Grande Prairie—Wapiti MLA and Minister of Finance Travis Toews is cautiously optimistic about the economic picture in the province, as the Q2 economic update points to a lower than forecasted year-end deficit.
The update released Tuesday projects a $21.3-billion deficit for 2020-2021, $2.8 billion less than anticipated in the first quarter. Toews says that is largely due to improving revenue and a freeze on spending.
“The foundation of the next provincial budget will be to bring spending in line with other jurisdictions, keep the net debt to GDP ratio well below 30 per cent, and have a plan for balancing the budget as we get through the pandemic and there is more economic certainty,” he notes.
The province adds, while total expenses have decreased, the funding used to help battle the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the overall expense forecast to $62.7 billion. The additional expenses include things such as personal protective equipment and municipal grants, as well as financial supports for residents and businesses.
Toews says when it comes to the Peace Country, having a range of industries is an advantage, as it is less of a burden on the system as a whole when one sector dips in productivity.
“We are so fortunate to have the energy industry in the Grande Prairie region, but we also have agriculture and forestry, and so we are fortunate to have some diversification in the region. That has really proven gratuitous, particularly in times when we have seen one sector falter.”
Toews adds, while some of the programming put in place both federally and provincially will help business owners get through tough times, he firmly believes that the attitude of those in the business sphere is second to none, and an inspiration to many across the province when it comes to carrying on during a downturn.
“I’m not prepared to give any advice to the incredibly successful entrepreneurs we have in our region. I’m always blown away by the optimistic, flexible, resourceful entrepreneurs in the Grande Prairie region.”
Toews adds the government will be introducing an appropriation bill that requests a total of $5.7 billion from the General Revenue Fund to continue to fund the province’s COVID-19 response and Alberta’s Recovery Plan.