ALBERTA

Alberta Budget To Be Delivered By End Of October

10/05/2015 03:44 EDT | Updated 10/05/2015 05:59 EDT
Paul Horsley via Getty Images
Alberta Legislature building and reflecting pool at sunrise, Edmonton, Alberta.

EDMONTON — Alberta's NDP government is to deliver its first budget on Oct. 27, but Finance Minister Joe Ceci isn't saying if more tax increases or new levies will be included.

"Our budget will outline a plan for jobs and economic growth while stabilizing public services. And we will present a path to (budget) balance,'' Ceci told reporters at a legislature news conference Monday.

Ceci said the goal is for renewed infrastructure spending while protecting core services, along with a blueprint to balance the budget and create jobs.

"Now is not the time to make things worse, for knee-jerk reactions that would result in firing nurses and teachers during these tough economic times,'' he said.

"The budget will outline our government's plan to stimulate economic growth, diversification and job creation.''

Ceci declined to provide further details.

Premier Rachel Notley's government has already hiked corporate income taxes to 12 per cent from 10 per cent and raised taxes on those earning more than $125,000 a year.

The minimum wage has also gone up. It rose by $1 an hour last week and is now at $11.20. The rate is to go up to $15 an hour by 2018.

Derek Fildebrandt, finance critic for the Opposition Wildrose party, said raising fees in the budget would be self-defeating.

"Our province's path to balance will not be achieved through tax hikes,'' Fildebrandt said in a news release.

"No government has ever spent its way to a balanced budget, particularly in a time of economic uncertainty.''

Liberal Leader David Swann said the NDP's plan for building is sound, but it's critical "that infrastructure spending be prioritized based on need — not political considerations — and include repairing existing infrastructure as well as new projects.''

The province has not passed a budget since the spring of 2014.

The former Progressive Conservative government tabled a 2015-16 budget in March and ran on it in the May election, but lost to the New Democrats.

The NDP has since been crafting a new financial budget to align with its promises to increase funding for education and social services and reverse the PCs' proposed rollbacks in health spending.

For the last six months, the government has been operating on spending warrants.

The PC budget that never passed predicted a $5-billion shortfall this year due to a prolonged slump in oil prices. Ceci has said he expects that deficit will be $5.9 billion or perhaps as high as $6.5 billion.

To keep the figure within that range, the province is pulling $3 billion out of its contingency fund. That will leave about $3.5 billion.

Notley campaigned on balancing the budget by 2018-19, but in recent weeks has said her team is rethinking that goal given how deeply low oil prices are biting into the economy.

The budget comes a day after the legislature begins its fall sitting.

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