WATCH ABOVE: Provincial finance minister Joe Ceci confirms they have dropped the 2015 oil price forecast for the upcoming budget, but he won’t say how low. Global’s Gary Bobrovitz reports.
EDMONTON — With the Alberta Legislature fall sitting on the horizon, the NDP government is in Banff preparing.
Spokesperson Cheryl Oates confirmed Premier Rachel Notley and her 52 MLAs are spending Tuesday and Wednesday in the resort town to discuss the budget, economy and jobs.
So, what can Albertans expect in the budget?
“They can expect a Capital Plan – we are getting some feedback from David Dodge and reviewing his report at this point in time,” said Finance Minister Joe Ceci. “They can expect a jobs creation incentive plan which will have many parts and we’re wrapping that up generally to be called ‘an economic diversification initiative’ and they can expect an operations plan which continues the front-line services Albertans are relying on.”
Ceci said the projected deficit is in the area of $5.9 to $6.5 billion.
READ MORE: Alberta facing $5.9B deficit as economy and spending slow down: fiscal update
“We have some revised forecasts for oil at this time, which are lower than the March 26 forecasts, so we are taking that into account and building that into our funding projections.”
Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said Jim Prentice was dealt a bad hand and the NDP has been dealt an even worse hand.
“So, it’s how are they going to deal with that hand?
“On the one hand of the infrastructure spending, this is something that the Torys have been doing for a while and for the same reasons,” said Bratt. “They say the cost of borrowing is low, let’s go through an expansion. They are hoping this will stimulate greater economic growth with money being spent on infrastructure. We will have to see.
“But so many job losses have occurred. That’s going to affect, even with the increase of taxes, how much taxes are going to be collected.”
READ MORE: Reversing cuts, Alberta adds $682M in 2015 for health care and education
Bratt said the NDP has already put in place several things that pave the way for the budget, including raising corporate taxes, moving from a flat tax to a progressive income tax, and reinvesting in education and health.
“What we are not going to know is the scale of the deficit. It could be $5.9 billion, it could be $6.5 billion. That we don’t know.”
Bratt believes the people who opposed the tax increases were the people who didn’t vote for the NDP in the first place.
“There is already a backlash against the NDP and it’s not going to matter what it is they do,” he explained. “They did not cause this. It’s how are they going to recover? If you are going to bring in a bad news budget – and this is going to be a very bad news budget – you do it at the beginning of your term not at the end of your term.”
READ MORE: Harper takes aim at Alberta’s NDP government
“There’s lots of room for optimism too,” said Education Minister David Eggen.
“We have a much more diverse economy than we had before and certainly we know that Albertans are working hard to build something that could be more sustainable in the future.”
Eggen added the NDP government is committed to reducing school fees in time for the next school year.
“I have instructed every school board in the province to give me a detailed account of what they’re charging and how much they’re charging,” he said. “Based on that information we will come with a plan that is fair and reasonable to reduce school fees.”
The meetings in Banff are part of the government’s commitment to hold caucus meetings around the province, said Oates.
The cost of the meetings and meals is $8,800, with MLAs paying additional costs with their allowances, according to Oates. The NDP spokesperson said the $8,800 is being covered by money allocated to each party for meetings, research and other caucus expenses.
The NDP was critical of the Progressive Conservatives for holding caucus meetings at mountain resorts while that party was in power. In February 2012, the Alison Redford government held a two-day retreat at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge at an estimated cost of $70,000.
The fall sitting begins in October.