January 20th, 2020

Iron fist in an iron glove for Kenney as budget approaches

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on October 7, 2019.

While Albertans will be fascinated to see how the federal election goes, especially in regards to those in the petroleum industry where two of the four major parties have all but full demonstrated they want the oil patch barren and those two parties doesn’t even include the Liberals. Just ask people in the oil industry what they think of Justin Trudeau.

What will be next on the list is what Premier Jason Kenney does in his first budget which Kenney told reporters early this week would be released Oct. 24, a few days after the federal election.

Already, he is using tough talk which seems to be a reassuring theme for his government.

His unequivocal pointed statement he would rather have Conservative Andrew Scheer in federal government was predictable, even though one wonders if he has his eyes on the federal leadership. but Kenney has already shown other signs as being his own person, my way or the highway type of person.

Telling a crowd about his upcoming budget, Kenney said that “normal people” know they can’t sustain this type of spending like you would in a house hold and say debt through credit cards. Kenney says they have to grab hold and stop losing control of the province’s $62.7 billion debt.

The 2018-19 budget tabled by NDP’s Joe Ceci had a projected revenue of $47.9 billion with spending at $56.2 billion and was the fourth consecutive deficit budget of the NDP.

The previous NDP government’s philosophy was to spend out of tough times and recover later. Small ‘c’ conservatives like the UCP want everything balanced now.

As much as the free lightbulbs from the NDP government were great, conservatives would rather ensure big business is taken care of first. Cut spending, hold the line on services and smaller government.

Kenney is making it clear, he has a strong will and no one will push him around.

Yes, by insulting anyone who dares disagree with the forthcoming budget, you aren’t a normal Albertan. Flex those muscles.

The recently released MacKinnon panel report on finances said Alberta government needed to cut operating expenses by $600 million over four years in order to help balance the budget by 2022-23. Sounds like if a person in the public sector retires, they won’t be replaced. He told a they would minimize “potential layoffs by maximizing attrition.”

Kenney noted there would be no budgetary cuts in education or health, but perhaps a realignment in where and how the budget is spent.

On the surface it is ironic that as a former immigration minister and knowing all the new students coming from all over the world, that Kenney holding the line on education and health spending is a priority.

However if he can get the money to where it needs to be spent and not elaborate spending then Kenney will be lauded and not panned. He will need to sell it to Albertans and how he does it will be fascinating to watch.

Cue quotes with themes of “Too bad”; “You can leave” or the “Unions have had it easy for the last four years” forthcoming from Kenney and finance minister Travis Toews.

Kenney’s release of the annual salaries of political staffers (i.e. chief of staff and principal secretary -$224,138 each) was somewhat of a negative if not hypocritical start. Although one of the staffers noted the UCP government is spending 21% less than the NDP did.

Talk is cheap, even when it comes to what promises to be a frugal budget. It could be the classic tough bravado and dire warnings of impending Draconian cuts only to have it softer so as to appear not so bad.

“It could’ve been a lot worse,” says the coffee shop regulars,

Make no mistake, Kenney is in charge of this ship, no one else. How Kenney steers this budget and conducts himself post federal election and post budget will chart his course as premier and eventually his future in (federal) politics.

(Ryan Dahlman is the managing editor of Prairie Post West and Prairie Post East.)

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