EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the government has little choice but to begin borrowing money to run day-to-day operations.
Speaking to reporters in Calgary on Wednesday, Notley said not doing so would require deep and devastating cuts in public services.
Notley was making her first comments on the budget that was presented Tuesday by Finance Minister Joe Ceci.
The budget plan includes a record amount of debt — up to $47 billion by the end of the decade — to fix and build schools, roads and hospitals, and to keep service levels intact.
Opposition critics say there is no plan to pay down that debt and the whole fiscal structure is based on the hope that oil prices rebound.
The government's savings fund will be depleted next fiscal year, when the province also plans to start borrowing to pay salaries and everyday expenses.
The budget keeps core spending in health and education stable and pledges $34 billion for infrastructure over the next five years.
But with oil prices still low, the cost will be a budget deficit this fiscal year alone of $6.1 billion.
Finance Minister Joe Ceci says it's the prudent route to go, given that Alberta is caught in the vise of a growing population and a declining economy.
Opposition parties say it's a budget that ignores long-term economic realities — and Albertans will pay the price.
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