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Alberta's deficit could be smaller than forecast in 2017: Ceci

Alberta's financial outlook is brightening to the point where the current deficit could be smaller than projected, says provincial Finance Minister Joe Ceci.

Price of oil averaging $48 a barrel over fiscal year, slightly above the $45 projection

Finance Minister Joe Ceci is holding budget consultations with stakeholders across the province. (CBC)

Alberta's financial outlook is brightening to the point where the current deficit could be smaller than projected, says provincial Finance Minister Joe Ceci.

The province budgeted on oil being at $45 a barrel when it estimated its last fiscal update, meaning it could be in the hole by about $10.8 billion.

"In 2017, we know it's going to be under $10 billion, and we had a risk adjustment of about $1.5 billion in that approximately $10 billion deficit," said Ceci.

"We're finding that the risk adjustment that we have put in for this budget, 2016, of $700 million, likely won't be needed."

But the average price over the fiscal year so far is slightly above $48 a barrel, said economist Trevor Tombe.

And every dollar the price increases is worth $130 million in revenue to the province, he added — meaning the size of Alberta's deficit will decrease. 

Ceci is continuing to travel the province to meet with local businesses and community members to find out their ideas for cutting costs in the coming spring budget.

Even though he's been meeting with stakeholders since early November and the province's third quarter fiscal update is expected at the end of February, Ceci said these "additional consultations" will be considered for the budget.

"These are the kinds of actual suggestions people have," Ceci said.

Telephone town halls for the public are planned for Jan. 30 and Jan. 31.

The government will also collect feedback online until Feb. 3.

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