Wall imposes spending and hiring freeze amid falling oil prices

File / Global News

The belt tightening has already started ahead of the province’s spring budget, and it means a government hiring freeze.

Premier Brad Wall says only essential positions will be posted such as front line jobs in health care or education.

Wall blames falling oil prices for the move. The price of oil has hit a five-year low going below $55/barrel on Tuesday for the first time since May 2009. That’s a decline of nearly 50 per cent since the summer.

“That’ll be a bite to revenue,” said Wall. “The theme of the budget is going to be about protecting our economy.”

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“We’re going to work to protect the balanced budget that we have, but it’s going to be a challenge. We’re going to have to make tough decisions. But that fiscal responsibility, those balanced budgets are the cornerstone of our growth plan.”

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Wall says spending increases may be less than the cost of living, but he doesn’t want it to hurt infrastructure.

“We need to continue to build,” said Wall. “We’ll use innovative ways to do it. We’ll absolutely use in a transparent way P3s if we need to. But, we need to continue to invest in infrastructure to make sure we’re ready for growth that’s going to continue and likely pick up whenever oil returns to its price.”

Wall issued a fiscal restraint memo to his cabinet, saying any non-essential government travel and third party work will be stopped.

That comment got Opposition NDP Leader Cam Broten riled up.

“Why is there unnecessary travel now? All travel should be necessary,” said Broten. “We’re watching it closely, but this government- all the more reason now- needs to be making the right spending decisions. Why shovel the millions out the door for Lean when there are real needs on the front lines?”

“The point is, we have to find the balance,” said Wall. “What families and businesses do is they look at innovative ways to get the job done. We’re going to do that.”

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