Alberta will be a big spender, dishing out a record $37 billion this fiscal year to catch up with rapid growth, give households a break in taxes and eliminate health care premiums by the end of the year.
A 9.7 per cent increase in provincial spending still gives the government a $1.6 billion budget surplus, but critics say the Tories aren’t planning ahead for Alberta’s future.
“It’s a spending budget, admittedly,” Finance Minister Iris Evans said before her budget speech in the legislature yesterday.
“(However,) with new and expanded services, we were hardly going to get away with growth plus inflation.”
While a barrel of oil has soared past $120, revenue projections are based on an oil price of $78, she said.
Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft said the Ed Stelmach-led government has failed in saving for the future.
“I don’t know how a government like this can spend so much and fall so short on things as basic as elementary schools, emergency rooms and potholes,” said Taft. “They’re not building up the Heritage Fund and we are going to pay a terrible price for the future…”
The Tories plan to deposit $279 million into the fund this fiscal year.
Scott Hennig of Canadian Taxpayers Federation called the spending plans a “recipe for disaster” as revenues are not growing that quickly.
“This is the biggest spending government in Canada ... a lot of NDP premiers would be very jealous in seeing the amount that’s been spent here,” said Hennig.
The new budget includes tax cuts worth $300 million, which paired with eliminating health care premiums will save a single family $1,056 per year. Both opposition parties applauded that initiative. The government also plans to invest $22.2 billion over the next three years to build infrastructure, give more cash to support First Nation communities, and budgets another $20 million to address workforce shortages in Alberta’s health-care system.

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