Uh oh, don’t look now, but the relieved feelings (or just wishful thinking?) with ousting Rachel Notley and the free-spending NDP has hit a wall.
It is not overly surprising that Jason Kenney is overseeing a dose of what United Conservative Party supporters would call ‘tough love’. It may appear tough in terms of cuts, but it isn’t in regards to what is actually being spent.
The UCP will reassure you courtesy their safe Wizard of Oz behind-the-curtain-without-fear-of-reprisal messaging: “We have to tighten the fiscal belt”; “we are all in this together”; “difficult choices are made in difficult times”; etc. It is predictable, post-majority election winner fare.
Coldly, for such new governments they do exactly what they want now; listen to the protests of those whose livelihoods are terribly altered or pushed to the brink, while pushing forward with the platform.
Cuts yes, they came to some, but it is not a Ralph Klein hack 20-plus percent across the board budget, it is more reallocation than it is budget cuts. Finance minister Travis Toews wants the provincial deficit to be eliminated in three years. The overall debt is another matter. Reportedly that was projected to hit $93.3 billion in 2022-23. Ugh.
There’s some tough decisions and there are a lot of cuts to ordinary Albertans and while the budget spending is still up slightly at $58.7 billion, more than the $56.2 billion which was originally forecasted by Joe Cici for the 2018 budget. There is a cut of 2.8 per cent cut in operating expenses.
This operating budget includes an infrastructure budget which went from $7 billion to $6.2 billion.
The government wants two to five per cent wage roll backs on public employees, the size of Alberta’s government is supposed to decrease by 7.7 per cent with more than 2,000 public sector jobs gone (a reported 760 by March 2020) close to a whopping $1.5 billion eliminated over four years. How much of that is high level, departmental executive management? One wonders.
Funding has been cut to post secondary institutions and to urban municipalities which has forced a lot of layoffs. There is news slowly trickling out about social services programs getting axed or reduced. Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH)’s budget was cut back; Alberta Innovates announced Nov. 19 that the $76 million cut will ;ead up to 125 layoffs; even a program like STEP which helped with giving students jobs was eliminated.
None of this should come as a shock. The United Conservative party are doing what united conservative parties do…trying to stimulate the economy. They are taking from what they have access to funds-wise from other various departments, betting they will hit three cherries on the economic slot machine ‑ if they put enough money into it.
Currently, budget money is just being reallocated. Save money from paying into non-profitable resident-benefits directly with social programs, (redundant or non-efficient) public institutions and government salaries, let them figure it out. Get business going and then the people can go to the private sector for jobs, recreation, a few social programs and the government is just left with necessary infrastructure.
Triiiiiiiiickle-down. Adam Smith would be teary with joy.
There was a corporate tax cut for big businesses to the tune of $2.4 billion over four years which Toews says is important in this economy. The UCP feel they needed to make the province more open for business and easy for big corporations to come to or stay in Alberta, unlike what was created under the previous NDP regime. Despite that, Husky Energy which according to the NDP received $233 million in “assistance”, announced massive layoffs in Calgary in late October.
Oops. The trickle dried up and $233 million just doesn’t go that far anymore.
Kenney also raised ire after he fired the Legislature’s independent Elections Commissioner who was investigating the UCP’s 2017 leadership race and possible Election Act violations.
Kenney also suggested getting out of the Canada Pension Plan and has morally outraged many with Bill 207 which protects health care workers from prosecution if they refuse to give a service to a patient because of moral/religious beliefs.
Then there’s trial balloons of axing ties with the RCMP and going to a provincial police force, and the unbelievably worn out and brain-hurting debate about changing the daylight savings time laws.
A lot of topics and there are so many stories slowly coming out of the budget’s aftermath and they will probably continue to come out well into next week.
November 29 to December 1, the UCP will be holding its annual general meeting where there will be political high-giving of each other, probably a rundown of all of the trial balloons sent with no programs and justifying their decisions.
No matter what, there should be no real surprises. If it doesn’t make money, it will be reduced or eliminated in order to try and put a defibrillator charge into creating business. Good? Bad? It is all a matter of perspective.