The global recession may be coming to an end, but Premier Ed Stelmach warned yesterday that the province’s revenues will lag for another year or two.
“There’s no question that we are facing difficult times,” the premier said during a news conference at the Alberta legislature yesterday. “We face two or three challenging years as the economy recovers from the global recession.”
Stelmach said the province has prepared for the lag by investing in public infrastructure, universities and by encouraging research and innovation.
Because of Alberta’s volatile revenue stream, Stelmach said the province has put aside about $25 billion, including $17 billion into the Sustainability Fund, which is separate from the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund.
“The Sustainability Fund is just like a home bank account savings fund to deal with issues that may come up unexpectedly,” Stelmach said.
Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman was skeptical about how long the Sustainability Fund would last.
“A year ago we were all here to hear about the government’s $8.5-billion surplus, and now we’re here to hear about an almost $7-billion deficit,” Blakeman said.
“What I’m hearing the premier say is that he’s not really planning to do anything different, just fold your hands together and pray.”
Blakeman agreed Alberta’s economy is volatile but said the government has done nothing to make it less so.
“At the rate they’re going, they’re going to run through what is in the Sustainability Fund, I would say, in a year.”
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