April 20th, 2021

Opinion: Did you know the deficit went up by $2 billion?

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on November 2, 2019.


Ever since Premier Jason Kenney set his sights on Alberta, he’s been selling voters on the idea that provincial debt is out of control and destroying our very way of life.

As he campaigned on reined-in spending and widespread cuts, Kenney promised that the incoming suffering was required to tackle the deficit, which alongside a carbon tax has been billed as the single greatest financial threat facing individual Albertans.

Did you know the deficit went up by $2 billion?

All of Alberta knew Oct. 24’s budget reading would include countless austerity measures laid out by the MacKinnon Report, which suggested finding savings within the public sector. The UCP has promised at every turn that cuts won’t affect services – that these are necessary tweaks to bring the deficit in line.

Did you know the deficit went up by $2 billion?

After campaigning on a need to freeze public-sector wages, the government now says an average cut of two per cent is necessary, with some (paramedics, reportedly) as high as five per cent. Arbitrators potentially stand in the way of that, but Finance Minister Travis Toews said any increases awarded would be met with more job losses. The UCP already plans to decrease public-sector jobs by 7.7% in four years.

Did you know the deficit went up by $2 billion?

The budget proposes $600 million in “savings” by de-indexing personal income tax brackets. Those “savings” are, of course, actual tax dollars paid by Albertans, or in other words, a tax increase. The good news is you can easily avoid its effect by turning down any cost-of-living raises offered at work. And thanks to Kenney’s promise to freeze minimum wage for the foreseeable future, you $15 an hour folks are in the clear.

Did you know the deficit went up by $2 billion?

AISH recipients won’t receive inflation increases for at least three years. That monthly support will stick at $1,685 for 66,000 Albertans. The last inflation increase meant $97 a month for each individual, or $1,164 a year.

Did you know the deficit went up by $2 billion?

K-12 education funding – frozen for four years.

Post-secondary education – cut 5%, 11.8% over four years.

Seniors and Housing ministry budget – frozen for four years.

Culture/Status of Women ministry – cut by 33% over four years.

Ministry of Labour’s summer employment program – axed.

Infrastructure spending – cut by nearly $1 billion a year and no inflation increases.

Highway maintenance – cut by 16%.

Ministry of Justice – $58 million cut for one year.

Funding for municipalities – cut by 6%.

Health care, children’s services, continuing care and seniors benefits – moderate increases that won’t match inflation.

Did you know the deficit went up by $2 billion?

“We do not need to add hardship to Albertans and Medicine Hat families by huge government debt and huge government deficits,” Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes told a local news outlet following the budget reading. “So I think this budget goes a long way to bring down the total debt, bring down government spending more in line with other provinces so that Alberta families have a chance to prosper.”

Does he know the deficit went up by $2 billion?

The UCP still plans to balance the budget by 2022, but the economic forecasting used is dependent on things that aren’t yet guaranteed – like the Trans Mountain expansion, Line 3 and Keystone XL, which are all needed to be up and running at various stages of the next four years. Construction on all three is still pending and Toews has said that if economic forecasting doesn’t come to fruition, he will make more cuts.

The NDP’s final budget added $6.7 billion to the province’s accumulated debt and it increased spending on services. The UCP has slashed spending almost across the board – readily available to read on the government’s own website – and the deficit is $8.7 billion.

Barnes spent four years harpooning the NDP for every cent it spent in deficit. Never once did he suggest that even a little debt was necessary. Now he says he doesn’t want to “add hardship to Albertans.” Six months and one budget into his party’s first term, we have less money, fewer services, more debt and a Job Creation Tax Cut that hasn’t, won’t and can’t create jobs.

What’s his definition of hardship, exactly?

Scott Schmidt is the layout editor at the Medicine Hat News. You can contact him by email at sschmidt@medicinehatnews.com

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1 year ago

the only hardship he cares about is if his tenants can’t pay the rent

Les Landry
Les Landry
1 year ago

AISH supports local economies, it helps the corner stores survive and helps to employ that young person saving for college.
I spend every penny I have in the local economy and I do not have an offshore account to hide the AISH increase that WAS legislated to me.
And three days before the election the UCP said they would continue to index AISH.
Examining AISH
Solberg said his party isn’t planning on making any changes to Alberta’s billion-dollar Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) program, slammed by the auditor general in 2016 as a broken system.
He said a UCP government would continue to index AISH and seniors benefits to inflation (a change implemented by the NDP last year), though the Alberta Party would backfill benefits to the tune of $1,779 per month to match inflation from 2012.