This Week in Alberta: Redford's First Budget
But really, this may be one of the most innocuous budgets in the province's history. Take a look at the official budget highlights and tell me if there's anything newsworthy in there:
Of the thirteen key bullet points, three use the word "continued", three mention rosy revenue projects, and three talk about something Redford didn't do (raise taxes). The only newsworthy changes in the budget are new funds for handicapped Albertans and children - two feel-good spending initiatives even Danielle Smith wouldn't dare criticize.
Even the budget name sounds like it was focus group tested to find the title least likely to offend: Investing in People. After all, who's against investing in people? And who's against spending a bit more on health care and education, holding taxes steady, and just kind of hoping the price of oil increases so that everything works out? Things seem to be going fairly well in Alberta and Redford seems to be fairly popular, so why do anything even remotely controversial that could rock the boat, with an election on the horizon?
Well one reason to rock the boat is that Liepert's budget speech itself concedes the province relies too much of resource revenue and needs to change its fiscal framework. Not that he's doing anything about it, mind you.
But my real beef with the budget is that it continues the visionless drifting we've seen in recent years. Alberta is one of the few provinces with the resources to support boldness, and all Redford has delivered is a cautious, aimless plan.
I might not like their vision for the province, but Premier Morton and Premier Smith wouldn't shy away from being bold. Premier Mar would try to reform the Health Care system. Premier Manning would have pushed through environmental initiatives and democratic reforms. The Alberta Liberals released their election platform this week, and it calls for increased taxes on businesses and the rich, with the payoff being, among other things, the end of school fees and free tuition. It may not be good politics or even good policy, but at least it has whiffs of boldness in it.
Which is a lot more than can be said for Redford's painfully safe budget.