Saturday, February 11, 2012

This Week in Alberta: Redford's First Budget

I've spent much of the past two days trying to draft a blog post on Alberta's 2012 budget. After all, this was not only Allison Redford's first budget, but a pre-election document - surely, there would be plenty in it to critique and/or praise.

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.

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7 Comments:

  • So what did you want? Lower taxes and increased spending like we've seen from the CRAP/Wildrose party? There are no school fees in Alberta - just school taxes on property owners. And if that were ended, the cities would take up the slack and raise taxes. So who wins? At least Redford has steadied education, health care funding and righted a wrong for the handicapped. And I am not voting for her, in case you are wondering.

    By Blogger kitt, at 1:09 PM  

  • I find it a little disingenuous of them to say the budget is $886 million, when in fact they took another $3.7 billion from the sustainability fund. So its more like a $4.58 billion deficit, which, given the high price of oil and booming profits for oil companies, makes it tough to swallow.

    Add that to the fact that they estimate provincial revenues to grow a whopping 20% in the next 2 years, given they have only recovered to where they were 5 years ago and it sounds to me like they are full of BS, plan on a major increase in tax revenues from somewhere, or don't know what they are talking about. Given that its Rockin Ron Leipert in charge, I'd probably go with all 3 of the above.

    http://edmontonhousingbust.com/files/100210-1s.jpg

    So, I think there are a few things to be said about this budget.

    By Blogger Martin, at 2:52 PM  

  • ''..There are no school fees in Alberta - just school taxes on property owners...''

    Huh? We get a bill the first of every school year, never under $200 per kid, and depending on the classes taken, nearly $400 each.

    And our property taxes just went up, thanks REDford!

    Albertans are not stupid,
    when REDford says income taxes are coming under review.... it ain't because the PCs are going to lower them. That, she would have done in the Alison Wonderland budget.

    By Blogger wilson, at 1:55 AM  

  • And if Greece defaults, we all go down like dominos, and we're then are looking at $40 oil not $114

    Albertans are not stupid.

    One analyst said if Alberta spent like Ontario, we'd be in surplus.
    How scary is that!!!

    By Blogger wilson, at 1:59 AM  

  • Seriously--you would expect a bold budget right before an election? Even Smith wouldn't do that--in fact, she hasn't be so bold as to even run in a by-election.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:53 PM  

  • kitt - It's a fine "steady as she goes" budget, with little to complain about. I'd just like to see a little more long term thinking and vision.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:27 AM  

  • Hey Harper and Flaherty:
    I'm still unemployed in your dumb province. The corporate tax cuts (Dion/Martin was for too) aren't working. Need Crown undiscrimination Roosevelt public works. Or Chretein GAI. Or make 1/2 of it a negative personal income tax. 1/2 of employers call me a loser. They live meaningless lives based on 300AD humans whose teachings might lead to hell. But I keep my mouth shut.

    By Anonymous The Keystone Garter, at 4:51 PM  

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