The time for long-term financial planning in Alberta is long overdue
Mark Nikota, the Alberta Party Treasury Board and Finance Shadow Minister, writes about the need for long-term financial planning.
Danielle Smith had at least one thing right in her Calgary Herald column on September 4th--Alberta is a financial disgrace. Successive governments of different ideologies have managed to make a mess of what should be a balanced, deficit-free, financial house. And before you point the finger at any one party, keep in mind that no party has managed to do what Peter Lougheed did when he started saving for our future with the Heritage Savings Trust Fund. Ralph Klein, like him or hate him, did balance the fiscal budget and pay off our debt while enduring a lot of pain (even though we were left with an infrastructure deficit). However, when the surpluses started rolling in, instead of putting money into the Trust Fund, he mailed out rebate cheques--a missed opportunity indeed.
Danielle also nailed the fact that, for all the talk from Mr. Kenney about out of control NDP spending and getting back to balanced budgets, Alberta’s deficit was larger in his first year of governing than what was left for him by the previous government. Instead of a plan to get out of the situation, all we have seen is a piece-meal reaction to cutting expenses, most of which has, or will have, drastic effects on municipalities, especially in rural Alberta.
Instead of bargaining in good faith, the UCP has started a fight with doctors, which has led to the possibility of small, rural communities losing physicians who are hard to replace. They have instituted a new police funding model, downloading costs onto municipalities with no promise that there will be better service, again hitting small communities the hardest. To help a struggling oil and gas industry, they have written off bad debts and initiated a review of the tax assessment model, which could have devastating effects on rural municipalities.
Rural Albertans, who overwhelmingly supported this government, should not have to protest on the steps of the Legislature to be heard. What are we going to do to fix the problem? Now is the time for solutions, not political posturing. It is time for a serious look at not only the spending habits of government but also the revenues. It is time to look at the full financial picture including where our taxes come from, where the money is spent, and how we can start saving what little resource revenue we have left. It is time for a long-term financial plan that can get us out of the mess we are in and back to balanced budgets with debt elimination and future savings.
Danielle Smith is right about one other thing--it is time for everyone in this province, on all sides of the political spectrum, to suck it up and address the problem instead of just complaining about who got us into the mess in the first place.
Mark Nikota, BA Economics, BMgt, MBA, 15 years of work in finance. Mark’s a resident of Hanna Alberta, and a community builder in the region having been a mayor and CAO. He was the Alberta Party candidate for Drumheller-Stettler in the 2019 election and is the Alberta Party shadow minister of Treasury Board and Finance.