Alberta credit rating downgraded to double-A from triple-A due to rising debt

EDMONTON – Alberta’s credit rating has taken another hit.

Moody’s Investor Service announced Monday it has downgraded Alberta’s long-term debt rating to double-A1 from triple-A and has given it a negative outlook.

It’s the second downgrade from a rating service since the province released its budget on April 14 that included removal of its debt ceiling and a forecast of $58 billion in debt by 2019.

Moody’s says the downgrade “reflects the province’s growing and unconstrained debt burden, extended timeframe back to balance, weakened liquidity, and risks surrounding the success of the province’s medium-term fiscal plan given the outlook for subdued growth.”

It also says the province forecasts oil prices to be higher than what Moody’s is predicting.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci, who is on a trip to Toronto and New York to meet with business leaders, says the downgrade is “disappointing.”

“We have the strongest balance sheet in the country and net assets of nearly $50 billion,” Ceci said in a news release.

“The budget released last week clearly demonstrated our commitment to getting costs under control, especially in health care, by cutting spending growth to an average of two per cent over the next three years.”

Moody’s said Alberta’s success in reducing the deficit is predicated on the success of the province’s spending plan and whether the anticipated forecasts for revenue improvement and oil price recovery will materialize.

“Given the lengthy period of deficits, potential for weaker economic activity and continued revenue dependence on volatile oil royalties, the negative outlook reflects Moody’s view that the province’s fiscal health could deteriorate further.”

A day after Alberta’s budget came out on April 14, DBRS downgraded the province’s rating to double-A from triple-A due to debt levels.

The budget includes a $10.4-billion deficit this year.