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Alberta Alberta Premier announces hiring freeze, spending cuts as oil plunges

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice gives a state-of-the-province address in Edmonton, Alberta on Tuesday December 9, 2014. Alberta is imposing some cost-saving measures to help deal with sharply falling resource.

JASON FRANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Alberta is imposing some cost-saving measures to help deal with sharply falling resource revenues.

Premier Jim Prentice announced Monday that government hiring will be restricted to critical or front-line positions.

There will also be spending restrictions for goods and services and on discretionary items such as travel and training.

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"We do not know how long this price trough is going to continue, but it may go far longer than has been expected," Mr. Prentice said Monday as the price of a barrel of oil closed at $55.91 (U.S.).

"So our challenge is how do we weather this price trough."

Mr. Prentice said the province could see a $7-billion drop in resource revenue this year.

The cost-saving measures will also apply to Alberta Health Services, schools, universities, colleges and agencies.

Mr. Prentice has formed a special committee of cabinet ministers that he will lead to work on the government's upcoming budget.

He said the group will look at economic projections, capital and operating budgets, policy commitments and revenue forecasts.

The committee will include Finance Minister Robin Campbell, Health Minister Stephen Mandel and the ministers of Municipal Affairs, Energy, Infrastructure and Jobs.

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Mr. Prentice said last year the province received more than $9-billion in resource royalties, which accounted for 21 per cent of its budget.

"We will keep our spending in check, ensuring that we operate with balanced budgets, we will tighten our own belts before we ask Albertans to further tighten theirs," he said.

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