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Alberta's debt will continue to rise as economy struggles: premier

"Biggest deficit in the history of Alberta by a country mile," Kenney said.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks at the Rideau Club in Ottawa on March 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is painting a dark picture ahead of this week's financial update.

The Alberta legislature is to convene Thursday for the United Conservative government's release of first-quarter numbers for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Kenney says it will be the "biggest deficit in the history of Alberta by a country mile."

"It will be well north of a $20-billion deficit in large part because of the total collapse of revenues emanating from the coronavirus recession," he said Tuesday.

"What has made it especially tough in Alberta was the total collapse of energy prices."

The Conference Board of Canada is forecasting Alberta will be the most heavily hit province this year with an 11 per cent contraction in its GDP. 

Kenney said the February budget was based on realistic predictions. It projected a deficit of $6.8 billion. Debt was expected to rise to almost $77 billion by next spring and to almost $88 billion by 2023. The price of West Texas Intermediate oil was expected to average US$58 a barrel. 

"Of course all of that changed in the first week of March," he said.

"There a great fiscal reckoning on the horizon. Our debt will go up very significantly and, in the future, we will as a province have to deal with that."

The Opposition's finance critic said the United Conservative government hasn't delivered on job creation or presented a reasonable, practical plan for economic recovery and growth.

"As we're about to learn with the fiscal update, this was the case before the pandemic. But since the pandemic, the choices we have seen the UCP government make have just made a bad situation worse," said New Democrat Shannon Phillips.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2020

The Canadian Press

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