EDMONTON — Premier Alison Redford is trying to reassure Albertans that the province’s operating budget will balance in the next fiscal year.
A recent note from Redford’s office to party members suggested that the government was working toward a balanced budget in 2014, despite repeated earlier statements that next year’s budget would contain a small operating surplus.
On Tuesday, Redford repeated assurances made by her staff that the note was nothing but a simple mistake.
“I can only say that that was an administrative error on the part of the party,” she said. “We clarified our position (Monday) — it is consistent with what (Finance) Minister (Doug) Horner has been saying all along.”
Redford has been drawing a distinction between the operating budget, which deals with ongoing operations and services, and the capital budget, which finances infrastructure such as schools and hospitals.
“We’ve been very clear with respect to our plans going forward for budget 2013-14,” she said. “We intend to balance the operating budget, we will have in place a fully funded infrastructure capital plan (and) we will have a savings plan in place.”
Redford has acknowledged that means borrowing. But she says that’s the right way to pay for long-term investments.
“We will have a plan to ensure that are we able to support the resources that we will access through capital markets.” Alberta is getting squeezed by volatile oil prices and remains on track for a budget deficit as high as $3 billion this year — almost 3 1/2 times its original prediction.
The province’s Opposition Wildrose party has attacked Redford’s government for returning to what it calls deficit budgeting.
Leader Danielle Smith has said the governing party can’t balance the budget despite overseeing one of the strongest economies in North America.
She has accused the Conservatives of constantly relying on energy prices to bail them out of overspending.