By David Schneider
Little Bow MLA
According to David Schneider, Little Bow MLA, the Alberta legislature recessed on the early morning of June 6 — 18 bills were passed this sitting.
For me, the provincial budget was the largest disappointment of this sitting. It laid out small increases in spending to both the education and health ministries. At the end of the day though, the government has chosen to borrow billions of dollars for schools, roads, hospitals and other infrastructure. We are to be left with a $10.3 billion deficit this year.
No argument Alberta is in need of some infrastructure updates. However, because there was absolutely no sign of government getting somewhere near a balanced budget anytime in the foreseeable future, or any plan for paying down the debt, we have received another credit downgrade. Our fifth since this government took office. S & P stated, “continuing budgetary performance deterioration and growing debt” were behind the move to downgrade the credit rating again.
Alberta is forecast to be $71.1 billion in debt by 2019-20. The finance minister said he won’t cut services Albertans need in a bid to balance the books. Those are noble words, but it clearly doesn’t instill confidence on the budgeting and reining in of the debt credit agencies watch for. Balancing what is spent on infrastructure, so we are upgrading at a pace more in line with our fiscal situation, seems to be what the agencies are looking for. As well as holding costs on services to the same extent. The reality is, as of the latest downgrade on May 26, millions more in debt-servicing costs are now a reality.
By the next election in 2019, interest payments alone will cost Albertans $2.3 billion per year. Think of the schools, roads, hospitals and other infrastructure this would pay for.
On May 25, there was another large impact affecting rural ridings revealed in the recommendations of the Interim Report of the 2016-17 Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission.
Proposed changes include consolidating four electoral divisions into three in the central northeast area of the province, five into four in the central west, seven into six in the eastern side of the province, and creating a new electoral division to the immediate north and west of Calgary. The report also suggests adding a new riding to both Edmonton and Calgary.
When the smoke clears — rural Alberta is to see three less ridings represented in the legislature after the next election.
If population is to be the main factor in decision making of electoral ridings continuing into the future, what will rural Alberta look like 20 years from now if population in the two major cities continues to grow? Is losing rural representation what is best for this province? The Little Bow riding —now to be Taber-Vulcan, extends from Herronton in the northwest corner to Onefour in the southeast corner. From Coutts in the southwest to Walsh in the northeast.
I encourage all municipalities and citizens to look at the report, as well as read the Minority Position of Ms. Gwen Day, who served as a member of the commission. The link to the report is abebc.ca.
Wildrose has written to the commission asking for an extension, as the currently proposed redistribution would have significant changes for our province’s ridings. Written submissions can be made until July 16.