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Notley promises balance

Premier Rachel Notley says 2018 will focus on Alberta's fragile but rebounding economy, specifically a road map to get back to budget balance in five years.

"Presenting a responsible, credible path to balance for 2023 — we're working very rigorously on it and it will be responsible," Notley said in a year-end interview.

"We will not be making up numbers. We will not be pretending things. We're going to be very, very up front and careful about how we do that, but I'm confident that we can."

Notley's government, entering the final full calendar year of its current mandate, has been both praised and pummelled for increasing capital spending and borrowing to pay for day-to-day operations as the best solution to navigate Alberta through a prolonged slump in oil prices.

This year's deficit is pegged at $10.3 billion, with a long-term debt pegged to spike above $42 billion in the spring.

Notley said the specific plan to return to budget balance will be laid out in 2023, likely in the March budget.

"We have a sound financial footing in Alberta. We have the luxury of taking the time carefully to get ourselves back into a balanced fiscal situation," she said.

"That's why we're going to roll out something that talks about how we're going to get there in 2023.

"And yes we may have to tweak it along the way, but Albertans are going to be part of that conversation throughout."

She said the province is making headway in diversifying the economy in a province projected to lead Canada in economic growth.

Under Notley's watch, the province has seen multiple credit-rating downgrades. The main criticism has been not having a plan to get the books balanced.

The government has found savings by reducing some operational expenses and combining and amalgamating boards and agencies, but they are a relative drop in a bucket to the billions of dollars of red ink. Notley said her government will not sacrifice spending on front-line services.



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