Hard-hit Al­berta may be el­i­gi­ble for fed­eral re­lief: fi­nance min­is­ter

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - BUSINESS - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The Lib­eral govern­ment has con­firmed that Al­berta may qual­ify for a fi­nan­cial boost un­der a lit­tle-known fed­eral pro­gram to help ease the prov­ince's eco­nomic pain from fall­ing com­mod­ity prices.

As The Cana­dian Press re­ported Thurs­day, the prov­ince could be el­i­gi­ble for pay­ments un­der the fis­cal sta­bi­liza­tion pro­gram, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau ac­knowl­edged dur­ing ques­tion pe­riod.

Provinces can make claims un­der the pro­gram when their rev­enues tum­ble by more than five per cent from one year to the next.

The Al­berta govern­ment has pro­jected a dou­ble-digit de­cline in rev­enues in 2015-16 due to the steep slide in re­source prices.

“I spoke yes­ter­day with the Al­berta min­is­ter of fi­nance to see how we could work to­gether and I'm pleased to say that he un­der­stands that there's a sta­bi­liza­tion fund that Al­berta can ap­ply for,” Morneau said Fri­day.

“The po­ten­tial is up to $250 mil­lion. Should they ap­ply, we would work ex­pe­di­tiously to move for­ward on that re­quest.”

Pay­ments from the pro­gram were capped in the late 1980s at $60 per pro­vin­cial res­i­dent. Al­berta's pop­u­la­tion is about 4.1 mil­lion.

Al­berta Fi­nance Min­is­ter Joe Ceci told CP ear­lier this week that he was look­ing for­ward to a dis­cus­sion with Morneau about pos­si­ble fed­eral help for the prov­ince's fi­nances.

He didn't get into the de­tails, but when asked whether he might ask the fed­eral govern­ment for a loan, he replied: “Yeah, po­ten­tially.”

Ceci said he would also like to see Ottawa speed up promised in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ments and pro­vide more sup­port for get­ting pipe­line ac­cess to tide­wa­ter.

Last fall, the Al­berta govern­ment pro­jected its rev­enues would sink 11.5 per cent from 2014-15 to 2015-16. Ex­perts say it could end up worse than that be­cause oil prices have con­tin­ued to drop.

“Al­ber­tans are hurt­ing,” Ceci said.

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