Morton's fiscal update shows government gearing up for severe cuts despite what Albertans want
Edmonton - Today's fiscal update shows the government of Alberta is laying the groundwork for a round of severe cuts to health care, education, and social services.
Though private sector forecasters are calling for robust economic growth for Alberta in 2011, the government of Alberta appears to be painting as grim a financial picture as possible.
"Clearly, the agenda for Conservative Finance Minister Ted Morton is to find ways to justify cuts to health care, education, and social services," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which represents 140,000 workers.
"No matter what the actual economic data tell us, the province clearly has a plan for aggressive layoffs and cuts to services," continues McGowan, adding that government is already in the process of slashing $240 million from government operating budgets. He adds that, when it comes to spending on core government programs, the government is increasingly offside with the wishes and priorities of ordinary Albertans.
"While the government preaches cuts and austerity, the people are telling Conservative pollsters that services are more important than deficit reduction," says McGowan. He was referring to a recent poll done for the Progressive Conservative Party convention, which found that two-thirds of Albertans preferred investments in health care and other services to "deficit elimination."
The AFL also questioned the government's assertion that the financial picture is nothing but doom and gloom. For example, private-sector forecasters are calling for at least 3.5-per-cent growth in 2011; oil, gas and bitumen prices are precisely on the forecast targets; oil and gas futures markets show upward trends; and land sales - a key indicator of the oil and gas industry's exploration, development and production intentions - are as swift now as before the recession.
At the same time, the government of Alberta has failed to invest in the economy to ensure the rebound is lasting and accomplishes the most important goal - job creation. Full-time job growth has stagnated in Alberta; employment gains have been almost exclusively in part-time jobs.
"While other places invested in people, Alberta cut more than 300 public-service jobs. When other provinces invested in job training to get people back to work, Alberta cut job training budgets by $23 million. When other provinces and the federal government invested in economic stimulus, Alberta did nothing," says McGowan. "It should come as no surprise that our recovery has been slow when the province has done precisely the opposite of what it should have been doing to guide the economy out of recession."
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Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour @ 780-218-9888 (cell)