Tuesday, April 07, 2009

This Week in Alberta - Special Tuesday Budget Edition!

Ed Stelmach(February 23, 2008): “A Progressive Conservative government will never put Alberta back into a deficit position”

April 7, 2009: Alberta to post $4.7B deficit

After 15 consecutive balanced budgets, Alberta has plunged into deficit. And it's a doozy - nearly five billion dollars.

In fairness to the PCs, few saw this coming (CG last year: "with a low balled estimate of $78 a barrel oil, I'd expect a multi-billion dollar "unexpected" surplus"), but much of this is because they chose to cut when it was cheap to spend and chose to spend when it was expensive to spend. But irrespective of how much blame they deserve, if you're going to pass gimicky balanced-budget laws, you deserve to be criticized for breaking your own law. Especially when you increase spending by 12% the previous year.

Among the highlights:

-The government is projecting a 2% contraction in the economy this year, followed by 1.8% growth next year.

-If resource revenues do not increase this year, the government has said they will either raise taxes or slash spending to make up 2 billion dollars. Neither option would be a particularly attractive one.

-The Herald falls victim to government spin, proclaiming "the Stelmach government has cut about $400,000 from overall spending, reducing expenditures to a projected $36.4 billion" - yes, that's a 0.001% cut in spending. Even that claim is dubious since there are 3.7% spending increases across the board.

-Reading the recap on the government's plans for the environment is a tad depressing - 8 million less here, 10 million more there. It's clear that the PCs see the environment as about a big a priority for Alberta as having a strong navy.

But really, there isn't a lot to comment on. The budget largely follows the course laid out last year, with a bit more money here and a bit less there. It's a status quo budget which might be newsworthy in itself, given the huge shifts in spending and priorities we've seen elsewhere in the face of the recession.

For more on the budget, click here.



  • Hey Calgary, I have to say up front I am sorry to post off topic today.

    But you had a long discourse on your blog on about Nov 5 about voting turnout in the US - specifically the spin that it really wasn't all that special, barely beating 2004, turnout down in places like Ohio, etc, etc. In the overall scheme of things, it isn't that important now (nor was it then). But I still thought it would be good to get the facts out on a slower morning ;).

    The voter turnout tallies for 2008 are now clear. And, well, ends up it was pretty special year after all. Apparently Republicans were operating on the "good spin is Great Spin if no one will be paying attention when the truth comes out" concept last Nov 5, spreading a lot of bull downplaying the results.

    For the record, the 2008 elections did exceed 2004 elections, by a fair margin actually - contrary to the spin being put out on Nov 5 (less than a day after the polls closed). The 2008 election saw the highest voting turnout since 1968 (about on par with that election).

    Here is the specific 2008 data:


    And here is the main page showing the chart for the past several decades:


    Not bad, huh? Approximately 132 Million votes nationwide. Guess Politico and the Republican blogs were wrong.

    Of final note, one of the prime examples used in those days after the election was that Ohio turnout was actually down. Politico made a bit of hay about that specifically. Ends up they were wrong on that as well. Ohio voter turnout was actually higher than in 2004, in a state that has been losing population during the past decade.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:24 p.m.  

  • AB isn't allowed to maintain a Navy. G.Doer would've taxed oil enough to pay for the Pediatric Hospital at least, but different ethic I know.

    Now would probably be a timely to consider federal investment in a high speed rail connecting Cgy, Edm and Red Deer with the goal of increasing commuter traffic and immigration.

    Know one knows the optimal size of cities for maintaining quality-of-living and keeping civic costs down, but probably 4-5M is too big. In Canada Vancouver, TO and Mtl attract all the immigrants. Someone that worked in a work placement programme here in Wpg told me they have a problem staffing English teachers for recent immigrants from African countries that speak rare languages. It is partly a scale problem; more immigrants and integration solves itself.

    So, if high speed rail runs fast enough to permit Cgy-Edm commutes, it should have the effect of creating one AB city large enough to attract immigrants away from otherwise settling into unwieldy GTA.

    By Anonymous Phillip Huggan, at 1:34 p.m.  

  • Since I suspect I'm the one Joseph's post is directed at...

    The desire to elect Obama increased turnout by 1.6%.
    The desire to re-elect Bush increased turnout by 5.9%.
    The desire to have lots of recounts in Florida increased turnout by 2.5%.

    More importantly, though, I don't really see how increased turnout strengthens the mandate (or whatever) of the winner, regardless of party. After all, it means that more people were motivated to get out and vote for the losing candidate, too.

    By Anonymous The Invisible Hand, at 1:17 a.m.  

  • Based on those graphs it is the highest turn-out rate since the 60s...which is pretty good, especially since the election wasn't really in doubt come E-Day.

    I don't think it gives Obama a stronger mandate, but it is nice to see.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:28 a.m.  

  • I've been nosing around the AB Budget 2008 website to see if the Conservatives planned subsidy of $125M to the Canadian media that endorsed them is more than the planned University of Calgary Pediatric (Research?) Hospital cut and projected operating expenses:

    The Orwellian thing is all the specific cost breakdown links have been deleted and redirected to 2009Budget. Even if AB ever did elect a government genuinely devoted to health or low income housing (Cgy sprawl is the antithesis), they can't learn from the mistakes of the past 3 or so boom cycles (why bother hedging oil revenue if you can't breakdown what could've been?).

    Low taxes are cheerleaded and the subsequent flipside of healthcare cuts are deleted. Albertan boomers that can't afford USA treatment will be fucked over by low tax rates, should be Budget 2009 title. As a younger Canadian watching debt soar and the odds of future AGW skyrocket, all I can say is it is justice.

    By Anonymous Phillip Huggan, at 1:50 p.m.  

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