Fort McMurray wildfire adds $500M to Alberta’s projected deficit by Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press Posted Aug 23, 2016 1:33 pm MDT Last Updated Aug 24, 2016 at 7:40 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci releases the 2015-16 year-end financial results in Edmonton on Wednesday, June 29, 2016. The devastating Fort McMurray wildfire is expected to torch Alberta’s bottom line by about $500 million this year.Finance Minister Ceci says he had to revise the projected deficit upward in his first-quarter fiscal update to almost $11 billion from $10.4 billion. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Amber Bracken EDMONTON – The devastating Fort McMurray wildfire is expected to torch Alberta’s bottom line by about $500 million this year.Finance Minister Joe Ceci says he has had to revise the projected deficit upward in his first-quarter fiscal update to almost $11 billion from $10.4 billion.“I don’t need to tell my fellow Albertans that as a result of the oil-price shock, the economic headwinds facing Alberta remain strong. Albertans see that every day. Many are suffering significant hardship,” Ceci said Tuesday at a news conference where he released the latest numbers.“This year those headwinds are blowing even harder as a result of the Wood Buffalo wildfire.”Regardless, Ceci said, the province will stick to its plan of avoiding deep cuts to the civil service, while continuing to accumulate debt to pay for roads, infrastructure, health and education.“We’re not going to make knee-jerk cuts. We’re not going to make things worse for Albertans,” he said.The May fire in northern Alberta forced more than 80,000 people to flee for a month and destroyed 2,400 homes and buildings in the oilsands hub city.Ceci said the province paid out $647 million in disaster relief, a figure reduced to $195 million after federal aid transfers.On top of that, the province estimates it lost another $300 million in revenue, because the fire severely curtailed oilsands and forestry activity in the area. An estimated 40 million barrels worth of production was lost.The government forecasts Alberta’s overall oil production for the 2016-17 fiscal year will be down about four per cent due to the shutdown.Rebuilding parts of Fort McMurray is expected to boost provincial growth in the years to come, but business losses are expected to cancel out any such stimulus this year.Insurable losses from the wildfires are pegged at $3.6 billion.The Fort McMurray numbers come on top of gloomy forecasts as low oil prices continue to depress Alberta’s economy, although a modest recovery is predicted for 2017.Alberta’s real GDP, the benchmark figure representing all of Alberta’s newly produced goods and services, is predicted to fall 2.7 per cent, mainly due to the fire. It fell 3.7 per cent last year. It’s a back-to-back plunge not seen since the last Alberta oil crash in the 1980s.Real exports were expected to go up by 1.9 per cent. Instead, they’re now predicted to fall 1.7 per cent.Alberta will rack up $32 billion in debt this year and remains on track for $58 billion in debt by 2019.Debt servicing costs have now surpassed $1 billion a year and Alberta’s debt-to-GDP ratio is up to 10.25 per cent.Opposition Wildrose critic Glenn van Dijken said the NDP needs to create a plan to balance the books by reducing spending and streamlining services, rather than simply wishing high oil prices will return.“If we don’t act now, it will only mean higher taxes for future generations and less services,” said van Dijken.Progressive Conservative Leader Ric McIver agreed.“It’s evident that the NDP has no intention of being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars and will forge ahead with their reckless agenda, no matter what it ends up costing Albertans,” said McIver in a news release.Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark said NDP policies are failing Albertans, starting with a hike of the corporate tax rate to 12 per cent from 10 per cent.“Despite big corporate tax increases, Alberta’s tax revenues are way down and will continue to drop because the NDs have done nothing to create a positive investment climate,” Clark said in a news release.“In fact, they’ve done the opposite.”
Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) raised a glass to celebrate its 20th year partnering with the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival on Saturday, Sept. 16.Continuing the long-standing tradition, CCOVI hosted three of its popular Educate your Senses wine and cheese seminars in Montebello Park in downtown St. Catharines, with some of the sold-out sessions attracting wine lovers from across Ontario, the U.S. and even Australia.CCOVI will offer three more seminars at the festival on Saturday, Sept. 23.Barb Tatarnic, CCOVI’s Manager of Continuing Education and Outreach, said the institute is proud to celebrate the important milestone.“With two decades of bringing quality educational opportunities to the local community through outreach offerings like the Educate Your Senses seminar series, we have solidified our commitment both to the community and the grape and wine industry,” she said. “Over the span of 20 years we’ve poured more than 10,000 glasses of VQA wine to festivalgoers and brought education and VQA wine excellence together, one glass at a time.”Brock alumni and Peller Estates winemaker Jason Roller (BSc ’04) got the seminars started Saturday, followed by Ed Madronich, President of Flat Rock Cellars, and winemaker Gavin Robertson, Niagara College Winery.Each seminar features discussions with local winemakers, who pour two wines for the audience to sample alongside cheese pairings provided by Real Canadian Superstore.The seminars are hosted by Christopher Waters, VINES Magazine editor and CCOVI continuing education instructor. Waters introduces attendees to some of Niagara’s top winemakers, including alumni of Brock’s Oenology and Viticulture program, as they share the experiences and stories behind their wines.“It’s a chance to meet talented winemakers and winery principals who will share insights into what they do in a casual, intimate and entertaining tasting seminar,” said Waters. “The guests can find out what truly goes into making the wine in their glass, directly from the winemakers themselves.”CCOVI hosted its first sanctioned festival event (Cool Climate Reds — a guided tasting) back in 1997, and Waters launched the Educate Your Senses seminars, alongside now-St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik, two years later.The institute has been a part of the festival ever since, hosting many unique events and providing thousands of festival attendees with the opportunity to sample VQA wines from the nearly 160 winemakers who have participated in the Educate Your Senses seminars.Waters said the enduring partnership between CCOVI and the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival promotes the best of the local wine industry.“A milestone like 20 years is a sign of increased maturity for CCOVI and the wine festival,” he added. “The series provides an added level of sophistication and enjoyment to the festival’s line-up, which makes for a better experience for those looking to get the most out of the Montebello Park experience.”Educate your Senses Schedule, Saturday, Sept. 23:2 p.m. Chris Protonentis, Coyote’s Run3 p.m. Brock alumni Richie Roberts, Fielding Estate4 p.m. Marc Bradshaw, StrewnLocation: Roy T. Adams Bandshell, Montebello Park, St. CatharinesCost: $3.50 per token, two tokens per seminar. Brock alumni will receive a free wine glass with registration and receive half off the seminar cost. Tokens are available for purchase at Montebello Park throughout each weekend. Registration for seminars will be at the Roy T. Adams Bandshell only. Seminars run rain or shine.