Alberta has recovered from the recession and is expected to once again have one of the strongest economies among the provinces, according to its budget for 2011. Real GDP growth is expected to be 3.3 per cent in 2011 and average 3.2 per cent over the following three years.
Average employment in 2011 is expected to increase by 41,000 jobs, with the unemployment rate averaging 5.5 per cent this year and falling to 4.5 per cent by 2014.
A strong labour market and solid growth in personal incomes are anticipated to boost consumer spending, and Alberta’s population is expected to continue to grow, fuelled by high net migration from outside the province, said a government release.
“As the province emerges from the worst global recession since the 1930s, it does so in good fiscal shape and with core services like health care and education intact,” said Premier Ed Stelmach.
“We had a plan that got us through the recession and we will stick to it as government revenue now begins to recover. We’ll continue to carefully manage our spending with a focus on preserving and enhancing our most important programs while building for the future.”
The province will spend $17.6 billion over the next three years to build schools, hospitals, roads and other public infrastructure to meet the needs of a province and economy that is growing again.
The 2011-12 budget also includes:
• $617 million for income supports and related health benefits, a net $29.6-million reduction from 2010-11. Employment growth in Alberta will help to reduce caseloads.
• $162 million for employment and training programs, a $14-million reduction from 2010-11. Reductions have been made in academic upgrading and career development services. While the youth connections program will end in 2011, employment services to youth will continue to be provided in other ways.
• $51 million for immigration programs, a $9-million reduction from 2010-11.
• $39 million for occupational health and safety programs and ensuring compliance with Alberta’s employment standards, a $3-million increase from 2010-11.
• $35 million for Health Workforce Development.
Since the recession was deeper than expected, government revenue is forecast to be lower over the next two years than originally predicted. However, revenue is expected to recover strongly which, together with tight controls on spending, will put the province back in a surplus in 2013-14, said the government.
“We created and built the sustainability fund when times were good, which has allowed us to preserve and even enhance funding to priority services like health and education, even in the depths of recession,” said Lloyd Snelgrove, minister of finance and enterprise and president of Treasury Board. “It has also allowed us to continue building the roads, schools and hospitals that we need today, and that we’ll continue to need as the province returns to growth.”
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