Give Joe Ceci full marks for wading into a skeptical crowd Monday morning, but the finance minister is finding out he won’t get an easy ride from Alberta’s business community on his new budget.

The Calgary-Fort MLA is busy pitching the fiscal plan, and stopped at a Calgary Chamber of Commerce breakfast to discuss the Notley government’s $54.9-billion spending blueprint.

Once Monday’s speech ended, chamber chief executive Adam Legge wrapped up the affair by dissecting the budget with surgical precision.

In just two minutes, he carved up what the business community dislikes most about it: a hefty $10.3-billion deficit despite a stronger economy, a sharp increase in borrowing that swamps provincial assets, and a long, murky road back to balance by 2023-24.

Tough reviews are also streaming in from credit rating agencies and bank economists. Legge aptly captured their mood by labelling the budget a disappointment.

“It doesn’t take enough of a good step to tackling the deficit. A balanced budget is the better part of a decade away,” he told the crowd of about 250 people.

“And we have to have that meaningful conversation with Albertans as to how to close that revenue and expense gap.”

That’s a good question.

How will the province bridge the gulf between our high levels of spending, and somewhat lower levels of revenue, that have bedevilled finance ministers for almost a decade?

Since the global recession in 2008, Alberta has wracked up $23 billion in deficit spending, even before this latest budget kicks in next month.

At some point, this isn’t a one-off, it’s a structural problem that isn’t going to be wished away.

While the NDP hit a gusher of red ink this year, the government forecasts another $9.7-billion deficit next year, followed by $7.2 billion in 2019-20.

Deficits and borrowing remain sizable even as Alberta’s economy resumes growing and oil prices are expected …read more

Source:: Calgary Herald

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