Spring budget looks to reduce expenses

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March 19, 2015 8:15 AM

Alberta’s spring session will see the tabling of the 2015 budget, which a local MLA says will look at addressing the province’s financial fiscal challenges by reducing expenses, as well as look at other sources of revenue to help ease Alberta’s over dependence on the oil industry.

Richard Starke, MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster, says there isn’t an area that has been left unchecked when it comes to finding efficiencies within the province.

“There’s really nothing that is being left untouched or at least unexamined. Very clearly the focus is going to be trying to find efficiencies and trying to increase productivity within government, so that wherever possible spending on frontline services can be protected and preserved,” he said.

“We know how important those are to Albertans and so our main focus is on some of the areas. Whether it’s administrative or some other area, that if costs can be reduced without substantively harming the quality of our frontline services, that’s obviously going to be the focus of all the ministers.”

He said Minister of Finance Robin Campbell will not just be introducing a budget for the coming fiscal year, but rather a 10-year fiscal plan with an intent to create a framework that is more stable and less susceptible to the volatility of world resource prices.

To fill in the revenue gap created by the low price of oil, the province is looking at focusing on economic diversification in other resources around Alberta like agriculture, forestry and tourism ,among many other.

“Right now agriculture is one of the bright lights on our economy. I mean, farm cash receipts last year were at their highest level ever. It was a record for farm cash receipts. We have challenges in agriculture, certainly, again commodity prices do go up and go down, but right now a number of the commodities that we sell, both domestically and worldwide, are at high price levels.”

During his tenure as tourism minster, Starke said he saw a great deal of potential for increases in tourism activities and revenues in the province. Besides having a lot to offer travellers, the low Canadian dollar and cheap gas prices would be attractive to tourists this summer.

“That’s certainly something that favours what we call rubber tire traffic, where the tourists are usually travelling by vehicle,” he said.

“And we’re looking forward to what will hopefully be a very busy summer for tourism in Alberta.”

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