Club hosts Alberta Junior Curling Tour Event

The Ponoka Curling Club hosted its first-ever Alberta Junior Curling Tour Event… Continue reading

Jeffery Kraft of Ponoka remembered for being loving, well-liked

Kraft passed away on Dec. 15, 2019, in Lacombe at 20 years old

Deserving Ponoka student appointed to National Youth Council

Yael Witvoet will now be able to advocate for causes on a national scale

Province investigating death of Samson Cree Nation youth in care

16-year-old found deceased outside in Rocky Mountain House

VIDEO: Music stars pay tribute to Kobe Bryant at Grammys award show

Music artists including Billy Ray Cyrus, Rick Ross and Kirk Franklin paid tribute to Bryant

Pregnant B.C. woman stuck in Wuhan, the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak

Woman is due to give birth in Wuhan, China unless she can get out

Ontario confirms second presumptive coronavirus case in wife of first patient

Both arrived on a China Southern Airlines flight after having been to Wuhan

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

UPDATE Human remains found in Manny’s Motel ruins

UPDATE RCMP Major Crimes Unit Investigate Fatal Fire in Wetaskiwin

Most Read