The provincial government expects to finish the current fiscal year $20.1 billion deeper in the red and run deficits for three more years totaling another $37 billion. Tax-supported debt of $132.5 billion by 2023-24 will cost $3.3 billion a year to service.
“We will keep Alberta's debt below 30% of GDP, bring our per capita spending down to the level of other major provinces (and) re-establish a credible plan to balance the budget once the pandemic is behind us,” Premier Jason Kenney said on Twitter after the 2021-22 budget was released Feb. 25.
Finance Minister Travis Toews said in his budget speech that public sector compensation is higher than in other provinces and must be addressed to “ensure a sustainable fiscal trajectory for the province.”
The province is pointing to increasing COVID-19 vaccinations in the second half of 2021 and a stronger oil and gas sector as key factors in an eventual fiscal recovery. The Calgary Herald reports that a major new jobs training program aimed at helping Alberta workers adapt to a changing economy will be announced in the coming weeks.
However, Alberta’s unemployment rate is not expected to improve to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2024, the Edmonton Journal reports in a detailed summary of budget impacts.