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Alberta freezing salaries

Oil-rich province expects to linger in recession amid weak energy market.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   March 25, 2016 at 6:16 AM
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EDMONTON, Alberta, March 25 (UPI) -- The provincial government of Alberta said it was freezing salaries for the next two years in an effort to address lingering economic pressures.

The government said it was freezing salaries for management and non-union employees at provincial agencies, boards and commissions. The moves follows similar action for Cabinet and political staff in October and public service employees in January.

Provincial Finance Minister Joe Ceci said the move is a first-step measure to contain salary costs.

"We are facing once-in-a-generation economic challenges, and we need to reduce our costs while doing all we can to protect jobs and maintain public services that support families," he said in an emailed statement.

The provincial government estimates the economy, measured in real gross domestic product, will shrink by 1.1 percent this year, after a 1.5 percent decline for full-year 2015. The total revenue forecast for the fiscal year of $31.2 billion is $478 million lower than estimated in the budget last year.

Lower export revenue and even lower crude oil prices are hurting exporting economies like Canada's. With most of the sector centered in Alberta, the provincial government said it expects energy investments to decline by 22 percent this year.

Trade Minister Deron Bilous this week traveled to China to open an office aimed at tapping into potential business opportunities in the region.

"Given the challenges Alberta's families and businesses are facing due to the collapse of global oil prices, it's more important than ever to diversify our markets," he said in a statement.

With nearly all of the energy exports sent to the United States, the Canadian government has tried to expand Canada's energy reach outside of North America to reach emerging Asian economies.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rolled out a new federal budget plan this year. Its aim is to create roughly 100,000 new jobs and boost GDP by about a half percentage point per year by focusing on middle-class development and a low-carbon economy.

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