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Budget coming down today; expect lots of red ink

This afternoon, Finance Minister Ross Wiseman will stand in the House of Assembly and deliver the 2015 budget — only then will the public learn whether Wiseman is feeling too broke for new shoes.

James McLeod/The Telegram
Finance Minister Ross Wiseman will stand in the House of Assembly at 2 p.m. today to deliver the provincial budget. With falling oil prices, the government is forecasting deficits this year, and for the next five years.

Most political watchers are expecting a deficit for the past year of about $1 billion, and a study by the University of Calgary’s school for public policy indicates the coming year’s deficit could be as high as $1.8 billion.

For close to a week, the government has been softening the ground with pre-budget consultations, and not just the usual cheery funding announcements.

On Monday, Wiseman announced a five-year plan to eliminate 1,420 public servants through attrition, and last Friday the government announced changes to the teacher allocation formula which will lead to bigger class sizes for all students in Grade 4 and older.

There’s also a new municipal funding framework, and a plan to create new long-term care beds through privatized service.

There have already been some increases in fees on campsite reservations and hunting licences, and more of that is expected.

Today, Wiseman has promised a five-year plan for the government finances, and that plan will involve a lot of red ink. He has said it will take that many years to return to surplus.

The government is grappling with low oil prices. In the past six months the price of crude has dropped precipitously.

No province in Canada is as dependent on oil revenues for such a large portion of its revenue.

The Telegram will offer full coverage of the budget today.

Wiseman is scheduled to speak at 2 p.m. There will be information about the government’s fiscal plan as soon as he starts speaking, as well as followup stories in Friday’s paper.

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