Alberta finance minister says taking over his portfolio has been nerve-racking

Alberta’s new finance minister admits he’s got a case of the nerves as he takes over a challenging portfolio during an economic downturn in the oilpatch.

CALGARY — Alberta’s new finance minister admits he’s got a case of the nerves as he takes over a challenging portfolio during an economic downturn in the oilpatch.

“I kind of feel a little bit of the weight of the work and the promises we made, the economic situation and all of that is nerve-racking, but I’ve been to this rodeo a few times,” Joe Ceci said, Wednesday as he attended the first cabinet meeting of Rachel Notley’s NDP government.

“The briefings are revealing and eye-opening and they make you want to get down to work right away.”

The budget brought down by the former Progressive Conservative government before the May 5 election showed Alberta facing a $7- billion shortfall in revenues this year as a result of low oil prices.

Notley and her 11 colleagues were sworn in at the Alberta legislature on Sunday. The premier has said there will be an interim budget in the coming weeks to keep the province functioning while the government works to have a full budget ready by the fall.

The NDP toppled almost 44 years of successive Tory governments with a campaign that promised more taxes on the wealthy and corporations. The party also plans to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2018 and review the royalties oil and gas companies are charged.

Ceci, a former Calgary city councillor, said work on the budget will begin next week. In the meantime, he’s watching oil prices closely.

“All the time. All the time. What’s it at now? $60?”

The price per barrel was just under US$58 at mid-day Wednesday.

Notley was all smiles as she arrived at the premier’s southern Alberta office for Wednesday’s meeting.

“I’m hoping to find the office and get some good work done,” she said, noting she would have more to say at an afternoon news conference.

New Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd told reporters it was her first visit to the Calgary office.

“I’m really excited. I got a chance the last two days to meet all the folks in my ministry,” she said. “I’m learning and I’m in the listening and learning mode right now.”