Finance Minister Travis Toews, left, delivers the provincial budget as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney looks on, in Edmonton, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (Jason Franson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Alberta tables austerity budget to rein in spending

Alberta’s United Conservative Party says it plans to cut public sector jobs, end the freeze on post-secondary tuition, chop municipal funding and delay infrastructure projects in hopes of returning the oil-rich Western Canadian province to a balanced budget by 2023.

“It has been decades in this province since we’ve actually seen a budget that has resulted in a reduction in operation spending,” Finance Minister Travis Toews told reporters during a news conference Thursday.

Toews said the government will make additional cuts if global conditions change or the landlocked province isn’t able to access new pipelines to export its oil to world markets other than the United States.

“We’re committed to balancing the budget in four years,” Toews said. “But should circumstances change, we will adjust accordingly.”

Alberta, which has been hit hard by the global downturn in commodity prices and lack of pipeline capacity, is projected to end the 2019-20 financial year with an $8.7 billion deficit, up from $6.7 billion for 2018-19.

The government intends to cut the size of the nearly 28,000-member public service by 7.7 per cent by 2023, mainly through attrition, Toews said.

It will also abolish the tuition freeze on higher education, but will pour millions into programs to help people learn a new trade.

The UCP government also plans to cut transfers to large cities, including Alberta’s capital Edmonton, and Calgary, the province’s largest city.

New Democratic Leader Rachel Notley told reporters that Premier Jason Kenney’s first budget was based on lies.

“We knew we were going to see cuts. What he (Jason Kenney) didn’t tell us was that every single Albertan was going to pay more in income tax,” she said Thursday. “What he didn’t tell us is that you’ll pay more for the services that you count on. And quite frankly, what he didn’t tell us is just how deep those cuts would go.”

With files from CBC News

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