Alberta’s NDP Budget

Those outside of Alberta may have missed it, but something truly remarkable happened in our province yesterday (no, not the snow storm or the Flames win – both small miracles in their own right).

Remember the complaints by some on the right about Flaherty’s 6-8% increase in spending? Well, yesterday, Lyle Oberg brought in the first Stelmach budget which calls for an unprecedented 17% increase in spending. This may very well make Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives the authors of one of the most free spending budgets in Canadian history. After years of gargantuan surpluses, it is projected to shrink to $2.2 billion this year, $1.4 billion in 2008 and $925 million in 2009…that’s assuming no out of budget spending and oil prices which match the forecasts. Most alarmingly, instead of banking the surpluses to the Heritage Fund, 2/3 of all surpluses will be spent onto miscellaneous new projects while only 1/3 will actually be saved.

Despite the massive spending, there’s no real focus. No plan to make Alberta’s Universities world class. Not a penny for the environment. No plan to diversify the economy. No tax cuts. No end to the health care premiums. Not since the Alexei Yashin contract has so much been spent for so little return.

But enough from me, I’ll let Rick Bell do the talking:

This is a mess. The Tories cannot say it is a mess because they created it.

Many Albertans, and many Calgarians, cannot say it is a mess because they supported the making of the mess, where loyalty to the Tories trumped common sense.

But make no mistake about it. The numbers aren’t lying. In the richest province in the land, we have a mess.

So naturally, there’s all kinds of spending on catch-up construction, though off the top there is a big caution.

A good chunk of change is for projects already approved and announced. Lyle Oberg, the finance minister, admits there isn’t a “huge amount” for new projects.

And well over a billion bucks covers the costs going through the roofs not yet built because the Tories, in their wisdom, wait to bang nails big-time until the economy is good and hot.

The most interesting thing about this budget is that it opens up a ton of space for the Liberals to pass the Tories on the right (appropriate since as Transport Minister, Ed Stelmach proposed moving the “fast lane” on highways to the right). A focus on long term planning, the Heritage Fund or tax cuts right now from the ALP could very well force a few on the right to hold their nose and vote Liberal…at the very least it would make it very hard for them to justify their continued support of the PCs.

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2008 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics, Budgets

About CalgaryGrit

A former Calgary Liberal, now living in Toronto. My writings on politics can be found at www.calgarygrit.ca and online at the National Post.

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