Alberta finance minister says first budget to attack spending, not services

Premier Jason Kenney’s government has stressed that funding to health, education will be preserved

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews says the United Conservative government’s first budget will surgically attack spending but not at the expense of essential services.

Toews says it’s critical to end a recent run of multibillion-dollar deficits within four years, as his party promised in the spring election campaign.

“It will be a budget of restraint, but this isn’t 1993,” Toews said Wednesday, referring to the Progressive Conservative budgets of the early 1990s that saw reductions of 18 per cent.

“This will be a thoughtful, surgical budget that will balance (the budget) in our first term.”

Premier Jason Kenney’s government has already stressed that funding to health and education will be preserved or increased, but measures must be taken to prevent rising debt payments that will otherwise cripple future generations.

“This isn’t going to be a budget of across-the-board cuts,” said Toews, as he pulled on a pair of size 10 cowboy boots as part of a tradition among finance ministers to showcase footwear before the budget.

He said the boots, like the budget, reflect the heritage, resilience and self-reliance of Albertans.

The budget is the first one by Kenney’s government. He has promised a landmark spending document that will reorient Alberta’s economy for years to come.

The former NDP government ran four years of multibillion-dollar deficits as it worked to match services with population growth, while embarking on an ambitious program of repairing and building infrastructure — all as sluggish oil and gas prices squeezed the bottom line.

Alberta ran a $6.7-billion deficit in the last fiscal year that ended in March. The debt is approaching $60 billion and is on track to hit $96 billion by 2023.

After winning the April election, the UCP commissioned a panel to review Alberta’s finances. It reported back in August that the province is spending more per capita for public services than comparable regions and getting poorer outcomes.

Kenney has promised to rein in spending while attempting to grow the economy by passing legislation to cut the corporate tax to eight per cent from 12 per cent over four years.

The NDP, now in opposition, call it a regressive plan that rewards corporate friends, has not created jobs and is likely to reduce services and supports for those who can least afford it, including students and people relying on disability payments.

The New Democrats also expect that costs will be downloaded. A recent proposal from the province has already suggested that rural municipalities pick up some or most of policing costs.

“I’ve heard from other organizations that receive grants that are bracing for 25 per cent reductions over three years,” said finance critic Shannon Phillips.

“That doesn’t sound very careful or thoughtful to me. It sounds like an across-the-board program that will ensure that ordinary people get less while large corporations get a $4.5-billion tax cut.”

The government disputes that figure. It also says the number is misleading because it is a straight-line projection over four years and doesn’t factor in job growth or new revenues.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

40 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alberta

Province’s central zone still has no active cases

Alberta reports just seven new COVID-19 cases

‘Today’s numbers mark an occasion to be celebrated’

Sylvan Lake RCMP continue to search for missing man

43-year-old Steven Michael Hull is still missing and Sylvan Lake RCMP are seeking public assistance

Lacombe County Reopens Sandy Point Beach for the season

Signage is posted at the beach outlining public health orders

Still no confirmed active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer, central zone

There are 15 new confirmed cases were in Alberta, the province said Thursday

A letter from the publisher

Eckville Echo’s Publisher, Barb Pettie, addresses the readers of the paper in a letter

Red Deerians protest against racism on Saturday

This was the third protest in the city this week

‘It’s brewing’: Inmates, guards worry about violence after COVID-19 lockdown

‘Thirteen weeks in a cage the size of your (bathroom) has been pretty devastating’

Feds sign $105-million deal with Bombardier for two new Challenger jets

Department of National Defence announced the deal with Bombardier on Saturday

‘Alarmed:’ Health critic calls for more data on COVID-19 in trucking industry

Public Health Agency of Canada does not collect information on long-haul truckers

Montreal man believes rough arrest caught on video was racially motivated

Montreal man believes rough arrest caught on video was racially motivated

N.B. police shooting of Indigenous woman leads to questions on ‘wellness checks’

N.B. police shooting of Indigenous woman leads to questions on ‘wellness checks’

Minister says reckoning on police violence against Indigenous people needed

Minister says reckoning on police violence against Indigenous people needed

Most Read