Alberta factoring in Trans Mountain pipeline in budget forecasts

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Ceci factoring in Trans Mountain pipeline in Alberta budget forecasts
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci says the province will rely on anticipated revenues from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to balance the budget within five years. Tom Vernon reports – Mar 20, 2018

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says Alberta will rely on anticipated revenue from an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline to balance the budget within five years.

Ceci says revenue from the yet-to-be built expansion, along with expected revenue from a replacement pipeline to Wisconsin, will be factored into forecasts in the upcoming budget he is to table on Thursday.

READ MORE: Alberta slashes deficit projection by $1.4B in fiscal update

He says it makes financial sense to factor the pipelines in now, given the expectation they will get completed, and the figures can be adjusted in future as the situation develops.

“That is definitely the hopes of the companies that are involved,” Ceci said Tuesday. “We’ve built (the revenue) into budget because that’s what everybody believes will happen.”

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READ MORE: Alberta premier threatens to reduce oil shipments amid pipeline dispute with B.C.

In 2016, the federal government approved the Enbridge Line 3 replacement to Wisconsin, as well as Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion, which would triple the amount of crude shipped from Edmonton to the port at Burnaby, B.C.

But the Trans Mountain expansion is facing delays and challenges.

B.C. Premier John Horgan is asking for a legal ruling on whether his province can restrict higher levels of oil from coming into B.C. while his government reviews oil-spill safety measures.

READ MORE: B.C. Premier John Horgan says bitumen battle isn’t over yet

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Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has said Trans Mountain is critical to Canada’s energy future and she plans to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to give her the power to curtail oil shipments to B.C. in retaliation.

She has said that pipeline bottlenecks and limited access to overseas markets are forcing Alberta’s crude to sell at a discount, costing thousands of jobs and leaving billions of dollars of profit on the table.

Ceci made the pre-budget announcement at a downtown tech startup company that creates virtual simulations for proposed homes and work sites.

Finance ministers traditionally get new shoes prior to budget day. This year, Ceci stood next to a screen displaying a computer-generated avatar of himself in loafers that toggled from shimmering electric green to dark purple to traditional black and grey.

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Gallery: Ceci unveils his virtual reality budget shoes at a pre-budget event on Tuesday

He said the budget will continue with key themes of past NDP budgets, but will include a detailed plan to balance the books.

“The budget is going to be balanced in 2023,” said Ceci. “We are focused on constraining expenditures (and) costs down the road, eliminating … waste where we find it, and diversifying our economy.”

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The government won’t make deep cuts to balance the budget earlier, he said. This year’s deficit is pegged at $9.1 billion.

Notley took over in 2015 as oil prices, the wellspring of Alberta’s economy, were falling by half from previous highs of more than US$100 a barrel. Oil prices have inched up since then, but Notley’s government has avoided deep cuts to programs and services, saying that would worsen the economic situation.

This is expected to be the last full budget cycle before the spring 2019 general election.

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