What the provincial budget is actually costing Albertans

April 5, 2017 - 1:57pm

COALDALE - Last time, I talked about the latest budget that the government presented on March 16th. Everyone, by now, has read newspaper articles and seen news casts with the intricate details of that document. I just wanted to take one more stab at this budget that Albertans will be paying for into the foreseeable future.

To look at what may happen in the future, I think it is important to see what happened in the past.  The 2016-17 budget suggested a $10.8 Billion deficit. As of the Q3 update, Albertans earned $1.5 Billion more than expected in that budget year. But increased spending on programs and disaster assistance, along with a $1 Billion expense to begin phasing out coal power, exposed that we were to receive no boost to our bottom line. 

Now a disaster such as the Fort McMurray wildfire is something that isn’t expected. But the rest of the spending, that removed Alberta from potentially having a $9.2 Billion dollar deficit instead of $10.8…lies directly with those that make the decisions in this province. 

Budget 2017-18 calls for a $10.3 Billion dollar deficit. Provincial budgets lay out a 3 year fiscal plan, so the Finance Minister has shown numbers that aim to reduce the deficit to $7.2 Billion by 2019-20.  Those numbers, however, are based on the price of West Texas crude being $US 68.00/bbl. Some economists…and the market…are suggesting that this price may be optimistic.  But also consider, if the price of our oil does not rise as much as predicted, lowering the deficit to forecast levels cannot be attained either. It’s not necessarily smoke and mirrors…but more the lack of a solid plan that shows a pathway to Alberta balancing its books and tackling the monstrous debt.   

Scott Hennig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation suggests that “You can’t continue to go down this road. You’ve got to take action and control the deficit and the piling of more debt on the books. The hole that we are digging right now is so huge.  I don’t envy any government having to dig out of it, but continuing to put yourself in that hole is crazy…absolutely crazy”.

Mr. Hennig also suggests that Alberta does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. “Governments here have balanced budgets on much lower oil prices than we have had recently. They can do it again. It is getting control of the spending is where we really need to focus”.  

It has been referred to as a “fingers crossed budget”. No government has ever spent its way to prosperity, and won’t in this instance either.  And though there were no tax hikes presented in this budget, tax hikes are coming. We simply cannot continue to run with this kind of debt.  At some point it has to be paid it back, and we have to pay the interest charges as well.  

We throw around big numbers as politicians. Millions and billions. I remember hearing the difference of these numbers some 30 years ago while riding a tractor. A million seconds is 12 days. A billion seconds is 31 years.   

A million minutes ago was – 1 year, 329 days, 10 hours and 40 minutes ago. A billion minutes ago was just after the time of Christ. Lord help us!

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