Proposed budget cuts would drop Alberta to near the back of the pack

Cuts would weaken public services and deliver a significant blow to the provincial economy

Edmonton – Proposed nine per cent cuts to government spending will drop Alberta to near the back of the pack among Canadian provinces in terms of per-capita spending on public services.

If the cuts proposed yesterday by Premier Jim Prentice are enacted, Alberta will move down to eighth-place amongst Canada’s ten provinces in terms of per-capita spending on health care, education and other public services. At present, the province is in sixth place.

“Premier Prentice’s plan to lop nine per cent off the province’s spending on public services is wildly irresponsible,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “What the so-called Klein revolution taught us is that deep cuts don’t end recessions, they make them deeper and longer.”

According to figures published by the Royal Bank of Canada, Alberta currently spends about $9,786 per person on public services, slightly less than the average for other provinces. If the proposed cuts are enacted, this would be reduced to $8,905, ahead of only Ontario and Quebec, whose more urbanized populations allow them to deliver services more cheaply.

“Obviously, the declining price of oil is a big concern. But the effect of low-priced oil on the provincial budget has been magnified by irresponsible choices made by successive PC governments. Specifically, things like the flat tax, corporate tax cuts and royalty cuts have blown a hole in the revenue base that we need to fund important public services like education and health care,” McGowan said. “The solution is to fix the holes, not sacrifice the services that our growing population needs.”

The RBC figures also show that no other province spends less on public services as a proportion of its economy than Alberta. In Alberta, the government spends only 11.3 percent of the provincial economy on public services, while the Canadian average is 18.7 percent. The next-lowest spending province is Saskatchewan, where they use 16.1 percent of their economy to fund public services.

“Premier Prentice wants to leave the impression that we have no choice but to cut spending, even on core services like health care and education,” McGowan said. “But the truth is that we have many options. If we collected revenue at a rate that was closer to the national average we’d be able to weather this storm more easily. The Tories themselves admit that we could raise taxes by $11 billion a year and still be the lowest tax jurisdiction in the country. And it’s important to remember that we still have no debt. The point is that cuts are not the only alternative.”



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)
or via e-mail

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