Al­berta premier says bal­anc­ing books would mean lay­ing off thou­sands

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - NATIONAL -

ED­MON­TON — Al­berta Premier Rachel Not­ley de­fended her NDP gov­ern­ment’s spend­ing plans on Fri­day by say­ing any­one who claims the prov­ince can bal­ance its bud­get in two or three years is talk­ing about thou­sands of lay­offs.

Not­ley was speak­ing at an Ed­mon­ton school a day after her NDP gov­ern­ment de­liv­ered a bud­get that fore­casts a $10.3-bil­lion deficit, which puts Al­berta on track to rack up $45 bil­lion in debt by the end of the 2017-18 fis­cal year.

Not­ley said the prov­ince has a plan to re­turn to bal­anced bud­gets and the gov­ern­ment should be able to quickly make progress pay­ing down the debt.

“Any­one who says you can get to bal­ance in two years or three years is talk­ing about lay­ing off thou­sands and thou­sands of teach­ers, not mov­ing ahead with school con­struc­tion, can­celling hospi­tal projects, lay­ing off nurses — that’s the only way you bal­ance the bud­get in the next cou­ple of years,” she said.

“We are def­i­nitely mov­ing to­wards bal­ance. We have a plan to get to bal­ance.”

Not­ley said she knows Al­ber­tans are wor­ried about the grow­ing size of the debt, but added it is “ab­so­lutely man­age­able.” She noted that there’s a huge back­log of un­funded in­fra­struc­ture as well.

“When you don’t build schools and hos­pi­tals to keep up with your pop­u­la­tion growth, you are cre­at­ing a deficit, you are cre­at­ing debt. And, quite frankly, get­ting out of that deficit and debt is more ex­pen­sive than pay­ing off debt,” the premier said.

The prov­ince an­tic­i­pates its debt will hit $71 bil­lion by 2020. Ser­vic­ing costs will be $1.4 bil­lion this year and $2.3 bil­lion by the end of the decade.

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