Money matters: Alberta government passes $43-billion budget for 2014-15

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EDMONTON – The Alberta government has officially approved its $43-billion budget for 2014-15.

The document completed third reading Wednesday night and the governing Tories used their majority to pass it 33-20.

The budget forecasts a $1.1-billion surplus in day-to-day spending, but infrastructure debt is pegged to hit $21 billion by 2017.

The Opposition Wildrose has criticized Finance Minister Doug Horner for plunging Alberta back into the red less than a decade after former premier Ralph Klein paid off the province’s $23-billion debt.

Horner has said borrowing for building is prudent because interest rates are low and tens of thousands of newcomers are arriving in Alberta each year.

Critics have also said the budget is presented in a confusing format to hide the deficit and on Wednesday auditor general Merwan Saher said it doesn’t meet general accounting standards.

Horner defended the approach Thursday. He said splitting the budget into savings, capital spending and day-to-day spending is the best way to make sure Albertans understand how money is allocated.

“If you look at municipalities, they do it exactly the same way. They separate out their operating from their capital,” said Horner.

“Why would we deprive Albertans of having the same level of scrutiny on our numbers as we require of the municipalities?”

The Wildrose party has suggested the government could manage spending on infrastructure projects with better planning and priorities.

The NDP has said it accepts the idea of borrowing to build, but agrees with the Tories that it would be unacceptable to go into debt for day-to-day spending.

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