Albertans asked to weigh in on budget in survey and telephone town halls

Click to play video 'Alberta deficit deepens to record $24.2 billion' Alberta deficit deepens to record $24.2 billion

WATCH (Aug. 27): Alberta’s government has released its fiscal update, revealing a record deficit of $24.2 billion. As Heather Yourex-West explains, between falling oil prices, rising unemployment, and the pandemic, the province is bracing for a fiscal reckoning.

The province is asking Albertans to share their views and priorities for the upcoming budget.

An online survey will be open until Dec. 4 and telephone town halls are scheduled for Nov. 30, Dec. 2 and Dec. 3.

Read more: Highlights from Alberta budget 2020

In a news release Wednesday, the government said a lot has changed since the last provincial budget in February and that Alberta “now faces a very different set of circumstances and unique challenges.”

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When it was released in February, Alberta’s deficit was forecast to be $6.8 billion. But in August, the double blow of collapsing oil prices and the COVID-19  crisis pushed Alberta into a historic deficit of $24.2 billion.

“There will be some very difficult days ahead and the road to recovery will be slow,” Finance Minister Travis Toews said Aug. 27.

Since then, Premier Jason Kenney has been very vocal about the extreme fiscal challenges Alberta is facing after being hit by the “triple threat” of a global health crisis, worldwide economic depression and the collapse in oil prices.

Read more: COVID-19 pandemic, low energy prices leave Alberta with $24.2B deficit

In addition to finding out what people’s priorities are, the government hopes Albertans will share ideas about where savings might be found.

“I’m looking forward to working with Albertans as we develop a fiscal plan that enables the sustainable delivery of services to Albertans now and into the future,” Toews said.

“The province’s deficit and growing debt clearly show that fiscal responsibility and accountability to Alberta taxpayers is more important than ever. I encourage all Albertans to provide their input and help shape the future of our province.”

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The Opposition NDP issued a statement saying the United Conservatives aren’t making decisions based on Albertans’ values.

“Albertans from all walks of life, across all industries and regions, have good ideas for growing our economy and solving our fiscal challenges.

“The UCP is listening to none of them,” NDP Finance Critic Shannon Phillips said.

“Instead, Jason Kenney is pursuing his own ideological agenda of firing thousands of front-line health workers, ripping benefits away from Albertans with disabilities, closing parks, hiking car insurance and cutting funding to kids in school just to pay for his failed $4.7-billion corporate handout.”

Read more: Thousands of Alberta Health Services jobs to be cut in effort to save $600M annually

Click here to take the government of Alberta’s budget survey.

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Toews also plans to tour Alberta communities and the province will be launching a digital “build a budget” tool in November that will ask people to make choices about spending, cuts and revenue.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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