By Little Bow MLA David Schneider
On Mar. 2, the Honourable Lois E. Mitchell delivered the Speech from the Throne at the legislature. This is always a celebrated annual event. Much pomp and ceremony, which is steeped in tradition. As it should be. There are customarily many former MLAs and premiers in attendance, and certainly reporters from all over the province doing their best to get this important information out to their readers. (Editor’s Note: Taber Times reporters were in attendance at this year’s event).
This is the third such speech I have had the privilege to attend. And since the very first one in 2015, we have seen so many Albertans gather at the steps of the legislature asking, demanding, and crying to the government, trying to be heard.
What the average Albertan sees, is their government pushing an agenda through the house. Not only through the house though. Consider the decision to close the Castle area in southwestern Alberta to random campers and OHVs. Consider the highly unpopular Bill 6 to the agriculture community. Let alone, the Climate Leadership Plan, and the devastating effects to business and ag, as well as value-added businesses throughout the province. All of these issues, whether bills in the house or regulation, have been put forth without proper consultation of the Albertans they affect. I hear that several times a week. However, the government chooses to deny these facts and continues in its own course.
It’s clear the desire to build a better province lies in the hearts of every member of the legislature. But from my side of the house, and in my constituency offices, the broad objectives that guide this government have left it very difficult for me to figure out why the spirit of Albertans is so overwhelmingly offensive to this government.
As I write this article, it is budget day in Edmonton. Another annual event that takes place in the legislature. Not quite so much ceremony, but certainly eager anticipation.
As has been expected, it is another deficit budget. We are borrowing almost one-quarter of the budget in this fiscal year. The path to any indication of a balanced budget has been ignored. The important numbers are $10.3 billion, which is the projected deficit this coming fiscal year — $45 billion — the projected total Alberta debt by this time next year. And $71 billion, the projected debt by 2019-20 and $2.3 billion, the cost for annual interest payments to service Alberta’s debt by 2019-20. The finance minister said he won’t cut services Albertans need in a bid to balance the books. He also stated this budget has less spending than the last budget — 2.2 per cent year over year.
According to Trevor Tombe, professor of economics at the University of Calgary, “the government is referring to operating expenses when they quote the low rate of spending growth. But that excludes spending such as everything associated with the Climate Leadership Plan. And it excludes interest payments and any payments with regards to the coal shut down compensation charges. Total government spending is growing at over 4 per cent when all spending is considered.”
The debt Ralph Klein climbed out of was $23 billion. This three-year budget will end up at triple that number. The people that are happy about this budget are likely the bankers loaning Alberta the money.
More next time.