Budget 2014: No Fix For What Ails Albertans
Posted on March 07, 2014 by Katherine Taylor
Government still on resource roller-coaster
The PC government has dressed up its 2014 budget as a good-news document but Albertans should not be fooled.
“Once again the Tories are trying to pull the wool over our eyes – with talk of a surplus and increased spending on the things that matter to Albertans,” said Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark. “But in reality, the government’s spending is not even keeping up with population growth plus inflation.”
“This government needs to put planning ahead of politics. This budget doesn’t translate into quick access to health-care services for the sick and vulnerable, more long-term care spaces for the elderly and reasonable class sizes. How is this budget going to help post-secondary institutions catch up after the blow they were dealt by the government last year?” he questioned.
“If Albertans are happy with the way these things are now, then they should be happy with this budget. But if they were hoping for improvements they should be very unhappy.”
Secondly, the PCs are not being transparent about the true fiscal situation. They are forecasting a surplus at the same time as they are borrowing money – so in reality the province has a deficit. The government should be honest with Albertans about what they are doing instead of confusing them with three sets of books.
Budget 2014 was another opportunity to set a course to long-term prosperity while also stabilizing program funding. But what Albertans got is another opportunity lost.
It is discouraging how this government stubbornly refuses to make structural changes by returning to a fair progressive income tax system to generate a stable revenue source for Albertans, and continues its over-reliance on non-renewable resource revenues. This is political cowardice when the government should be showing leadership by making the hard decisions required for the long-term benefit of the province.
The PCs talk about saving more money in the province’s Sustainability Fund, but the Heritage Trust Fund will only grow to an unimpressive $23 billion in 2014 and only $26 billion by 2017. Compare that to Norway’s $840-billion long-term savings fund from its resource revenues.
The overall operational spending increase is 3.7 per cent. But that’s not keeping up with population increase and inflation, which together represent a five per cent increase.
We take on risk by borrowing money to fund massive infrastructure needs. Why are we doing that when moving to a progressive income tax would bring in stable new revenue and reduce the need to borrow money? Even with a shift to progressive taxation Albertans would still enjoy the lowest income taxes in Canada.
The Alberta Party is also disappointed not to see more action on economic diversification to move the province away from its over-reliance on non-renewable resources.