Coming into the 2018 budget, Finance Minister Joe Ceci indicated that this year’s edition would feature “fair and compassionate” fiscal restraint. Now that we’ve seen the document, I think it’s safe to say he missed the mark, yet again.
There is nothing “fair” or “compassionate” about this government’s ideological policies that have created a fiscal train wreck the likes of which our province has never seen. Just look at the numbers. Budget 2018 projects a deficit of $8.8 billion for this year alone. At a time when families across Alberta are making tough decisions to live within their means, the NDP spending frenzy continues, increasing another 5.4 per cent this year to a record $56 billion. This includes borrowing $1.9 billion just to pay the interest on this debt. The NDP admits that under this fiscal plan, it plans to run Alberta’s total debt up to $96 billion by 2024, effectively handing the bill for all this spending to our children and grandchildren. There is nothing “fair” or “compassionate” about that.
Furthermore, the budget does not include a realistic plan to return to balanced budgets. In order to balance the books in five years, the NDP is banking the completion of three new pipelines, an amazing $6.6 billion increase in non-renewable resource revenue, and a 67 per cent increase to the carbon tax.
I’ll give Minister Ceci this: he rarely hits the mark, but he’s nothing if not consistent. One year ago the Minister brought in a budget promising to “create good jobs, make life more affordable, and protect the services families depend on.” As a result of that document, Alberta currently has the country’s highest unemployment outside of Atlantic Canada, and an ever-increasing carbon tax is making life more unaffordable for everybody.
As for services, the government is doing a fine job of protecting cushy jobs in the bureaucracy, but protecting the actual services? Not so much. Take, for example, healthcare. Our province has never spent more on healthcare, but the end result is longer ambulance response times, longer wait times for patients, and hundreds of thousands of people who can’t find a family doctor.
Sound fiscal management is a core responsibility of government. It’s not an issue of politics; it’s an issue of competency. Over three consecutive budgets, this NDP government’s track record for futility is unmatched in Alberta’s history. The problem is this: every time the NDP misses the mark, you wind up paying the price.
Drew Barnes, United Conservative Finance Critic