The upcoming budget process for Alberta’s finance minister could mean tough decisions must be made in a time of financial hardship.
Speaking to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Finance Minister Nate Horner said he was looking forward to his first budget process in the role, but anticipated some challenges for the 2024 spending plan.
“Our debt refinancing obligations over the next three years are very significant. We have $26.5 billion to refinance over the next three years,” Horner said.
He said the interest rates the province faces in refinancing that debt – typically held in 10-year bonds – which were previously in the low 2 per cent range are expected to be in the mid to high range of 4 percent. Horner called the increase in refinancing costs “huge,” but provided no further details.
Calgary Chamber President and CEO Deborah Yedlin asked Horner what kind of help the province might be able to provide to businesses repaying Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loans. at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The forgiveness repayment date has been extended to January 18, 2024 for accounts in good standing, and the remainder of the loans must be repaid by the end of this year.
“We have had conversations with ATB and others, but at this stage it is not clear whether we will be able to provide any way of making up the shortfall to help these companies,” the finance minister said. , noting the exact number of loans and loans. the amounts that would need a*sistance remain unclear.
Horner said he expects the province to reinstate the provincial fuel tax on gasoline and diesel early next year and anticipates the government will continue to review possible reliefs based on the average price of WTI.
“We will continue to look for ways to (help with affordability). But I think the most important thing I can do in this role is keep people’s taxes low. This is the largest cost they pay for family games during the year.
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Opposition finance spokesperson Samir Kayande said families and small businesses face an affordability crisis.
“I think we need to use every lever at our disposal,” Kayande told reporters after Horner’s speech.
“We really need to look at a lot of our options to determine what is the right thing to do to support Alberta families.
“But the first thing we need is a government that cares about them. And I think what’s really missing here is that we don’t have a government that’s serious enough about looking at all the policy options.”
Horner said he hopes Albertans are confident the government won’t take on more debt “if we can avoid it at 5 per cent.”
“We’re going to do the hard stuff and deliver a very fiscally conservative budget that tries to address all of these challenges and make sure that our ministers and every member of government understands that it’s all about compromise.”
Horner also anticipates that negotiating five “major” collective agreements will be another challenge for his portfolio in the coming year.
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