Alberta premier says balancing books would mean laying off thousands
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.