Alberta finance minister offers gloomy forecast for 2013

Alberta's Finance Minister is forecasting more belt tightening and budget cuts in 2013, even hinting that the province's balanced operating budget could also be in jeopardy.

While Alberta is still on track to post a $3 billion over-all deficit this year, Doug Horner said he's worried about next year.

Horner met with cabinet ministers Tuesday, issuing orders that tough decisions will have to be made.

However he didn't say how much more each department is expected to cut, but he did say no new taxes are not on the table at this time.

Horner said volatile oil prices and increased oil production in the United States are having an even deeper effect on Alberta's bottom line than expected.

Alberta is being forced to sell its bitumen to the U.S., its major international oil customer, at a steep discount, said Horner who pointed to Alberta's need for new pipelines to the coast to reach markets in China and South America.

Opposition MLAs accuses the province of mismanaging the budget.

“This government obviously believes that they can make big promises to deliver crucial public services and then take them back as soon as it’s inconvenient,” said NDP leader Brian Mason.

On Tuesday Alberta's education minister warned school boards the government may not be able to deliver on its promise for new education funding.

Last spring, Premier Alison Redford promised to increase education grant funding by one per cent next year, and two per cent in the second and third years.

Horner's dire outlook comes the same day Edmonton's chief economist predicted the city will continue to outpace the rest of the country in economic growth.

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