Reaction pours in to Alberta Budget

Here’s what various stakeholders are saying in response to the 2019 Alberta Budget that was presented on Thursday.

Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce

“What we are seeing is a budget that sets the tone for the next four years,” says Reg Warkentin, the chamber’s policy and advocacy manager.

“We have a new provincial government that inherited an inflated expense sheet along with severe revenue limitations. They’re taking a measure and balanced approach to reducing spending without shocking services recognizing Alberta spends far more per capita on programs relative to other provinces.

“We appreciate this government’s move to a low-rate, broad based tax system with a focus on competitiveness with key initiatives like the job creation tax cut, changes to capital cost allowance, and efforts to reduce red tape and regulations.

“Funding commitments to mental health, addictions, and tackling the opioid crisis will make a meaningful impact on the social issues negatively affecting our city.

“Locally, we were disappointed not to see a commitment to expand the Red Deer hospital. However it is promising that funds remain allocated to project planning.

“Overall we feel this is one of the best budgets Alberta has seen in many year’s, taking important steps to battle macroeconomic headwinds and export limitations by creating a competitive business environment conducive to startups and growth.”

Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)

“Today’s budget delivers tough, but much needed medicine. Our province faces an incredibly difficult fiscal situation that was created by years of unsustainable government spending. Thankfully, the new government has accepted it cannot spend in such a reckless manner,” says Richard Truscott, Vice-President, Alberta and BC.

“Not only has the government had an enduring overspending problem, it has also had a big budgeting problem. Time after time, our political leaders simply could not restrain themselves from spending whatever revenue was coming in, and then some.”

“There needs to be a long-term plan in place to make sure future growth in the operating budget is affordable, sustainable, and will deliver the desired results. It may also be time to take a serious look at a legislated limit on annual increases in overall operating spending,” concluded Truscott.

Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA)

“Despite a lack of consultation from the government on a new municipal funding framework, AUMA will continue to advocate for a framework that supports the province’s financial goals while also meeting the needs and responsibilities of our communities,” says AUMA President Barry Morishita.

“While the province reduces its budget by 2.8 per cent over the next four years, it has proposed reducing our infrastructure funding by almost 10 times that amount. With municipal governments currently facing a multibillion-dollar infrastructure deficit, these funding cuts will lead to crumbling community infrastructure or higher taxes for property owners for years to come.”

Additionally, AUMA is extremely disappointed with the government’s decision to replace the City Charters Fiscal Framework Act, backtracking on their campaign promise.

NDP Official Opposition

“What we saw today is Premier Kenney’s plan to make you pay more and get less,” NDP Leader Rachel Notley said. “What he didn’t tell us was that every single Albertan was going to pay more in income tax.”

“There’s less money for acute care in hospitals and if you live in Red Deer, and were counting on a badly needed re-build of the hospital, you’re out of luck,” Notley said. “Edmonton’s first new hospital in decades years will now take at least another decade if not more. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Friends of Medicare

“When a government is not able to provide health care to meet the needs of a growing population, it is a cut,” says Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “As one goes down line by line through the budget, what we’re seeing is a decrease in most areas of the health care budget.”

“Albertans do not stop needing health care based on whether the economy is down or on an upward trend,” says Azocar. “The most vulnerable and least powerful will pay the greatest price. But in the end, we all pay the price of growing inequality and insecurity.”

“The measure of a budget should be not some bogus measure of fiscal health, but rather how it will contribute to human health now and in the future,” says Azocar. “Behind all the stats, health policies, and regulations, there are people who depend on not having to worry if they can afford access to quality health care based on need, and not on their ability to pay.”

Unifor

“Austerity has been widely discredited but that won’t stop Jason Kenney from his old habits,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “He cannot cut his way to prosperity.”

“This budget is not about balancing the books-that could happen in time without Jason Kenney. This budget is an ideological exercise in cutting the services and wages families depend on,” said Dias.

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

“During the provincial election this spring, Jason Kenney promised to ‘maintain or increase’ public services. Today’s budget breaks that promise,” says CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill.

“Kenney is not freezing spending on health care and education, cuts will come. They will come as costs increase and services are squeezed as a result. Doctor’s fees and other contracts will have to be honoured, and that means money will be taken from front line services. Longer wait times, poorer care, fewer nurses with more patients is what we can expect.

“In fact, in this budget – Jason Kenney is cutting nurses, rural doctors, drug services and ambulance services. These are real cuts that will hurt all Albertans.

“In education, it’s the same story – as the population grows, school districts will be squeezed. In turn, they will put more kids into each class, and hire fewer teachers, support staff, custodial workers and educational assistants to try and keep things going.

“The Kenney budget cuts Educational Assistants, it cuts funding for class size reduction, and it cuts funding to keep school fees low.

“In what universe is this ‘maintaining services in health and education?’”

Public Interest Alberta

“Albertans know that cuts hurt, and with cuts to nearly everything, all Albertans are going to feel the pain,” said Joel French, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “At the same time, the wealthiest corporations are getting a big tax cut, benefiting their already-wealthy shareholders around the world. This budget makes working Albertans pay to make the rich even richer.”

Some of the most significant cuts are being made in the area of post-secondary education, with nearly $212 million being cut from the budget, and revenue from tuition payments rising by nearly $54 million.

“Cutting this much out of post-secondary education means tuition rates will skyrocket, while the number of educational options and quality of those options will decrease,” said French. “If we are serious about building the economy of the future and having a well-educated population overall, we should be heading in the opposite direction, making investments to expand educational opportunities.”