Budget backlash continues across Alberta

Provincial political parties were abuzz last week with the unveiling of the much anticipated NDP provincial budget. And the reaction was fast and furious with the Wildrose saying the NDP’s budget is making things worse by slamming families with $58 billion of debt that will mean $2,000 per family for interest payments, and a punishing new carbon tax that unfairly targets working families for another $1,000 per year.

Starting Jan. 1st, the carbon levy will be applied to fuels at a rate of $20/tonne. One year later, that levy will increase to $30/tonne.

In regards to the carbon tax, for example, the Wildrose party called the NDP party dishonest with families and businesses about the full cost of the new carbon tax. They also said the NDP rebate program is only designed to cover average increases on natural gas and fuel costs for Albertans making under $51,000 or families making less than $95,000.

According to an analysis in the Canadian Tax Journal, a $30 per tonne carbon tax will increase consumer costs to things like electricity by 7.5%, food by 2%, furnishings by 1.9% and shelter by 1.2%. Using average household spending from Statistics Canada, this means an estimate of hundreds of dollars in new costs to Albertans.

Despite the carbon levy tax, the NDP have said Budget 2016 keeps the government’s commitment to providing stable funding for key public services. According to the province, the budget maintains stable funding for health care, including mental health; stable funding for education, including fully funding enrolment growth; stable funding for post-secondary education, including the post-secondary tuition freeze and stable funding for social services, including Family and Community Support Services and women’s shelters.

But the naysayers saw little to agree with.

Pointing to the credit rating downgrade due to the NDP budget, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said that, “Credit rating agencies are already downgrading Alberta’s credit rating because of a dangerous NDP budget that will mean $58 billion in debt, higher interest payments, higher taxes and less money for hospitals, schools, teachers and nurses.”

DBRS officially dissolved Alberta’s AAA credit rating after the NDP budget was released. Moody’s Investors Service reacted to the NDP budget stating that, “Significant upcoming deficits, reflecting Alberta’s weakened fiscal circumstances, and rising debt levels are credit negative for the province and will exert growing pressure on its rating.”

Earlier this month, the Progressive Conservatives challenged the NDP government to make common sense reductions in order to avoid deep and painful cuts down the road. Instead, they have opted for record deficits, with little effort to control spending and no plan whatsoever to pay it back, officials said.

“It makes little sense that the only departments to receive spending reductions are the ones that support Alberta’s top industries,” said Ric McIver, party leader. “The agriculture, forestry, energy and tourism ministries each include an operating reduction, meaning less resources and support for the sectors that actually create jobs in our province.

“While Albertans are doing more with less, their NDP government is doing less with more,” he added. “In times like these, people look to their government to have their back – it’s clear from this fiscal plan that Premier Notley does not.”

Only time will tell what the budget actually means. Locally, officials are disappointed with some aspects of it including that funding for a new courthouse was not mentioned in the budget. That is deterimental to the justice system in Central Alberta – lengthy trials are being scheduled for 2018 because lack of space and docket backlogs.

The courthouse in Red Deer serves a region of 350,000 people and with some forms of crime on the rise in the City, according to the latest crime stats, it is all the more important to see this through.

Hopefully the government hears the urgency from our City leaders and begins to take their requests seriously.

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