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Opening day of spring session suggests big cuts
Published Tuesday, March 5, 2013 6:44AM MST
Last Updated Tuesday, March 5, 2013 4:59PM MST
The spring session started in the legislature on Tuesday and many are worried about big cuts in advance of Thursday's budget release.
Although the Tories have been close-lipped on actual details in the plan, many are expecting to see some deep cuts to public services to try to keep the province out of the red.
They claim to have found about $600M in savings across the ministries, but that was about $280M less than expected.
The province released their third quarter update on Feb. 19 and forecasted a $3.5 to $4B deficit for 2012/13.
Finance Minister Doug Horner blamed the shortfall on lower than expected resource revenue.
“As a landlocked province with limited access to markets for our oil resources, Alberta is continuing to face serious challenges to our bottom line,” said Horner. “The upcoming provincial budget focuses on making the tough but thoughtful decisions necessary to allow the province to continue to deliver on its priorities. It will include an operating plan, a savings plan and a fully-funded capital plan that will ensure we meet the needs of today’s Albertans as well as a new generation of Albertans 20 years from now."
The government says they will lead by example and will freeze salaries of management for the next three years starting on April 1 which will save $54 million.
“Alberta is dealing with rapidly falling resource revenues and it means we’re making some tough decisions,” said Horner. “Our government is leading by example - with a slimmed down cabinet; an eight per cent MLA pay cut and a pay freeze for MLAs; today we're taking action on management salaries.”
Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson says they have close to 35,000 teachers who are without a contract and that has him concerned.
"Now we're in a situation that has me very concerned because we have 62 school boards with employees without contracts, We've never been in this situation before in this province," said Johnson.
Johnson says they will do whatever they can to make instruction in the classroom a priority.
"Every school and every school board is going to be impacted a little bit differently. We’ll have to see how this plays out with the budget, but I have a lot of confidence in the school boards that they are going to do a good job and certainly there are going to be some challenges next year and we may have fewer teachers in the classroom, but part of that is just the reality of the finances we are faced with, but we’ll get through that," said Johnson.
Redford's government is bringing down its budget Thursday, and Redford has said it will be filled with, in her words, "tough choices" due to falling oil revenues.
Redford has said that low prices for oil from its oilsands will cut in half the $13-billion the province had hoped to take in during the next budget year.
But opposition politicians say Redford has only herself to blame.
They point to the promises she made in last year's election to balance the books, continue program spending, build new hospitals and schools, and add to the province's savings account.
The Liberals, Wildrose party, and the NDP, say Redford needs to keep her word, adding that Alberta's budget problems are due mainly to her mismanagement of the public purse.
(With files from The Canadian Press)