April 18th, 2024

Alberta expecting budget to be restrained but with few cuts

By The Canadian Press on February 29, 2024.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith addresses a news conference in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Albertans are expecting financial restraint in Thursday's provincial budget. Premier Danielle Smith signalled a turn to less spending and more saving in a televised address last week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

EDMONTON – Albertans have been told to expect financial restraint in today’s provincial budget.

Premier Danielle Smith signalled a turn to less spending and more saving in a televised address last week.

Smith said she has told Finance Minister Nate Horner to keep spending increases beneath the rate of inflation and population growth.

She said she expected that could be done without major spending cuts or new taxes.

The province’s Opposition NDP has said the premier’s direction already amounts to a spending cut in a province that grew by more than four per cent last year.

The average price of oil in 2023 came in more than a dollar below provincial forecasts, with each dollar drop representing about $600 million in royalties.

Smith said any new spending would be focused on health, education and social services.

But earlier this week, Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said there is no timeline for a long-promised new children’s hospital in Edmonton and that the planning process would take at least another three years.

Smith has also said a tax cut for lower-income Albertans promised during last year’s provincial election would be delayed.

In November, Horner predicted Alberta would show a $5.5 billion surplus in 2023-24.

Smith said she plans to tuck $3 billion of that in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, a rainy-day fund set up in 1976, which Smith says she’d like to see grow to between $250 billion and $450 billion by 2050.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 29, 2024.

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