Last week the government released its budget for 2013-2014. It is a budget littered with broken promises. It will also plunge Alberta back into debt.
This is the sixth year the government presented a deficit budget. And for the first time in a decade, Alberta will be a province in debt. At the rate this government is going, we estimate that by the 2016 election, Alberta’s debt will be nearly $17 billion. Despite the fact that Alberta still collects more in resource and tax revenue than any other province in the country, this government continues to spend way beyond its means. It is the sole reason we are in the fiscal mess we are in today.
What I find even more troubling is that this government knows it has made a mess of things, and is trying to hide the real numbers. Up until now, every provincial budget has clearly stated the dollar amount for what the surplus, or deficit will be. This year on budget day, the media was scrambling to try to get a clear number from the government – which was no easy task! It should not be unreasonable to expect when government is presenting a financial plan – a budget – it clearly states the bottom line. Instead, this government changed the accounting method in the hopes that Albertans would not see the real story.
Here is the part that is so frustrating, and I believe one of the biggest reasons why people don’t trust politicians. During the last election, the government made billions of dollars worth of promises; promises my Wildrose colleagues and I said from the start they wouldn’t be able to keep. Nearly every promise they made when they knocked on your door during the campaign has now been broken. They backtracked on their commitment to build 50 new schools and renovate 70 more by 2016. They are spending far less on health care than promised; and there is still no plan to reduce management and executive perks to better focus resources on front line workers.
What they seem to have no trouble doing is pouring our taxpayer money into handpicked corporate projects. Last year, this government granted $419,000 to Pepsi (yes, the soft drink company!), and $4 million in grants to Pyramid Productions, a company that produces shows like “Inside Hollywood.” And let’s not forget the $2 billion corporate subsidy to Shell Canada, a multinational corporation. These funding priorities smack of cronyism, not responsible budgeting.
I also want you to know that I am proud to stand with a party that has a plan to get our province out of debt. The Wildrose Official Opposition presented a Financial Recovery Plan to eliminate Alberta’s deficit in two years. We would do so by cutting wasteful spending and targeting government bureaucracy, while protecting front line services and focusing resources where they are needed.
As the Education and Advanced Education Critic for the Wildrose Official Opposition, I am very concerned about how this budget will affect our kids. School boards will receive less money than they were promised, yet the student population continues to increase. I continue to question the government on why we have so many people in Alberta Education boardrooms, creating more and more administrative tasks and telling teachers what to do. These resources would be better spent supporting our teachers in the classrooms, so they can focus on teaching our kids rather than jumping through government hoops.
The government also seems ready to tell post-secondary institutions that government knows best. Universities and colleges are concerned the government may try to override their autonomy by giving them mandates of what they can, and cannot do. I would suggest that if the government truly did know best, our province would not be on a road that is returning us to where we were 20 years ago – in debt. It is no wonder Albertans are starting to call this government the regressive conservatives.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me to let me know your thoughts on the budget, or anything else. During the Spring Session of the Legislature, I will be in Edmonton Monday through Thursday. That being said, my constituency office in Chestermere is always open, Monday through Friday, and I am in constant contact with them. As well, Friday for me will always be a constituent day. I also look forward to seeing many of you during the constituency week of March 25.