EDMONTON — Alberta’s premier says it’s frustrating to see his government doing everything it can to grow the economy only to watch global oil prices fall due to reduced demand tied to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

But Jason Kenney says Alberta is in a better position to weather low prices, as oil companies in the province have used lean times to find ways to reduce operating costs over the last five years.

He says while the economic downturn continues, Alberta must keep leveraging the benefits of its well-educated and young workforce along with its low-tax environment.

Kenney promised voters in last spring’s election that his United Conservative government would bring back jobs.

But since last June, 50,000 full-time jobs have been lost and unemployment is hovering around seven per cent.

To that end, Kenney has announced a $100-million loan extension to the Orphan Well Association to clean up more abandoned sites, creating a projected 500 direct and spin-off jobs.

The premier has promised to eradicate Alberta’s $6.8-billion deficit by 2023, in part by keeping spending costs in line. But the Opposition NDP says by cutting staff in health, education and elsewhere, the province is compromising front-line service and care.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2020

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