April 12th, 2024

NDP finance critics concerned about upcoming budget

By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on February 21, 2024.

Alberta NDP finance critics Shannon Phillips and Samir Kayande voiced their concerns about next week’s provincial budget during a news conference on Tuesday in Edmonton.
Phillips, who is MLA for Lethbridge West and Alberta NDP Finance Critic for Insurance and Pensions and Samir Kayande, Alberta NDP Finance Critic for Fiscal Responsibility, talked about Alberta’s finances during a budget preview.
“Next week, Danielle Smith and UCP are set to release their 2024 budget, and we know it will be full of broken promises and lack of vision to improve any of the daily struggles Albertans are dealing with right now,” said Kayande.
“Let me be clear, people depend on government to help them in tough times. And we’re in tough times. Albertans are falling behind as wages fail to keep up with inflation. Our public infrastructure, health and education is crumbling,” he said.
Kayande said he feels the UCP is failing to plan accordingly with rising costs.
“Productivity is stagnant, bankruptcies are up and the employment rate is down. And Alberta has been the worst performing big province for wage growth since 2019.”
He added “meanwhile, Albertans are struggling to afford their rent, refinance the mortgage, keep the lights on cover the rising costs of auto insurance and gas.
“When the UCP talks about fiscal stability and resilience, they really mean that they will balance the budget with cost cuts in an already cracking health and education system. People rely on these essential public goods and our need for them doesn’t go away,” said Kayande.
Phillips shared her concerns, saying Smith is underfunding the health care system and as a result the Alberta health care system is crumbling.
“Surgeries are not happening in a timely matter, operating rooms are being closed, emergency departments are closed across the province. And there simply are not enough nurses and other health care workers to cover shifts.
“Families not being able to afford the rising cost of utilities, insurance or rent. And the status quo is to create conditions such that 60 per cent of family doctors are looking to leave their practice,” said Phillips.
Phillips said she believes to maintain business as usual the UCP needs to see a five per cent increase in the budget.
“But with our healthcare system in the state that it is now, the doctors who are at risk of closing their practice, the nurses having their overtime cut by the UCP, and the over 800,000 Albertans without a family doctor do not want to maintain business as usual,” she said.
Phillips said the UCP campaigned on helping the health care system but she feels it has only gotten worse.
“It has only gotten worse in the last year. They campaigned on lowering taxes by developing a new tax bracket on income under 60,000 but did not bring that in.
“They campaigned on lower utility costs” but instead the UCP has delivered to Albertans the highest utility rates the province has ever seen, and by far the highest in the country.
Meanwhile, Smith is scheduled to give a television address to Albertans this evening.
Her office shared the information on social media with a link to the government’s website.
It says Smith will provide an update on her government’s vision and plan for the province in advance of next week’s budget.
The website says the address will be broadcast live at 6:30 p.m.
Her UCP government is set to announce the budget on Feb. 29, the second day of the spring legislature sitting.
Her government is also expected to begin passing laws to make good on her plan to dismantle Alberta Health Services, the centralized body that oversees front-line health delivery in the province.
– with files from The Canadian Press

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