Alberta premier vows to cut spending as debt mounts

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told rural representatives earlier this month that the province will “carefully and compassionately” tighten its belt on spending next year as it gears to balance the books by 2024.

Notley made the remarks during her speech at the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties annual convention on Nov. 16.

She said that while much has been done to rein in spending, there’s still more work to do. She hasn’t yet said what government departments will be affected by the spending reductions.

“I would call it a reality,” she told reporters following her speech, pointing to numerous economic indicators that show Alberta is leading the country in economic growth.

“As the indicators change, as the economy is growing, we obviously have an important obligation to continue that strategic approach in our fiscal plan to find a responsible and careful way into bringing the budget into balance. That’s always been our plan.”

The Alberta NDP has faced mounting pressure to get its fiscal books in order, following its election win a little over two years ago.

The province is slated to run a $10.3 billion deficit in 2017-18, and debt is projected to climb to $71.1 billion in three years.

Lots of that money has gone to pay for everyday services, but the rest has gone to pay for new infrastructure projects, particularly in cities.

But during her speech, Notley highlighted projects in rural areas that she said are getting major funding. That includes the twinning of the Peace River Bridge, a new courthouse in Fort Vermillion, replacing a bridge in the County of Vermillion, repairing a bridge in Cardston Creek and building the Highway 43X bypass in Grande Prairie.

“Our cities stand on the shoulders of our rural communities,” she told rural representatives. “It is in everyone’s interest to make sure our rural infrastructure is modern, safe and efficient.”

As well, much of Notley’s remarks focused on building relationships with rural communities.

She said she believes the relationship is improving, although she added that it will never be perfect.

“I think through a certain degree, through our record of authentic and collaborative problem solving and decision making, that we’re earning a little bit of a better relationship,” she told reporters.

“It’s not going to be perfect, but I think it’s improving and maybe we see a little bit of that as people get more familiar with who we are.”

She also discussed her plans to promote the Trans Mountain pipeline as part of a cross-country tour.

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