Spending cuts coming says Kenney

Henrietta Strickland
October 25, 2019

In the 2018-19 budget, total health spending was $20.4 billion.

The Kenney government's plan will result in the province facing similar debt levels to Ms. Notley's plan in government, with debt reaching $93-billion in 2023 rather than $97-billion.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says his government will cut program spending by close to three per cent in Thursday's provincial budget.

Earlier Wednesday, Finance Minister Travis Toews pulled on a pair of size 10 cowboy boots as part of a tradition among finance ministers to showcase footwear before the budget.

The Alberta Teachers Association issued a statement soon after the budget was tabled, saying it "will bring larger classes and fewer programs for students".

By then, in theory, the cut will have stimulated increased investment in the province and private-sector job creation, officials said at a budget technical briefing.

It will reduce the corporate income tax rate from 12 per cent to 8 per cent over the next four years. Starting next year, the province plans to tie funding for universities to how many students graduate and meet the needs of emerging job markets.

The interest on provincial student loans will also go up by one per cent.

The province is also scaling back how much money it gives to cities and towns, as the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) winds down.

There is still to be $3 billion for rapid transit projects in Calgary and Edmonton, but most of that cash is to come after 2022.

Provincial bean counters expect $50 billion in revenue both this year and next, eventually rising to almost $58 billion by 2022-23. A new hospital for south Edmonton will also be pushed back four years, with a revised opening date of 2030.

$1.8 billion in new capital funding for schools and new modular classrooms.

The public sector to be reduced by nearly eight per cent over four years, mainly through attrition.

"What we saw today is Premier Kenney's plan to make you pay more and get less", NDP Leader Rachel Notley said. His government has already passed legislation to cut the corporate tax to eight per cent from 12 per cent over four years.

Numerous budget moves stem from recommendations made last month by a blue ribbon panel tasked with scrutinizing Alberta's spending.

Toews said the cuts are necessary to reach a balanced budget in 2022-2023.

The cut, along with expanded pipeline access expected from projects such as Trans Mountain, is the foundation of the government's plan to improve the economy while minimizing service cuts.

"The government is playing a shell game in order to trick us into thinking enrolment growth is being funded, but at the end of the day, school boards have less funding per student, which means larger classes, fewer supports for students and programming cuts", said Schilling.

The budget fulfills an election promise by Premier Jason Kenney to take action on a string of multibillion-dollar deficits.

Three more years of deficits with projected surplus of $584 million in 2023.

After winning the April election, the UCP commissioned a panel chaired by former Saskatchewan NDP finance minister Janice MacKinnon to review Alberta's finances. It added that Alberta is paying the most per capita for public services while in most cases getting comparably poorer returns.

The province will collect more taxes on cartons of cigarettes immediately (increasing the fee from $50 to $55) and, come spring, plans to legislate taxes on vaping and a tourism levy on Airbnb operators. Citizens will pay more to visit provincial museums, get a driver's licence and register a land title.

"It's tough medicine, but it's much-needed medicine", Richard Truscott, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in Alberta and B.C.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees planned rallies in both Calgary and Edmonton on Thursday when the budget was released.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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