By Rob Anderson
MLA Airdrie-Chestermere and Wildrose Finance Critic
Albertans expect their government to live within its means. They also expect their government to ensure tax dollars are carefully spent on key priorities such as health, education, infrastructure, seniors, policing and other core social services.
The Redford PC’s Budget 2012 does neither. It is a reckless election campaign document with astonishingly unrealistic revenue projections and irresponsible spending promises meant to take advantage of Albertan’s trusting and optimistic natures. Given the tepid & fragile world economic recovery, Budget 2012 is nothing short of a blueprint for vaporizing the province’s last remaining savings and taking on unprecedented levels of debt within the next 24 months.
The lowlights include:
- A 5th straight deficit with a cash shortfall of $3.1 billion despite $100 per barrel oil
- Alberta’s rainy day fund drained down to $3.7 billion from $17 billion in 2008
- Revenue projections that virtually every economist and industry expert have concluded are virtually impossible to achieve including a 25% increase in revenue over the next 2 years…that is not a typo
- An 7% increase in program spending, almost twice the rate of inflation plus population growth
- And the kicker; a promise to review taxation levels after the next election
On Friday, the Wildrose Caucus released the Wildrose Balanced Budget Alternative 2012 in order to show how a Wildrose government would balance the budget while increasing operational funding by $854 million for the critical front line services Albertans depend on. Our budget would result in a $31 million cash surplus for 2012-13 by doing the following:
- Invest $4.1 billion in new infrastructure - a per capita amount significantly higher than BC, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, but roughly $1.6 billion less than the PCs promise to spend. These dollars would be focused primarily on the building of high priority road projects such as the Calgary and Edmonton ring roads, twinning highway 63, long-term care facilities for seniors, and urgently needed schools, while cutting the $2 billion carbon capture and storage program and delaying the new $300 million Alberta museum as well as several new health facilities for one year until the Government has the money and ability to fully staff them.
- Increase operational spending by $854 million – a 2.5% increase over Budget 2011. In comparison, the PCs Budget 2012 increases spending by over $2.3 billion or 6.9%. This will save Albertans $1.5 billion compared with the PC’s proposed Budget 2012.
- Ensure the vast majority of the $854 million in new operational funding be sent directly to the front lines. This will be done by reducing Cabinet Minister pay by 30%, decreasing MLA severance payments by 67%, cutting all government management bonuses, reducing the number of managers in the civil service, freezing all public sector wages for one year, implementing a hiring freeze of all non-front line staff, dismantling the Health Superboard and cutting its dozens of vice presidents, and directing the $854 million in new funding as follows:
- Hire 1,425 new teachers, teaching assistants and support staff for students with special needs: $114 million
- Hire 1,000 new senior care support workers for home care, long term care, and assisted living: $50 million
- Increase payments to AISH recipients by $400 a month: $270 million
- Increase funding for mental health: $50 million
- Hire 1,000 new nurses, technicians, and other health support staff: $80 million
- Improve access to emergency rooms and family doctors: $100 million
- Increase funding for additional publicly funded health procedures as follows:
i. 1,000 knee surgeries: $17 million
ii. 1,000 hip surgeries: $20 million
iii. 8,000 cataract surgeries: $10 million
iv. 50,000 MRIs, CT scans and other diagnostic tests: $40 million
- Hire 300 new police officers, corrections officers, and sheriffs, including 5 dedicated Checkstop teams: $53 million
- Budget to plan better for emergencies and natural disasters: $100 million
The National Post headline following the budget read ‘Alberta’s first NDP Budget.’ The left-wing Globe and Mail stated ‘Alberta flushes resource miracle down the toilet’. The Calgary Sun headline was ‘Return to Spender.’ The Calgary Herald editorial was ‘There’s nothing conservative about this budget’…and after 4 more years of Redford don’t be surprised to read the headline ‘There’s nothing conservative about Alberta either.’
Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.