June 11, 2015 / 8:51 PM / 2 years ago

Alberta finance minister sees C$5 billion deficit this year

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Joe Ceci, Alberta's Minister of Finance and member of the New Democratic Party (NDP), signs as a member of the executive council during the official swearing-in ceremony in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada May 24, 2015.Topher Seguin

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Alberta, the largest source of U.S. oil imports, will probably run a budget deficit of about C$5 billion ($4.1 billion) this fiscal year as low oil prices cut into its revenues, the Western Canadian province's new finance minister said on Thursday.

Joe Ceci, a former Calgary city councillor who became finance minister last month after the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) won a surprise election victory, said in an interview he expects the deficit to be near the C$5 billion projected by the previous Conservative government.

He said, however, he does not expect to have a firm estimate until autumn, when he will introduce his first budget.

The NDP's election upset ended 44 years of Conservative rule and resulted in a cabinet in which many ministers lack deep political or government experience.

"That (C$5 billion) is probably in line," Ceci said. "But that needs to be part of the fall budget discussion."

Ceci's attention is currently on securing financing for the government before its spending authority runs out at month's end. He plans to introduce an appropriations bill in the legislature next week to authorize five months of spending prior to the new budget.

He said that among the provisions he will introduce next week are changes to the province's tax regime that Alberta's new premier, Rachel Notley, promised in the NDP's election platform.

Those changes include raising the corporate tax rate to 12 percent from 10 percent and introducing progressive tax rates on personal income that will end the province's 10 percent flat tax.

"We're going to take steps to do that with personal and corporate taxes next week," he said.

($1=$1.23 Canadian)

Reporting by Scott Haggett; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn; and Peter Galloway

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