$57B budget approved amid Alberta state of public health emergency
Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews speaks in the legislative assembly on March 17, 2020.
EDMONTON -- Budget 2020, padded with an extra $500M in health spending, was approved in the Alberta legislature Tuesday evening.
Premier Jason Kenney said his United Conservative government needed to guarantee it was funded in case COVID-19 impacted legislature assembly operations.
Budget 2020 is centered around job creation, promotion Alberta's energy industry and advocating for a "fair deal" for the province in Ottawa. It allocated $20.6 billion for health in 2020-21, prior to the government announcing the extra half billion dollars in response to COVID-19, and $8.3 billion for K-12 education funding.
While the budget projected a $1.2 billion decrease in the provincial deficit to $6.8 billion, Kenney has since said the virus outbreak may leave the government unable to keep its election promise to balance Alberta's books by 2023.
- READ MORE: Alberta Budget 2020: Jobs and restrained spending amid renewed calls for 'fair deal' from Ottawa
- READ MORE: Coronavirus may force government to ditch balanced-budget plan: Premier Kenney
Debate was limited Tuesday night by Government House Leader Jason Nixon. Official Opposition and NDP Leader Rachel Notley called the bill "fiscally dishonest" and the rushing of it through legislature an "abusive process."
"Overall this budget in no way, shape or form is equipped to provide Albertans with the certainty that they need during these very, very difficult times," Notley argued during its second reading.
However, the premier and Finance Minister Travis Toews defended the expedited process in a video online, saying it was important Alberta's basic institutions were funded and that the health system was equipped to handle the new coronavirus.
"We ultimately need to be assured that health care professionals in this province will have adequate resources to battle COVID-19," Toews said.
Kenney added health may further be boosted if needed.
"If Alberta Health needs additional funds, we will provide them. But we wanted to guarantee that money was available because the new fiscal year starts in a couple of weeks' time."
They said the Alberta government is also considering how to best help business and the economy through COVID-19, which has prompted the federal government to close its border with the U.S. and announce $82 billion in direct aid and stimulus financing.
A day earlier, Alberta issued a state of public health emergency due to the pandemic.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Matthew Black and The Canadian Press